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Yoga for Mental and Physical Fitness
Yoga for Mental and Physical Fitness

Posted on October 27, 2013 by admin There have been 0 comments

Looking for an exercise program that is easy to learn, requires little equipment and relaxes and soothes the mind while toning the body?  Do you also want to strengthen your cardiovascular system, tone and stretch your muscles and improve your mental fitness? If so, and traditional exercise programs haven't captured your interest or aren't working, yoga may be the answer for you.

Although yoga seems like a hot new trend, it began more than 3,000 years ago in India.  Yoga is a Sanskrit word meaning to "yoke" or unite the mind body and spirit.  Yoga is a lifestyle practice in which physical exercise is just one component. Other yoga aspects involve training the mind and breath and developing one's spirituality. Westernized yoga tend to focus on learning physical poses called asanas.

A new form of healing based on a merging of traditional yoga and modern medicine is known as yoga therapy.  Within this approach, medical assessments are taken into consideration to tailor yoga practices to meet individual needs for treatment of a variety of physical and mental-emotional conditions.  Yoga therapy has also been useful during pregnancy to help women prepare for child birth and it has proven beneficial to the elderly, helping them to maintain strength and flexibility while promoting their mental and physical health.

Yoga offers a variety of benefits to improve one's flexibility, strength, overall health and fitness.

 

Improvement in Flexibility

 

No matter how old you are, or what physical condition you are in, it is never too late to improve you flexibility.  Yoga does this by safely stretching your muscles, thereby releasing the lactic acid that builds up with muscle use, the accumulation of which causes stiffness, tension, pain and fatigue. Yoga also increases the range of motion in joints and produces a more fluid feeling in the body.

In addition to stretching muscles, yoga also stretches the soft tissues, such as ligaments, tendons and the fascia sheath surrounding muscles.  Improvement is usually seen in a short period of time.

 

Improvement in Strength

Yoga styles vary in the level of vigorous movement. Styles such as astanga and power involve a high level of vigorous activity, while other styles, such as lyengar focus less on movement and more on precise alignment in poses.  While some styles may provide faster results than others, they all provide significant strength and endurance benefits.

Some poses, such as the Downward Dog http://yoga.about.com/od/yogaposes/a/downdog.htm or the Upward Dog http://yoga.about.com/od/yogaposes/a/upwarddog.htm build upper body strength, a crucial element of physical conditioning as people age.  Standing poses such as the Chair Pose  http://www.abc-of-yoga.com/info/chair-pose.asp build strength in the lower body.

 

Improvement in Balance

 

Increased strength and flexibility promotes better posture.  Greater core strength of deep abdominal helps you to sit and stand upright, and the increased body awareness developed by yoga tells you quickly when you are slouching or slumping so that you can adjust your posture.

 

Improvement in Breathing

 

Most forms of yoga emphasize deep breathing which stimulates the relaxation response, the opposite of the fight-or flight adrenaline spike of the stress response.  Even though yoga doesn't stress aerobic fitness, because of the emphasis on focused deep breathing, lung capacity usually improves.

 

Calming Effects and Stress Reduction

Many yoga techniques employ meditation and deep breathing to focus the mind on the breath, thereby quieting random thoughts and "mind chatter" that often accompanies stress.  The overall feeling is one of calm and lowered stress.

These effect are based on the body's biological responses to yoga poses and exercises.  There is a decrease in the hormones produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress, and a lowering of the neurotransmitters, dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine, which creates a feeling of calm.

 

Getting Started

 

Many gyms, community centers and YMCAs offer yoga classes, or there may be a yoga studio in your neighborhood.  It's also possible to try using a yoga DVD.  Books and DVDs aren't as effective as learning yoga from a teacher, but they can be very useful if you have already attended any classes in person and want to do it at home.

Before starting a yoga program, it is  good idea to talk with your doctor, especially if you have any kind of health problem. And it is important to advise your yoga instructor of any orthopedic problems so that modified poses and exercises can be provided as needed.

Dress comfortably in loose clothing that allows you to move your body fully. Stretch or loose pants and a T-shirt or tank top are best.  Because yoga is usually practiced barefoot, no special footwear is required.  If you do your yoga workout on a carpeted floor, no special equipment is needed, but if you plan to work out on a hard floor, a workout mat is recommended.  Some people like to use a yoga met even on a carpet, because the sticky surface provides cushioning and extra grip for poses.

The key to yoga success is consistency, with regular practice three to four times per week.  Doing your workout with a friend helps you to stay motivated and on schedule.  In four to six weeks your body begins to release the endorphins that make exercise such a pleasant experience.

 

Recommended Yoga Equipment

 

The following products are highly recommended to get you started on your yoga program:

 

Yoga Starter Kit - Includes a sticky mat, a large wall poster illustrating various poses, a foam block and cotton exercise straps.

 

Yoga Sticky mat - For use on any hard floor, this mat provides extra cushioning and traction for your yoga exercise.

 

Yoga Stick-e-Socks - These compression socks provide exposed toes for gripping while maintaining that barefoot feeling.

 

Thick foam Mat - This cushioned mat provides for comfortable exercise on any kind of floor, whether concrete of hard wood.

 

Yoga foam Block - the ideal support to ground your lower hand in standing poses or to space the hands.

 

Cotton Yoga Strap - Ideal for use in stretching and for selected yoga poses.


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