Yoga has been proven to relieve stress by using exercises that unify the mind, body, and spirit. If you are new to yoga, these seven tips will start you on the road to a more centered life.
1. Talk to your doctor and explain what type of yoga poses you intend to practice. Show your doctor pictures of the poses for illustration. Your doctor may rule out specific poses if you have high blood pressure, glaucoma, a history of retinal detachment, or heart disease. Make sure you follow your doctor’s recommendations.
2. Find a yoga class that best fits your abilities. Talk to prospective teachers, and decide whether of not you can handle a program before you sign up. It’s very important to take it one step at a time. Try a few beginner classes before you attempt more vigerous classes. Don’t move ahead too quickly. Allow your body to adjust to your exercises.
3. Listen to your body and be aware of your physical abilities. You don’t want to hurt yourself. Make sure the instructor understands your level of experience and any limitations you may have. Don’t allow anyone to push you ahead too quickly. Remember, this is supposed to be fun and relaxing.
4. If you can’t find a class that meets your needs, you can always practice yoga at home. There are many books, programs, and tapes available to help you get started. Search for the best products on the Internet and read reviews. Talk to others for recommenations.
5. Why not try private lessons? You can book some one-on-one sessions with a teacher in your area. Most yoga instructors offer private classes or can help you design your own program. This is a good way to get started. You can always take group lessons or practice at home after you’ve had private lessons and learned the basics.
6. Find a yoga buddy. It’s nice to practice with someone and it will help reduce injuries. It’s also a great way to keep up your enthusiasm and interest.
7. Eat lightly before practice. Wait at least two hours after meals before yoga class or practice. An empty stomach is best, but don’t let yourself get too hungry to think. You won’t be able to focus on the poses or enjoy yourself during the relaxation or meditation exercises.
Now it’s time to grab your mat and a towel and get the most out of your yoga exercises.
Yoga has become extremely popular these days as more and more people find out about the peaceful and serene feeling you achieve when practicing along with the overall well-being you experience.
Yoga has become so popular that it has now become a $10 billion a year niche with participants spending more and more on yoga-related products and classes. See our Yoga Shop
And why wouldn’t they? Yoga has been known to heal the mind-body by its ability to not only reduce stress in your life but it is also practiced for the wide-ranging amount of physical health benefits it provides. While the jury is still out on the scientific research, we do know some of the potential effects it can have on your body.
One form of yoga, Hatha – which places emphasis on physical postures, is said to help improve your cognitive functions such as improving not only your focus but your memory as well. This form of yoga can provide strength and endurance benefits and is a less vigorous style of yoga.
Another form of yoga, Bikram which is performed in a heated room temperature of approximately 100 degrees, has been found to be effective in increasing hamstring and back flexibility along with shoulder flexibility improvement.
Since yoga is a low-impact form of getting you to move and stretch, it has also been found to reduce stress and anxiety along with heightening the brain chemicals that reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety-related disorders.
Some forms of yoga are more physical than other such as Ashtanga and Power yoga. These two forms will help you to improve overall muscle tone.
There are certain poses for different parts of your body. Use poses such as the upward facing dog, the plank pose or the downward facing dog if you want to build upper-body strength.
If you want to up the strength in your abs, hamstrings and quadriceps, practice the standing poses while holding them for several long breaths. If you want to strengthen your lower back, use poses such as the upward facing dog and the chair pose. If you practice all of the above poses correctly, you should see improvement in your core strength in the deep abdominal muscles.
Not only will you feel an improvement in your core strength, as you become stronger and more flexible you will see a noticeable improvement in your posture.
By practicing yoga, you will become more aware of your body and if you are slouching or slumping allowing you to adjust your posture to stand and sit “tall.” Your core will be much stronger because you are practicing standing and sitting poses to develop that core strength. You need your core muscles to support and maintain each pose.
Yoga can improve your breathing. By participating in yoga classes, you will be forced to pay attention to your breathing which in turn will help you to relax. Some yoga classes require specific breathing techniques. Yoga is not the same as running, cycling or aerobics unless you are participating in one of the more intense forms of yoga, some of which use a heated room.
