A Guide to Yoga

November 12, 2012

A Guide to Yoga

In today’s modern world we are always looking for new ways to keep fit and active. Doctors are always telling us about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, which includes diet, activities and exercise. It is stated that the older we are the more active we must stay to reduce the risk of heart disease or strokes. Yet many people are looking to the past for the answer to being active and increasing the body’s wellbeing. Yoga has many practitioners now because people are aware of the benefits practising yoga brings. It not only helps the body, it helps the mind too. Reports suggest that people practicing yoga have a healthier mental state. Depression and stress can be reduced because of the breathing and relaxation aspects to yoga in addition to the physical benefits.

Yoga is an ancient practice which people say originated in India at least 5,000 years ago. Why it was developed is open to discussion but the benefits of doing yoga are well documented. It is known to help flexibility and breathing. Strength can also be increased. All of the benefits give a holistic improvement in the body and mind.

Yoga consists of a group of postures, martial arts have similar features where they can be called movements, patterns or routines. The postures are developed to aid strength, flexibility and breathing. Originally yoga developed in many genres but two distinct styles, Hatha and Iyengar, are regularly used with beginners nowadays. Now yoga has progressed to a point where the best and most useful postures from each style can be taken and be made into a personalised health and exercise package.

What type of Yoga is suitable for me?

Some forms of yoga are very strenuous whereas others are relaxing. A mixed ability class can let you work at your own pace and at the same time see what others are doing. This type of class is suitable for all fitness levels. If you are not very flexible then don’t worry. Yoga is designed to help you become more flexible. Keep practising and soon your range of movement will have increased. This makes everyday movement easier and more relaxed, you feel more comfortable.

Different styles of yoga work more on certain aspects. Some focus on posture and breathing, whilst others work on flexibility and strength. Your age and fitness level may have a bearing on what one you should choose. But many teachers run classes aimed at certain groups. For example if the class is for older people it will have less strenuous aspects and more relaxation, breathing and perhaps some flexibility. Some classes can even be developed for people sitting only. Good teachers can do this because they have studied a number of styles of yoga and pick and choose to make a suitable routine. Every style can be different but all are valid forms of yoga.

The normal times for a class range between 40 or so minutes and an hour and a half. Some teachers insist on time for breathing, relaxation and meditation at the end of the physical part of the class. Again the choice is up to you.

What do I need to do yoga?

The short answer is nothing. Just go along to a beginners’ class. Because of its popularity classes are held almost everywhere nowadays. Places like leisure centres, health clubs, church halls are the usual but even surgeries and schools can have a class.

Age does not restrict you either. Yoga is suitable for all age groups but do join a class that suits your age group. Many older people regret not joining earlier. If you are unfit then start slowly and gently and do not over stretch. It is important to get a class that suits your ability. Yoga is about increasing your flexibility, so if you’re not very flexible to begin with, it’s not a problem.

Yoga is great for absolute beginners and the older person but care must be taken to avoid injury. This is exactly the same as for any new activity or exercise. Make sure that your teacher is qualified and get a class to suit. Follow the advice of people who understand yoga and you can expect to avoid injuries.

The health benefits of yoga

Over the years there have been many studies and trials relating to yoga. The vast majority of these reports indicate that doing yoga regularly and in a safe environment is beneficial. Increased flexibility and strength and improvements to balance all take place because of the physical activity. Some reports indicate that by doing yoga you reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, low back pain and mental conditions like stress and depression. Most practitioners also accept that these reports are not totally conclusive and further study should take place.

By improving balance and strength the risk of falling over lessens too. If you are older then the risk of falling over increases with age so by doing yoga you could be helping yourself.

Yoga is good for people with arthritis too because it increases flexibility slowly and gently. But as an arthritis sufferer you must be aware that some moves are not suitable. You must find a teacher or health professional who understands yoga for advice.

Yoga classes and qualified teachers can be found by contacting the British Wheel of Yoga, which is the governing organisation for yoga in the UK. If no classes or teachers live near you then another option is to buy a DVD. But remember that a DVD cannot correct any mistakes you make.

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