Yoga is a practice that connects the body, breath, and mind. It uses physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation to improve overall health. Yoga was developed as a spiritual practice thousands of years ago. Today, most Westerners do yoga for exercise or to reduce stress.
Benefits of Yoga
Yoga can improve your overall fitness level and improve your posture and flexibility. It may also:
Lower your blood pressure and heart rate
Help you relax
Improve your self-confidence
Improve your coordination
Improve your concentration
Help you sleep better
Aid with digestion
In addition, practicing yoga may also help with the following conditions:
Who Should use Caution?
Yoga is generally safe for most people. But you may need to avoid some yoga poses or modify poses if you:
Have high blood pressure
Make sure to tell your yoga instructor if you have any of these conditions or any other health problem or injury. A qualified yoga teacher should help you find poses that are safe for you.
Styles of Yoga
There are many different types or styles of yoga. They range from mild to more intense. Some of the more popular styles of yoga are:
Ashtanga or power yoga. This type of yoga offers a more demanding workout. In these classes, you quickly move from one posture to another.
Bikram or hot yoga. You do a series of 26 poses in a room heated to 95°F to 100°F (35°C to 37.8°C). The goal is to warm and stretch the muscles, ligaments, and tendons and purify the body through sweat.
Hatha yoga. This is sometimes a general term for yoga. It most often includes both breathing and postures.
Integral. A gentle type of yoga that may include breathing exercises, chanting, and meditation.
Iyengar. A style that places significant attention on the precise alignment of the body. You may also hold poses for long periods.
Kundalini. Emphasizes the effects of breath on the postures. The goal is to free energy in the lower body to move upward.
Vin yoga. This style adapts postures to each person’s needs and abilities and coordinates breath and postures.
How to Get Started
Look for yoga classes at your local gym, health center, or yoga studio. If you are new to yoga, start with a beginner class. Talk with the instructor before the class and tell them about any injuries or health conditions you may have.
You may want to ask about the instructor’s training and experience. However, while most instructors have had some formal training, no certified yoga training programs exist. Choose an instructor you enjoy working with who does not push you in ways you are uncomfortable with.
What to Expect
Most yoga classes last from 45 to 90 minutes. All styles of yoga include three essential components:
Breathing. Focusing on your breath is an essential part of yoga. Your teacher may offer instruction on breathing exercising during the class.
Poses. Yoga poses, or postures, are a series of movements that help boost strength, flexibility, and balance. They range in difficulty from lying flat on the floor to challenging balancing poses.
Meditation. Yoga classes usually end with a short period of meditation. This quiets the mind and helps you relax.
How to Prevent Injury
While yoga is generally safe, you can still get hurt if you pose incorrectly or push yourself too far. Here are some tips to stay safe when doing yoga.
If you have a health condition, talk with your health care provider before starting yoga. Ask if there are any poses you should avoid.
Start slowly and learn the basics before pushing yourself too far.
Choose a class that is appropriate for your level. If you are not sure, ask the teacher.
Do not push yourself beyond your comfort level. If you cannot do a pose, ask your teacher to help you modify it.
Ask questions if you are not sure how to do a pose.
Bring along a water bottle and drink plenty of water. This is primarily important in hot yoga.
Wear clothing that allows you to move freely.
Listen to your body. If you feel pain or fatigue, stop and rest.