If you have way too much stress in your life, yoga can help you to feel more relaxed and less stressed. Some forms of yoga also incorporate meditation techniques into the classes.
One of the most beneficial aspects of yoga is how good it is for your heart. Not only can yoga help to slow your heart rate but it can also lower your blood pressure. This is really good news for those with heart disease, high blood pressure or those who have experienced a stroke.
Hot Yoga: Benefits and Best Practices
Yoga comes in many styles, all of which, focus on particular poses, known as asanas, breathing techniques and meditative practices that bring the yogi in touch with their mind, body and spirit. All styles of yoga have innumerable benefits for health, and in this article we will focus on one of the most popular varieties, Hot yoga.
Hot yoga is a yoga class that is conducted in a room that is heated to about 105 degrees Fahrenheit and humidified by about 40%. The purpose of doing yoga in a heated room is to induce sweating, amongst other benefits. An increase in sweating promotes weight loss.
Doing hot yoga works to warm the body so that the blood flows more easily while you do the poses. Blood vessels dilate to bring more blood, oxygen and water to the different parts of your body. The increased blood flow helps your muscles limber up. You will feel greater muscle flexibility when you do yoga in a heated room. It’s like having a sauna bath and a workout at the same time.
Two Styles Of Hot Yoga
There are two kinds of ‘hot’ yoga. One is the Bikram hot yoga. This style is quite challenging as there are about 26 separate poses to master. The poses are not simple as Bikram yoga is not for beginners. Bikram yoga is for more experienced yogis. Another example of hot yoga is the Vinyasa style hot yoga. The poses flow so that it feels like you are dancing.
As with any form of physical exercise, practicing yoga regularly and consistently is key to mastering the breathing technique, the poses and to developing strength and agility. You can only observe that you are gaining the health benefits of hot yoga if you practice it regularly.
However, hot yoga is not for everyone. People with sensitivity to humidity may feel their nose running and their throat itching when they do hot yoga. People with heart disease and diabetes are not recommended to do hot yoga as it puts too much exertion on the heart to exercise when overheated. It is best to consult your doctor before you start any yoga regimen. It is best to get a clearance from your doctor to practice hot yoga.
There are risks to hot yoga which you must accept and guard against. For one, when you practice hot yoga, you must increase your fluid intake. You have to drink more water all through the day and drink even more water before, during, and after the practice. You also have to make sure that your blood sugar and salt levels are constant.
Some people recommend drinking coconut water or a sports drink to ensure that you maintain your electrolyte level. Some people recommend taking a snack prior to and immediately after a practice session.
Dieticians recommend fresh fruits and nuts especially bananas which are high in potassium. They also recommend fruits which have high sugar and water content such as watermelons, cantaloupe, apples, oranges and grapes. Drinking fresh fruit juice is also good. However, it is best to stay away from milk, butter and cheese prior to a hot yoga workout. Milk products curd in the stomach and may cause discomforts such as gas.
It is also wise to pace yourself. When exercising with a group, it is easy to get carried away. It is also easy to feel competitive. You might do too much too soon – before your body has accustomed to the rigors of hot yoga. Avoid stretching yourself too far (literally and figuratively). Because of the heated room, most people who practice hot yoga feel limber and agile. As a result, some people feel a surge of confidence and they over stretch their muscles. There is a risk of injury.
It is also best to pay close attention to your body’s signals. If you feel lightheaded or dizzy, if you feel sharp pain in your muscles or a headache, or if you feel nauseated it is probably time to take a break.
When you do take a break, you must do so outside of the heated room. Take as many breaks as you need. Your body will gradually acclimatize to the heat and it will become accustomed to the demands of hot yoga.
Have you heard about the Gunas? No, they are not Disney characters! According to yoga there are three basic qualities or energies that make up everything. They are, rajas, tamas and sattva.
