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1. Health Benefits of Yoga
Yoga has both preventative and therapeutic benefits. It has been shown to offer both physical and mental benefits to the body and the mind. The many physical benefits of hatha yoga are: it improves flexibility and muscle joint mobility; strengthens, tones, and builds muscles; corrects posture; strengthens the spine; eases back pain; improves muscularskeletal conditions such as bad knees, tight shoulders and neck, swayback and scoliosis; increases stamina; creates balance and grace; stimulates the glands of the endocrine system; improves digestion and elimination; increases circulation; improves heart conditions; improves breathing disorders; boosts immune response; decreases cholesterol and blood sugar levels; and encourages weight loss. The mental benefits include: it increases body awareness; relieves chronic stress patterns in the body; refreshes the body by relieving muscle strain; relaxes the mind and body; centers attention; sharpens concentration; and frees the spirit. Western doctors and scientists are discovering additional health benefits of hatha yoga. Studies have shown that it can relieve the symptoms of several common and potentially lifethreatening illnesses; such as arthritis, arteriosclerosis, chronic fatigue, diabetes, AIDS, asthma and obesity. Many believe it even fends off the ravages of old age.
2. Yoga Benefits as An Exercise
A nearperfect fitness routine, hatha yoga provides the means for people of any age not only to get and stay in shape but also to develop balance, coordination, and a sense of centeredness. It renews, invigorates, and heals the body stretching and toning the muscles, joints, and spine and directing blood and oxygen to the internal organs (including the glands and nerves). Yoga is distinctly different from other kinds of exercise. It generates motion without causing strain and imbalances in the body. When practiced correctly, hatha yoga has no such negative effects on either the inner or outer body. When done with dedication and purpose, hatha yoga can be a quite demanding, yet an immensely rewarding type of exercise. While not inherently aerobic, it involves almost every muscle in the body and challenges the body to work in a different and often more passive way. Since the limbs function as free weights, resistance is created by moving the bodys center of gravity. This strengthening gives way to endurance as poses are held for longer periods of time. Unlike conventional forms of exercise, such as weight training, walking, biking or hiking, hatha yoga stresses quality of movement over quantity. A consistent hatha yoga practice can quiet the mind and refresh the body, bringing health, relaxation, and happiness.
3. Yoga Benefits For All Ages
Whatever your age, yoga can enhance your lifestyle... As well as being fun for children, learning yoga develops selfdiscipline and can enhance their physical and mental health. Asanas are good for developing coordination and help to improve concentration and memory. Regular practice can enable young people to keep their natural flexibility for many years. It can help teenagers to keep their youthful flexibility and give them the inner strength to say no to negative influences. Older people often find that gentle yoga exercises allow them to retain mobility and may relieve problems such as arthritis and poor circulation. During pregnancy, yoga promotes good health in both mother and unborn child. Yoga asanas lessen the effects of such problems as overweight, backache, and depression. Most women who practice yoga find that it can make labor easier and shorter. Although some asanas have to be modified during pregnancy, their essence is perfectly suited to this time of expanded selfawareness. Pregnancy is also a very good time for meditation. Everyone can benefit from following a regular yoga routine, as it counteracts many of the problems suffered in modern life. Asanas release the physical tensions caused by hours of sitting, deep breathing gives vitality by increasing the supply of oxygen to the brain and meditation enhances the powers of concentration. Yoga improves strength and flexibility in the mind as well as the body, and aids relaxation. Yoga can enable one to relax fully, and promotes sound sleep; it also improves digestion and stimulates circulation. It frees the practitioner both physically and mentally, often heightening intuition and creativity.
