Cheryl Zaidan resides in Michigan and enjoys writing and researching about health and well-being.
Yoga is a unique exercise that has the dual purpose of working out the body and relaxing the mind. There are many different types of yoga and a practice for virtually everyone. Some like Ashtanga and Vinyasa are more physically demanding. Others like Hatha and Yin are passive and focus on easing into gentler poses. But no matter what the practice, you'll find universal benefits that come from doing yoga on a regular basis.
Many people think you have to hit the gym in order to lose weight, but incorporating yoga as part of your weekly exercise routine is a great way to get rid of those extra pounds. A more strenuous yoga practice can help build muscle, which in turn helps burn calories. But surprisingly enough, gentle yoga can assist in losing weight as well by bringing energy and awareness to the body. Best of all, you'll lose weight gradually, which allows for less shock and stress to your system.
Suggested Poses: Lunges, Boat Pose, Shoulder Stands
While working out with weights is the traditional way to get lean muscles, yoga can also get you toned. Instead of lifting dumbbells, you're using your own body as resistance. Once more, instead of targeting a single area, you're working multiple muscles at the same time. Active postures such as downward dog and warrior pose increase muscle strength in the arms, legs and core offering you a great total body workout you can do at anywhere. All you need is time and a yoga mat. No gym membership necessary.
Suggested Poses: Plank Pose, Crow Pose, Proud Warrior
Let's face it, all of us have slouched at some time or another. Computer work, long commute times and even sitting in front of the TV can make our posture worse. Doing yoga on a regular basis not only helps release your back, but loosens tightness in the shoulders and neck area which helps keep your body aligned and straightened. Standing postures stretch the muscles and increase flexibility in the spine and supporting muscles so you can stand up straighter.
Suggested Poses: Mountain Pose, Tree Pose, Triangle
Speaking of flexibility, there are many people who still think yoga is about twisting your body into a pretzel, and that you have to be super pliable to even begin a practice. Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead yoga, helps you work within your limitations and with a regular practice, helps you gain flexibility by expanding muscles and loosening joints without strain. Both active and passive poses can offer a relaxed stretch and improve your overall range of motion.
Suggested Poses:Cat/Cow, Cobra, Child's pose
You may think that this sounds a bit silly, after all, everyone breathes. However, many of us have 'shallow breath' and aren't getting the oxygen we should. During a yoga practice, you are encouraged to breathe - not only deeply, but differently. Instead of the usual inhale, which causes us to pull our breath in, the yoga breath fills your body's cavity, resulting in a more breath filling the lungs. In fact, breathing is such a big part of yoga, that just the act of breath awareness can constitute an entire yoga practice.
Suggested Poses:Bridge pose, Corpse pose
Many of us lead busy, active lives and taking time out for ourselves is hard to do. But if you can find an hour for yoga, you'll find an hour where you can relax, unwind and renew. Yoga's focus on deep breathing and stretching not only work on a physical level, but a mental one as well. Many yoga practices involve meditation, which calms your mental state, allowing you to refocus your energy on positive affirmation. And each yoga practice generally ends with shavasana (corpse pose) in which you're allowed to clear your mind and lie perfectly still. The result is renewed energy and a happier outlook.
Suggested Poses: Corpse Pose, Forward Bend, Eagle Pose
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.