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The Benefits of Yoga


Guest post by Kelly F

What is yoga?

Yoga originated in India thousands of years ago. It comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj,” which translates as unite. The core of yoga is to unite the mind, body and soul in order to reach a balance of perfect harmony and well-being. This balance is achieved through a combination of physical exercises, including asanas or poses, breathing practices and meditation. Read on to learn the benefits of yoga.

How can it help me?

Practicing yoga regularly will improve your flexibility, fitness level and posture. It will also give you a peaceful mind. But as well as this, yoga has been known to help with certain ailments and disorders, including:

  • Improving digestion
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Re-balancing hormones
  • Improving fertility
  • Reducing stress
  • Reducing anxiety

Yoga practice

Yoga practice consists of performing a series of postures (asanas) while simultaneously practicing breathing exercises, which is also called pranayama breathing. Your instructor usually stands at the front of the class and demonstrates the postures while giving you step-by-step instructions. You will be told to move into a certain pose and hold that pose for several breaths. Pranayama breathing involves deep, full breaths in and out of the nose.

Ideally, yoga should be practiced daily, but not everyone can fit frequent classes into their busy routines. Practicing at home with a DVD is an option. There are also several free apps that you can download from the internet with inbuilt classes or free virtual classes on websites such as YouTube. However, most yoga teachers recommend joining a class initially, so that you can learn how to do the poses and breathing exercise correctly. You can then practice at home with a device of your choice, and if you wish, attend classes as often as you can. Because yoga is always performed barefoot, you will need a yoga mat for the practice, and do make sure you wear comfortable clothing.

Finding a class

You should be able to find a class in your area. Almost all renowned health clubs run regular classes, but you will have to pay a membership fee. If you’re on a budget, look out for advertisements in the library or local paper for pay-as-you-go classes.

Classes run from an hour to 90 minutes. If you are new to yoga, be sure to join a beginner’s class as you may find the intermediate one difficult to keep up with. In all cases, be sure to inform your instructor that you are new to yoga so that they are aware of your limitations.

Yoga is a non-competitive exercise, so always go at your own pace. As tempting as it may be, don’t try to keep up with the rest of the class. Don’t force your body into a position when it is resisting or you will cause yourself an injury. If you can’t perform a particular asana just stop, sit it out and resume when you are more comfortable. If you can only reach a small percentage of the way in a stretch, that’s fine—only go as far as you comfortably can. Each time you practice, you will improve. In time, your body will become more flexible and you will be able to reach further.

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