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Yoga for What Ails You

Saturday, January 28 2012 6:30 AM
Have you resolved to exercise more, lose weight or live a more stress-free life this year? Yoga might help with all three.

For some, the word “yoga” evokes images of people bending their bodies in strange positions. While some stretching is involved, the practice of yoga encompasses much more than that.

Yoga focuses on simple poses and breathing to promote physical strength, flexibility and mental peacefulness. Yoga fits into the mind/body practices category of complementary and alternative medicine. Other categories include biological/natural products, manipulative body practices, energy therapies and whole medical systems. Click here to read descriptions of these categories.

Yoga began as a Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline. In the ancient Sanskrit language of India, yoga means “union,” as in the union of the body, mind and spirit. It is practiced throughout the world by people of various ages, cultures and faith traditions, and it has been adapted by many to align with their specific faith beliefs and practices.

There are many styles of yoga, and most are based on the same basic body poses. Approaches to these poses can vary depending on the teacher. Most yoga classes follow a format of first calming the mind. Instructors might begin class with an inspirational message. Yoga classes are often named according to their particular focus or style. As yoga grew in popularity in North America, many yoga instructors created their own specific poses and named their practices after themselves. This is true of Iyengar and Bikram yoga.

Yoga classes offered by a yoga studio or church might focus more on the mental or spiritual aspects of yoga. Benefits can include relaxation, stress reduction, and connection or reconnection with faith teachings and beliefs. Classes at fitness centers and gyms often focus more on physical benefits, including improved flexibility, circulation and strength. Yoga has been recommended for relief from symptoms related to arthritis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and emphysema, among other conditions.

Yoga doesn’t have to happen in a group setting, but when starting out, it’s often helpful to have an experienced instructor to guide you.

The following is a list of common yoga styles and some of their traits.

Hatha yoga is one of the most common forms of yoga. It focuses on slow, gentle movements. It’s good for both beginners and more experienced students. Hatha yoga poses often begin with simple stretches that are held, motionless, for short periods of time. Many Hatha yoga poses can be done from a chair or a wheelchair.

Vinyasa yoga focuses on simple, basic movements as well. The difference is that more attention is given to breathing and synchronizing breaths with movements. The movements are slightly more dynamic and may resemble very slow dancing.

Kundalini yoga is designed to help increase awareness of one’s self physically, mentally and spiritually. Much attention is given to reflecting, focusing and concentrating.

Restorative yoga includes the use of implements such as foam blocks, towels or blankets to support the body and reduce strain. It is often combined with Hatha poses adapted for use on the floor or in a chair.

Ashtanga or power yoga is fast paced and poses are often performed as part of a specific routine or set of movements put together, one after another.

Bikram or hot yoga uses heat to increase an individual’s flexibility. It replicates the heat and humidity of the region of the world in which yoga originated.

Iyengar yoga focuses primarily on body alignment. It holds each pose for longer periods of time in order to increase stamina.

If you are interested in trying any of these yoga styles, please consult your physician first. Yoga might be the answer to your resolve to improve your well-being this year.

By Margaret Hemauer, ACC, MA, NHA
Quality/Performance Improvement Consultant
Source: www.good-sam.com

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