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Articles > Weight Loss > Yoga Basics
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Are you in search of an exercise program that needs little or no equipment, and calms your spirit while toning your body? While yoga incorporates exercise, it is also a way of life for which exercise is just one component. You have lots of options when it comes to tailoring your yoga workout. Before taking a class, take the time to observe a class that interests you and make sure the instructor is certified with the Yoga Alliance, a qualification that entails at least 200 hours of training in yoga methods and teaching.

Posture, breathing, and mindfulness are yoga's three main elements, and their simplicity contradicts just how difficult it can be to master even the most straightforward skills. "Savasana," or the Relaxation Pose is one good way to gain knowledge of fundamental yoga breathing and meditation. Focus on calming your entire body once you get into the pose.

The word yoga means "union" in Sanskrit, the language of early India where yoga began. What is usually referred to as "yoga" can be more precisely expressed by the Sanskrit word asana, which refers to the practice of physical postures or poses. Asana, which literally means "to sit in a particular position" is only one of the eight so-called "limbs" or types of yoga, the greater part of which are more concerned with psychological or spiritual happiness than physical action.

Yoga is one of the few disciplines that offer true union between mind, body and spirit. But yoga is much more than just a discipline involving a series of poses, or asanas. There is no right or true style of yoga. It is accepted that each yoga path has the same objective, and rivalry between paths is a waste of time and energy. Hatha Yoga, the yoga most frequently practiced by Westerners, comes from the Raja School of Yoga.

One of the most immediate and best known physical benefits of yoga is improved flexibility. Yoga also develops muscle strength. The even nature of yoga, where actions and positions are balanced so that one moves left and right, forward and backward, up and down in equal proportion causes skeletal repositioning by relaxing joints and stretching muscles so that the bones can move into their natural place.

Yoga as we know it nowadays is practiced to develop general fitness and well being. Yoga aspires to transport its practitioners nearer to the Supreme Being. In spite of the use of physical exercises, yoga is most directly connected to mind-body treatments. Yoga offers a significant number of confirmed health benefits, and it also develops dexterity, posture, range of motion, attentiveness, sleep and digestion.

Medical research estimates that as much as 90 percent of ill health is stress related. What we feel as stress is the result of the sympathetic nervous system or the "fight or flight" reaction: an almost immediate surge in heart rate, cardiac output, blood pressure, sweating, shallow breathing, and metabolism, along with a tensing of the muscles. The body fortunately has a counterbalance to the "fight or flight" response, called the parasympathetic nervous system or the "relaxation response." Yoga's emphasis on long, deep breathing and conscious relaxation sets off the parasympathetic nervous system and encourages its "rest and renew" role.

Criteria For A Yoga Class
It is hard to overstate the value of being taught yoga in a class. Try to find a yoga class that meets the following standards:
• Situated near to your home or workplace.
• Taught by a qualified yoga teacher, not by a health club instructor teaching hyped up stretching exercises that they decide to call "yoga."

Yoga Class Do's And Don'ts
Here are a few ways to get more out of the yoga lessons you go to:
Do show up early.
Don't eat for two or three hours before class.
Do let your instructor know about injuries or circumstances that might influence your practice.
Do create an intention.
Don't bring pagers or cell phones to class.
Do be quiet.
Do bring a towel or your own mat if you sweat a lot, and turn up clean and free of perfumes that might distract or offend others.
Don't push it.
Do pick up and put away tidily any props you use.
Don't go into class late or depart before time, it's unsettling to others.
Do take time afterwards to reflect on what you did in class, so you can retain what you learned.

Bikram Yoga
Bikram Yoga is the latest yoga exercise trend. It is a form of yoga practiced at 100-degree room temperature. The sauna effect calms your muscles and works those joints and ligaments into stretches without the risk of injury. The temperature makes you sweat buckets, flushing out those nasty toxins of modern life. This method, pioneered by Bikram Choudhury, who won the prestigious Indian national competition at age 11, consists of a series of 26 challenging postures.

Dealing With Injuries
Our sedentary, stressful way of life makes us more vulnerable to injury. The new area of "fitness yoga," where the 5,000 year old practice is taught in mirror-and-chrome gyms, and trainers are aerobics instructors who did a weekend yoga seminar also contributes to the abundance of yoga related injuries. Pair this inexperience with a population that demands an energetic, kick-butt kind of yoga workout, and you have a situation that positively calls for more education on the part of consumers and fitness experts.


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