Rajas is the energy of action, change and movement. Rajas is the fuel of passion and fire. Rajasic energy is also associated with the day light hours. We obviously need rajasic energy to create energy to move successfully throughout our world and lives. When we have too much rajasic energy we might appear to the outside world as extremely busy, go go go, do do do! Does this sound like you? Maintaining a high degree of rajasic energy leads to burn out! When rajas is out of balance the mind and body are overstimulated, the mind becomes restless and you experience a lot of uncontrollable thoughts.
Foods that are rajasic include: spicy food, fried foods, coffee / caffeinated beverages/ stimulants/ fish, eggs, chocolate, foods that are very bitter, sour, dry and salty. Eating in a hurry is also considered rajasic
Tamas can be thought of as the opposite of rajas. Tamasic energy is associated with a state of inactivity and inertia, heaviness and darkness. When tamas is out of balance your ability to reason becomes clouded and you might experience the darker emotions such as anger or greed. Just as there is more rajasic energy present in daylight hours, tamasic energy is present during nighttime. People who are very tamasic might be depressed or appear lazy. Generally speaking disease states are tamasic.
Examples of tamasic food include: meat, alcohol, tobacco, onions, fermented foods – vinegar or strong cheese, stale food or over ripe food, overly processed food or chemically treated. Overeating is considered tamasic.
Sattva is energy that is in a state of harmony and balance. Positive mental and emotional states of joy and intelligence are associated with sattva. A person who was experiencing a lot of sattvic energy would appear very happy. Sattvic energy also is consistent with healing states and in Ayurveda (yoga’s sister science) sattvic energy is actively cultivated. Sattvic energy is most present during the times between light and dark- in other words dusk and dawn. A person on the yogic path is focused on developing sattva and for this reason yoga asana and meditation are classically performed at these times.
Foods that are sattvic include: whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, pure fruit juice, legumes, milk, butter, nuts, seeds, sprouted seeds, honey and herb teas.
It is important to realize that we all have all three gunas within us. And while this is true we tend to have a predominant guna. Based on the descriptions above can you figure out what yours is? It is good to be aware of this because once you are aware of your predominant guna then you can predict how might react to certain life circumstances as well know your strengths and weaknesses. You’ll know when you will tend to be thrown out of balance and what you will need to do to bring yourself back into balance.
You also might have times in our lives when one guna is more active then another. Perhaps you have very active time and very productive (rajasic). Or a period when you have been depressed (tamasic). Or a time when we are very balanced and in tune with your spirituality (satvic).
Another way the gunas show up in our lives and directly effect us is through the food we eat. Consider for a minute the average American diet with overly processed and chemically treated foods which are very tamasic. Modern science now confirms that these food items are directly linked to major illnesses including cancer, obesity, diabetes and heart disease. As mentioned above too much tamasic energy leads to disease states. We also know that foods in their whole form such as grains, fresh fruits and vegetables (sattvic foods) are life sustaining and bring health and energy.
Do you practice yoga postures (asana)? How do the gunas show up here? Is your asana practice fiery and passionate? Was your practice was slow and lazy? Or was it balanced?
It is probably becoming clear to you by now that to be healthy, happy, and live a balance life it is important to cultivate sattva in your life. This can be done by:
Reducing rajas and tamas
Becoming aware of when you are out of balance- which guna seems most present?
Increase activities and environments that produce positive thoughts
Eating a healthy, sattvic oriented diet
Certain herbs (subject for another article)
The practice of yoga: pranayama (breathing practices), asana (postures), meditation
Flexibility is considered to be a “by product” of Yoga practice, but in the case of Chair Yoga, it is often “down played” or taken for granted. Since most Chair Yoga enthusiasts are seniors, the true value of flexibility is mobility.
When you consider that mobility for seniors can be the difference between dependence and independence, flexibility is now of extreme value.
The following is an observation I have made after working with groups from assisted living complexes, adult day care centers, nursing homes, and seniors centers. The average mobile senior citizen is much more flexible in the hips, spine, wrists, and shoulders, than his or her dependent counterpart.
