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The Benefits of Yoga

Por Leslie Rodríguez, RD, LD* -
The Benefits of Yoga

Although you may think that yoga is a relatively new workout, its practice actually dates back thousands of years. It has recently gained in popularity because of its relation to easing everyday stress--something that has greatly increased with modern life--and because people are now more interested in workouts that exercise the body as well as the mind.

The word "yoga" means "to unite" and this is exactly what it is all about: to completely unite an individual, not only with the body, but with the mind and spirit as well.  Yoga consists of a combination of positions and poses, breathing, and meditation exercises that increase flexibility and strengthen and tone muscles. The exercises are designed to keep the body and the mind working in harmony at all times.

Types of yoga

There are different types of yoga and each one has its own unique characteristics. For example, some of the most common types focus on concentration, light stretching, and resistance exercises. In Mantra yoga, students repeat a word or phrase to help gain control over the mind, while other types of yoga work on breathing techniques and control, to improve vitality and increase energy.

Ashtanga yoga, also known as "power yoga," involves a series of positions that flow together to create constant movement. This type of yoga focuses on flexibility and muscle strengthening. Many of the positions require the use of the wrists or shoulders to support the majority of one's body weight. This type of yoga is not recommended for beginners, especially those that lack upper body strength.

Bikram yoga helps build flexibility by using a series of positions, 13 standing up and 13 sitting down, along with breathing exercises and techniques. Some people believe that Bikram yoga can help ease arthritis pain and chronic back pain. If you are a person who cannot tolerate heat, keep in mind that many Bikram yoga classes are done at temperatures of 80 to 100 ºF or higher (27 to 37 ºC).

Another type of yoga for beginners is called Sivanada. It involves smooth, meditative and relaxing exercises to alleviate stress. There are 12 basic positions that make up the "Sun Salutation." Each position is held for a sustained period. It is believed that this strengthens the connection between the body and the mind, and allows the body time to adapt itself to each position, as well giving the mind time to relax. Many Sivanada classes start and end with a brief mantra followed by prayers.

Benefits of yoga

Yoga classes are a good option if you want to find a way to free your mind, body and spirit from the stressful routine of everyday life. Many existing techniques that we have heard about to reduce stress, such as breathing deeply, are based on yoga principles. Some doctors have incorporated yoga in the treatment of patients with cardiovascular diseases since many of these conditions become worse with stress.

Some people may be looking for a way to stretch and strengthen their bodies. Making yoga a part of your exercise routine improves your ability to carry out other activities. With just a few yoga lessons, you will learn the basics (movement and breathing techniques) and you will be able to incorporate them into your daily life.

Do not be intimidated by yoga just because it is something new and unfamiliar to you. Everyone can benefit from practicing some type of yoga. You may prefer a yoga technique that works on breathing and relaxation, or one that focuses on flexibility and resistance. If you are already in shape, yoga can help you improve your fitness. If you have just started with regular workouts, then yoga can be a good way to get your body and your mind in shape!

*Specialist in sports nutrition and physical activity at MyDiet™ .


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