A new survey from the National Institutes of Health shows that during the last decade, the number of Americans who report practicing yoga has nearly doubled to 21 million. Furthermore, surveys for the American College of Sports Medicine indicate that fitness professionals ranked yoga among top-ten trends for 2014 and 2015.

The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit root “yuj”, which means “to yoke” the spirit and physical body together. Yoga was developed up to 5,000 years ago in India as a comprehensive system for wellbeing on all levels: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. While yoga is often equated with Hatha Yoga, the well-known system of postures and breathing techniques, Hatha Yoga is only a part of the overall discipline of yoga. Yoga is comprised of and focuses on the eight limbs of yoga, which are: restraints, observances, postures, breathing, and the withdrawal of senses, concentration, meditation, and absorption.
There are many different styles of yoga, including aerial, Anusara, Ashtanga, Bikram, Hot, Iyengar, Kundalini, Vinyasa, Yin, and pre and post-natal yoga. Some styles are fast paced and vigorous while others are gentle and slow-moving. All of the styles of yoga have benefits, so evaluating your individual needs and personality type will help point you in the right direction.

  • Hatha Yoga is perfect for beginners because the poses are straightforward, and the pace is unhurried. Props like blocks and bolsters are often used to help you get the right alignment. You will be focusing on breathing, relaxation, and meditation.
  • Ashtanga and Power Yoga are perfect for weight loss. This yoga combines the regular benefits of yoga with an intense cardio session. Both styles focus on flowing from one pose to the next without rest. In Ashtanga, you will begin with chanting, and follow a sequence of poses that never change, however power yoga has no spiritual aspect, and poses vary.
  • Yin Yoga is great for relaxing. This style of yoga requires you to move slowly into poses, and hold them up to five minutes, allowing a deep stretch of your muscles.
  • Iyengar Yoga is perfect for you if you are injury prone. Iyengar teachers are trained in biomechanics, so they understand which positions are most likely to cause injuries—and how to modify them by tweaking your form and showing you how to use props to make them less intense.
  • Hot yoga classes involve practicing in heated rooms (varying in temperature, potentially up to 110°F). The postures themselves may or may not be physically demanding, it depends on the class.

What are the benefits of doing yoga?

  • Calms the mind through restoring mental agility
  • Decreases nervousness, irritability, and confusion
  • Helps detoxify the body
  • Revives attention and willingness
  • Strengthens the whole body
  • Increases metabolism and overall energy
  • Helps reduce stress and mental fatigue
  • Increased flexibility and physical comfort

I have never done yoga before, how do I get started?

  • Begin gently – stick to the easy poses. As your body adapts, you can advance to the more challenging poses.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Avoid overeating and fasting. It is recommended to avoid eating within 2 hours of your class.
  • Yoga clothing should be loose and as comfortable as possible.
  • Bring a towel to the hotter yoga classes to wipe your mat.
  • Because yoga is a process, be compassionate and patient with yourself. Best results are obtained if you maintain a consistent practice.

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