Just crossing the legs can be difficult for the clients I work with in a nursing home. Students in Chair Yoga classes learn a variety of exercises that will “free up” many of the major joints. Many students also remark how pain, from a variety of ailments, is much more manageable, after practicing Chair Yoga.
Increased range of motion makes a difference, when reaching for anything. It also helps to prevent injuries that can occur from strain or a possible fall. If a senior falls, there is certainly the potential that the results could be life threatening.
Chair Yoga offers a significant number of balancing exercises. Although balance can be affected by medication, inner ear problems, and more, many seniors show much improvement in balancing their bodies within weeks of their first Chair Yoga class. Therefore, flexibility and balance are a significant part of an injury prevention package that can improve, or enhance, the quality of life for seniors. This fact has been realized by seniors who flock to Chair Yoga classes on a daily, or weekly, basis.
Most of us realize that physical conditioning is not the only factor involved in dependence. There are a number of disabling diseases that can affect any one of us and have nothing to do with lack of flexibility. Lack of flexibility is not the single overriding factor involved in independence for seniors.
However, it is a fact that less mobile, and frail, seniors will become confined.
Hence, most seniors should make an effort to stay flexible, for what is ultimately their own dignity at stake. You could look at your physical condition as an insurance policy for independent living. After all, who really wants to impose on their children or relatives for the sake of existence?
Chair Yoga can easily work in harmony with most physical rehabilitation prescriptions. Many physical therapists have knowledge of Yoga or are teachers of Yoga. Many doctors, physical therapists, and medical professionals recommend Yoga to patients who are making a “come back.”
Yoga gives these patients the strength to move ahead, when many would be discouraged. The comebacks that I have personally witnessed are inspiring to me as a Yoga teacher. Over time, I have seen come backs from strokes, heart attacks, and car accidents.
It touches me that they thanked me for teaching them Yoga or Chair Yoga.
The courage to go on came from within their minds, but Yoga became a significant part of their lives. As a Yoga teacher the inspiration was mutual and made me feel helpful. After all, being of help, and being appreciated, are prime motivations for teachers of any subject.
Muscle tone is a result of stretching and flexing any muscle group. Active muscles display themselves on anybody that chooses to use them. This is also a good way to relieve oneself of anxiety, stress, tension, and prevent depression. Like the other benefits, previously mentioned, this results in whole body health. A healthy body does, indeed, compliment a healthy mind.
For those clients who are confined to a chair, it is wise to include some form of a weight bearing, or weight resistance, exercise program. For those who can stand, Chair Yoga is another weight bearing exercise that will stimulate bone building.
With progressive weight resistance, you use free weights or machines, but with Yoga you bear your own body weight. The end result of these exercise programs would be increased bone density and prevention of Osteoporosis.
Seniors spend more time alone, than any other age group. Sometimes, we all need a little solitude, but too much solitude can lead to depression, in some of us. Living life like a monk is not for everyone.
Chair Yoga classes offer a social activity that helps to stimulate the mind and body in a positive way. This becomes an uplifting activity that participants look forward to. Regular attendance, and socializing in Chair Yoga classes, is a healthy activity that leads to building strong relationships.
It also exposes seniors to the many activities that are going on within the community center. Participants of chair Yoga classes are exposed to whole health and gain a nutritional education as a member of a senior, community, or wellness center.
Lastly, all participants in Chair Yoga classes learn to relax and quiet the mind, through breath awareness, meditation, stage-by-stage relaxation, a combination, or another method. The end result being that these Yoga students can control their minds, focus on the good things in life, and prevent depression.
In comparison to many forms of exercise, the benefits of Chair Yoga far outweigh the risks. The therapeutic exercises work the body, from head to toes, to the best of any client’s ability.
Therefore, the method used, addresses the whole body in a single routine.
This is an amazing feat, for a low-impact exercise program, where the average session lasts 45 to 60 minutes. The following information will highlight some of the many benefits of regular participation in a Chair Yoga class.