4. Yoga Benefits and Sports
Yoga postures are the physical positions that coordinate breath with movement and with holding the position to stretch and strengthen different parts of the body. Asana practice is the ideal complement to other forms of exercise, especially running, cycling and strength training, as the postures systematically work all the major muscle groups, including the back, neck, and shoulders, deep abdominal, hip and buttocks muscles and even ankles, feet, wrists and hands. By their very nature, asanas affect major and minor muscle groups and organs as they simultaneously import strength, increase flexibility and bring nourishment to internal organs. Although most poses are not aerobic in nature, they do in fact send oxygen to the cells in the body by way of conscious deep breathing and sustained stretching and contraction of different muscle groups. Whatever sport you choose to practice, yoga can enhance and complement your ability. Most sports build muscular strength and stamina, often in specific areas of the body. Yoga can help to check any imbalance in muscular development and will enable both your body and your mind to function more efficiently. If your body is flexible and supple you will be less prone to sports injuries, as your joints will be kept lubricated. Skiing demands mental alertness as well as good balance. Yoga asanas strengthen your muscles, release physical tension and improve your concentration and poise. Yoga makes your limbs balanced, strong and relaxed. Golfers may be prone to onesided or uneven muscle development. Yoga asanas can strengthen weak areas and ease muscular tension. The standing poses improve balance and muscle flexibility. Yoga breathing techniques help swimmers to breathe in a relaxed way when exercising. For bicyclists, back bends can relieve any stiffness caused by bending over handlebars. Because a cyclists back stays in one position for long periods, the muscles may become tense. This can be remedied with stretches. Gentle stretching exercises also ease stiffness in the legs and shoulders. Yoga asanas will also improve flexibility. Racket sports often involve intense physical effort. Yoga practice can help players to relax and replenish their energy after strenuous games. It also promotes calm, clear thinking, even in situations that call for fast reactions. Asanas for joint mobility can make hips and shoulders more flexible.
5. Ashtanga Yoga
The Ashtanga yoga system is a rigorous practice comparable to the training of an elite athlete. Consisting of specific postures done in six successive series linked by the breath, Ashtanga yoga represents the most intensive form of hatha yoga. The purpose of this continual flow of action is to create heat which produces a cleansing or detoxifying effect on the body. Ashtanga places equal emphasis on strength, flexibility and stamina. Many fitness enthusiasts who thrive on intense workouts like this style. This style is often called Power Yoga.
6. Integral Yoga
Integral yoga combines all the paths of yoga asana (postures), pranayama (controlled breathing), selfless service, prayer, chanting, meditation and selfinquiry into one approach. It emphasizes a more meditative rather than anatomical approach. Practicers of this style of yoga are encouraged to be easeful in body, peaceful in mind and useful in life. Integral yoga classes follow a set pattern and are 75 minutes in length. This includes 45 minutes of asanas, a deep relaxation, a breathing sequence and ends with a meditation. Although challenging, the feeling of the class is gentle and meditative and reflects a traditional approach that benefits all aspects of the individual.
7. Iyengar Yoga
Iyengar yoga is probably the most widely recognized hatha yoga technique in the Western world. Iyengar yoga is practiced in a manner prescribed by yoga master B. K. S. Iyengar. It is regarded mostly for its rigorous scientific and therapeutic approach, concentrating on correcting structural imbalances in the physical body. Iyengar teachers pay particularly close attention to the placement of the feet, hands and pelvis, as well as to the alignment of the spine, arms and legs. Because of this attention to detail, the pace of an Iyengar class tends to be slow to moderate. Classes typically focus in great detail on only a few asanas so as to refine movements. Standing postures are emphasized and, although you will be reminded to breathe, specific breathing techniques are not emphasized as much in this style of yoga as in some of the other styles. Iyengarstyle yoga also relies a lot on props wood blocks, benches, sandbags, blankets, bolsters and straps as a support system to achieve greater symmetry and extension in the posture.
8. Kripalu Yoga
Less concerned with the structural detail of the postures, Kripalu yoga has been described as meditation in motion. It emphasizes the students mental and emotional states as the poses are held, while encouraging a gentle, compassionate and introspective approach. Postures are held for a long time so as to explore and release emotional and spiritual blocks. This innerdirected form of hatha yoga consists of 3 stages: willful practice, will and surrender, and finally, surrendering to the bodys wisdom. Within each of the 3 stages, poses are offered in different intensities: gentle, moderate, and vigorous. In addition, spontaneous postures and sequences of postures are encouraged, guided by the bodys internal awareness.
9. Kundalini Yoga
Kundalini yoga is an ancient practice designed to bring forth the Kundalini, or reservoir of energy, stored at the base of the spine. Through the use of breath, posture, chanting and meditation, this energy is stimulated and consciously directed through the chakras or energy centers along the spine. Several breathing techniques are emphasized alternate nostril breathing; slow, diaphragmatic breathing and a dynamic technique called breath of fire.
10. Sivananda Yoga
Sivananda yoga incorporates a fivepoint method of practice, which includes proper exercise, breathing, deep relaxation, vegetarian diet, positive thinking and meditation. Following a standard format, Sivananda hatha yoga classes are based on a routine of breathing exercises, sun salutations, a series of 12 classic yoga postures and relaxation. A short mantra chant and prayers begin and end each class.
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