Beginner's guide to yoga
Monday 28 July 2008
Yoga is an ancient Hindu practice that originated in India to keep the body flexible and attain spirituality.
Millions of people across the world practice yoga for different reasons. There have been several scientific studies into the health benefits of yoga and they all seem to support the basic belief that it enhances the strength of muscles and also the endurance of the respiratory system. Many people also use yoga as a means to keep fit and lose weight.
Yoga, if performed correctly, has the capacity to burn around 237 calories within 50 minutes. It also boosts the heart rate by 60-62 percent of the heart rate max (HR max) with just a mild practice and can also increase your flexibility, help arthritis sufferers and increase your energy level. Other benefits include:
Balances the heart rate.
Work towards stabilizing the nervous system.
Can balance hormone levels.
Its a great way to normalize digestion.
Yoga enhances joint range of motion.
Strengthen immune system.
Helpful in improving cardiovascular efficiency.
Enhances eye-hand coordination.
Helpful in restoring sleep.
Will promote muscle mass and improve body toning.
Teaches steady breathing, relaxation breathing and other breathing techniques.
So we’ve established that yoga is pretty amazing - if you want to give it a try yourself skip straight to Closer's beginner moves click here or read on for more yoga basics
If you've decided to give yoga a go then there are several things to do. Firstly, consult your doctor and check there are no medical reasons why you shouldn't practise yoga (if you are pregnant you can try yoga but you have to only do modified moves, so watch out).
Secondly, you should decide on the type of yoga you want to practise. There are several types of yoga exercises and you must consider a type that suits your body, overall personality and physical fitness:
Hatha yoga is great for beginners as it's easy to perform and good for all-round fitness. Hatha is a very general term that can encompass many of the physical types of yoga. If a class is described as Hatha style, it is probably going to be slow-paced and gentle and provide a good introduction to the basic yoga poses.
Vinyasa yoga is also is a general term that is used to describe many different types of classes but may focus more on breath-synchronized movement and tends to be a more vigorous style based on the performance of a series of poses called sun salutations , in which movement is matched to the breath.
Ashtanga, which means "eight limbs" in Sanskrit, is a fast-paced, intense style of yoga. This is not generally advisable for beginners as it is very physically demanding because of the constant movement from one pose to the next.
Bikram, or hot yoga, is practiced in a 40 degree room, which allows for a loosening of tight muscles and profuse sweating, which is thought to be cleansing. The Bikram method is a set series of 26 poses, and is again slightly more challenging because of the extreme conditions.
If you've decided on taking a class there are key elements you can expect from all professional courses. Each lesson should include a basic warm-up to get your muscles moving, then a slow progression through the poses, including some resting periods, and finally time to relax at the end of the class.
Your local gym is a great place to enquire about classes in the area. Always inform your yoga teacher that this is your first class so they will know to go slowly and help you if you look like you're struggling. Check beforehand if you are required to bring your own exercise mat.
To try out Closer's beginner moves click here