Increased circulation is a result of movement and every body part that can move is used in a typical Chair Yoga class. For many of us, we think of cardiovascular heath first, and this is right fully so, but Chair Yoga helps many other forms of circulation, within the body, as well.
To sit still for days on end, we invite diseases of many kinds. Diabetics need movement to keep sugar levels in “tolerance zones.” Chair Yoga also has routines for the feet, toes, hands, and fingers, so there is no part of the body left out. Due to this whole body approach, the immune system is also stimulated by regularly attending Chair Yoga classes.
The many movements, bending, and twisting, in a regular Chair Yoga session, stimulate the elimination of toxins, within the body. Every time you bend the waist in one direction or another, the stomach aids in digestion and the lower back is gently stimulated.
Now, back to cardiovascular benefits – There seems to be a lot of confusion about what is classified as aerobic exercise. One of the definitions for aerobic exercise is: Any exercise that would increase circulatory and respiratory ability. When the heart and lungs have to work harder to keep up with the body’s need for oxygen that is aerobic.
In fact, gardening and housework are also aerobic exercise that most seniors routinely do. This is not to say that gardening and housework are complete health maintenance systems, but they do burn over 200 calories per hour, for the average person, and meet the aerobic definition.
Much of this mentality stems from the “No pain – No gain” era. Most of the original advocates of this theory are now “nursing their own wounds” and practicing gentler forms of exercise. After all, none of us are immortal, and the body can only take so much abuse over time.
May I remind anyone, who is left standing, from the No pain – No gain era, that walking is also classified as aerobic exercise. So, whether you walk or run a mile, aerobic benefits are gained and significant calories are burned.
We have all heard the saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Those words are extremely profound, when thinking about correcting poor posture and alignment. It takes years to create poor alignment.
Therefore, poor posture cannot be corrected in a single day. A more appropriate saying, when thinking about posture and alignment might be, “The leaning tower of Pisa cannot become straight in a week.”
However, improvements to posture can be made through Chair Yoga exercises and through daily “posture awareness.” In my classes, I refer to posture awareness as “homework.” It usually draws a chuckle from students, but they also know that class time is the time to learn and practice Chair Yoga together.
Time away from the Yoga class is when you put the principles you have learned, in motion, and adapt them into your lifestyle. I cannot promise Chair Yoga is a “cure all,” but you will see improvements in every aspect of your life. However, practicing your homework separates the fantastic success stories from those who see some modest improvement.
So, what is posture awareness? This is taking the time to be aware of your posture, on a daily basis. The first thing you want to do in order to open your awareness is look at your side profile in a mirror and any photographs of yourself. At this point, look at your spine from top to bottom.
Do you see slumping, forward tilting of the neck, or extra large curves? Your spine should be aligned so that it is fairly straight at all times. During a number of daily activities such as: Standing, walking, reading, eating, sitting, lying, typing, and more, you should make a conscious effort, to keep your head and back straight.
Now, we can all remember a schoolteacher who preached, “Keep your back straight,” but now we know that he or she was absolutely correct. Take the time to adjust your spinal alignment, from this moment on, and every time you can remember to do so.
If possible, you should also attend any workshops about Chiropractic and Orthopedic medicine. Educate yourself about your body, your spine, and your choices. You can usually find these workshops and many more valuable meetings at your local senior center. These workshops are usually free, you are under no obligation, and it makes for a good “Fact finding mission.”
The alignment and posture principles, you learn in a Chair Yoga class, can be as simple as, “Pain or no pain.”
Congratulations on becoming interested in yoga. It is one of the most effective forms of exercise you can do, and can be practiced safely no matter what your age or fitness level provided you follow a few simple rules of the road.
Check with your doctor to make sure you are well enough for yoga. If you aren, start slowly. Don’t try to be an Olympic athlete on the first day when you haven’t worked out in years.
2-Take the time to warm up.
Light stretches will make muscles warm and therefore less prone to injury.
3-Listen to your body.
Pain is NEVER gain when you are working out. It is a sign that something is wrong. Come out of the pose as safely as you can and rest.
The secret to seeing real results from any form of exercise are to be consistent in your efforts. Set your yoga appointment with yourself each day by putting it on your calendar and treating it as seriously as you would any other important meeting.
5-Don’t feel guilty.
Some people feel they are letting others down by putting themselves first through taking time out to do yoga. The truth is that you can only care for others effectively if you are healthy yourself.
6-Watch your posture.
Proper form can help you avoid injury.
7-Remember yoga is not just about physical poses.
Breath work and meditation are important parts of yoga as well.
8-Rest as needed.
If you are in a class, don’t worry about what others will think if you stop. They are probably way too focused on their own yoga to even notice.
9-Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
Even if you don’t sweat a lot during yoga, staying hydrated offers a range of health benefits and flushes toxins out of your body.
10-Turn off your inner critic.
If you have any negative thoughts about yourself, such as you are too old, fat or whatever to do yoga, ignore the mind chatter and get on with your practice. If people in India and elsewhere can practice yoga well into their 90s, chances are you are NOT too old.
11-Don’t try to compete with others.
Yoga is not a competitive sport and all of our bodies are different. Just do the best you can.
12-Never force yourself.
Forcing yourself to try to achieve a ‘perfect pose’ is one of the easiest ways to get injured. Do what you can and don’t shove yourself around. Don’t let any teacher do this either.
Follow these simple 12 simple tips and see what a difference they can make to your yoga practice.
There are a lot of yoga poses and you might wonder if some are still exercised and applied. The answer is yes. Yoga poses function and perform differently. Each pose is designed to develop one’s flexibility and strength.
So, which are the Most Beneficial Yoga Poses?
Here are some of the yoga poses that are commonly used:
Standing is one of the important yoga poses. This type of pose is helpful in aligning your body and your feet. This is also very useful in improving and maintaining a good posture. It is an advantage because if you have a bad posture, your backbones can be stretched and straightened without noticing it. Standing poses helps in giving strength to your legs and at the same time increase elasticity in your legs and hips because they are all connected to each other.
These types of yoga poses increase your lower back and hip’s flexibility. This also strengthens your back. This adds suppleness to your knees, groin, ankle and most especially your spine. Another advantage is that it helps you to breathe in deep which gives you that calm and peaceful feeling.
This type helps you in stretching the hamstrings and your lower back also strengthening it. This lessens the tension found in your neck, shoulder, back and increase flexibility in your spine. Calmness is also achieved in this type of pose.
Back bends are amazingly helpful in opening your chest, hips and even the rib cage. This is helpful in strengthening and making your arms shoulders stronger. At the same time, it simultaneously increases your flexibility and elasticity in your shoulders. The great thing is that it helps to relieve the tension from the front of your body up to your hips and it increases your spinal ability. Your spinal cord is one thing that is important in your body so you need to take good care of it.
Notice that the forward bends are challenging because the exercise gives you a nice feeling and it can cause to fix some injuries. In this type of position, you can use a prop like the strap or the black because it will be very helpful.
Balance poses are very challenging. People who do yoga get too excited in performing balances. This is good because the fun that the person acquires helps him to live up his spirit and enlighten his soul. Balance is helpful in improving your posture. In improving your posture, the spinal cord is elongated which helps to keep yourself from some injuries and falling over.
Balance helps in training your ability to focus on your main goal and attention. However, attention should be obtained in the ultimate level because if your concentration is weak, for sure you cannot perform this type of pose.
Balance is one of the yoga poses that people truly appreciate and exert effort for. Along with the balance poses comes the twist which extremely releases tension all over your body. The tension in your spine is made clear. Twisting may seem to be hard to obtain. It is important to execute twists on both sides of the body so that the balance and alignment is obtained.
Taking note of these yoga poses will help you get along with yoga perfectly. Keep in mind that concentration is your main key if you want to be successful in doing these yoga poses.
Why not watch some video demonstration yoga poses HERE