Yoga & Health Related Fitness Kassib 2012
History of Yoga • Yoga, from the word “yuj” (Sanskrit, “to yoke” or “to unite”), refers to spiritual practices that are essential to the understanding and practice of Hinduism. Yoga and yogic practices date back more than 5,000 years — the Indus Valley seals depict a number of figures in postures identical to various asanas. The term covers a wide array of practices, embodied in eight “limbs,” which range from ethical and moral guidelines to meditation on the Ultimate Reality. Yoga is a combination of both physical and spiritual exercises, entails mastery over the body, mind and emotional self, and transcendence of desire. The ultimate goal is moksha, the attainment of liberation from worldly suffering and the cycle of birth and rebirth. • With the popularity of Yoga skyrocketing throughout the world, particularly in the West, there arise two main points in need of clarification. First, that which is practiced as “Hatha Yoga” - a form of Raja Yoga - in much of the Western world is but merely a focus on a single limb of Yoga: asana (posture). From Yoga studios that recommend room temperatures to be maintained at 105 degrees to 90 minute Vinyasa flow classes that prescribe one Suryanamaskar (Sun Salutation) sequence after another, this “asana heavy” form of Yoga – sometimes complemented with pranayama (breathing) – is only a form of exercise to control, tone and stretch muscles. Ignored are both the moral basis of the practice and the ultimate spiritual goal. • Second, there is the concerning trend of disassociating Yoga from its Hindu roots. Both Yoga magazines and studios assiduously present Yoga as an ancient practice independent and disembodied from the Hinduism that gave forth this immense contribution to humanity. With the intense focus on asana, magazines and studios have seemingly "gotten away" with this mischaracterization. Yet, even when Yoga is practiced solely in the form of an exercise, it cannot be completely delinked from its Hindu roots. As the legendary Yoga guru B.K.S Iyengar aptly points out in his famous Light on Yoga, "Some asanas are also called after Gods of the Hindu pantheon and some recall the Avataras, or incarnations of Divine Power." It is disappointing to know that many of the yogis regularly practicing Hanumanasana or Natarajasana continue to deny the Hindu roots of their Yoga practice. • In a time where Hindus around the globe face discrimination and hate because of their religious identity, and Hindu belief and practice continue to be widely misunderstood due to exoticized portrayals of it being caricaturized in “caste, cows and curry” fashion, recognition of Yoga as a tremendous contribution of ancient Hindus to the world is imperative. Yoga is inextricable from Hindu traditions, and a better awareness of this fact is reached only if one understands that “Yoga” and “Asana” are not interchangeable terms.
YoLo Yoga • Yoga for fitness increases in popularity as more people than ever enjoy yoga. Most health clubs and gyms offer some type of yoga class because it's generally accepted as a way to improve flexibility and to reduce stress. • There are many types of yoga classes to choose from, however, and you should choose one that meets your fitness goals.
Defining Fitness • Developing a basic understanding of how to define fitness will help you decide what yoga class is best for you. • According to the American College of Sports Medicine, there are four types of health related fitness: cardiorespiratory, muscular, flexibility and body composition. • To best use yoga as a way to improve your fitness, you must consider which of these components you want to focus on and choose a yoga class to fit that goal.
Cardiorespiratory Benefits • Power yoga, Ashtanga and flow styles of yoga follow a format that encourages you to work hard enough to raise your heart to meet cardiovascular improvement standards. • These styles move from one pose to the next quick quickly, keeping you moving like you would do in any fitness class. • Because yoga classes are typically 60 to 90 minutes long just 2-3 classes a week will meet the physical activity guidelines for improving your fitness set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Muscular Benefits • Yoga classes are structured so that you use your own body weight as resistance. Just like you would do in a bootcamp class, yoga poses offer variations of push ups, squats and lunges in order to strengthen the body. • Any style of yoga you choose will help tone and sculpt your muscles. • If you are just starting out, classes that go by the name of Hatha may be a good choice. But if you are already somewhat fit and wanting to add yoga to your program, power classes will challenge you to build more strength.
Body Composition • Yoga, like any exercise, will help you burn calories and improve your body composition. • Vinyasa classes with plenty of movement offer the greatest potential for burning calories. • The greater benefit of yoga is that is also helps you clear your mind and become more aware of the choices you make off the yoga mat. • In the Yoga Journal article, "Losing It", it states increased body awareness can change your eating habits by helping you explore emotional issues once buried by eating. Being more aware of your choices outside of the yoga class is where the real change will happen.
Flexibility • The most obvious fitness benefit of yoga is flexibility. • Yoga moves your body in all directions and in ways you wouldn't do in your normal day. • Improving your flexibility will decrease your chance of injury in sports, and it will allow you to move freely in your day-to-day life. • Any type of yoga class will focus on flexibility and allow you these benefits.
Putting It Together • Of course you want to lose weight, sculpt your body and be stronger, but yoga also offers the benefit of reducing stress. • Reducing your stress will allow you to better manage your time, enjoy your family and friends or your job and give you a sense of calm. • Many people start with yoga for the fitness benefits, but end up staying because of the deeper meaning yoga gives their lives. • Try different styles of yoga until you find the one that meets your fitness goals, fits your personality and gives you a sense of mindfulness.
Six Types of Yoga • Hatha Yoga • Vinyasa • Ashtanga • Power Yoga • Hot Yoga • Restorative Yoga
Hatha Yoga • Hatha Yoga • Yoga as we know it in the Western world is based on the practice of Hatha yoga, which uses different postures to prepare your body for meditation and reach an enhanced state of enlightenment. • Hatha yoga classes are typically suitable for all levels and focus on proper alignment. • Hatha classes may also incorporate the use of props, such as straps or blocks, to help you safely access postures.
Vinyasa • A vinyasa class is one that uses a sequence of postures, or asanas, to build heat in your body and help eliminate toxins. • Vinyasa yoga, also often referred to as Vinyasa Flow, is typically fast-paced. • Previous yoga experience is recommended but not necessarily required.
Ashtanga • Ashtanga yoga refers to a type of Vinyasa class that promotes internal cleansing through a vigorous physical practice and synchronized breathwork. • According to the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute, Ashtanga yoga is effective in building strength, improving circulation and removing toxins from your internal organs.
Power Yoga • Power yoga was originally developed to make the practice of Ashtanga yoga more accessible to Westerners. • "Most people wouldn't take a class called Ashtanga Yoga, because they had no idea what it meant," says Beryl Bender Birch, author of "Power Yoga." “Power Yoga, on the other hand, was something Americans could relate to and know that they'd get a good workout." • Like Ashtanga, Power yoga emphasizes strength and endurance through a vigorous series of asanas. • Unlike Ashtanga, however, postures are performed in no particular order. In Power yoga, there is less emphasis on the subtleties of each posture.
Hot Yoga • Many yoga studios offer hot yoga classes, which are held in a heated room to promote increased flexibility. • The heat also generates more sweat, which helps remove toxins from your body.
Restorative Yoga • Restorative yoga uses props such as blankets or blocks to create soothing, well-supported postures that are held for several minutes. • Classes are concluded with a lengthy corpse pose--up to 20 minutes--to promote a deep state of relaxation. • According to Yoga Journal, Restorative yoga can help give you relief from insomnia, asthma, migraines and chronic pain.
Yoga For Teens • During puberty and the later teen years, immense changes are taking place in the body's chemistry and physiology. • The chakras are also developing and becoming more active at this time. Imbalances of the chakras, body chemistry, and physiology often show up in rebellion and mood swings. • The concept of chakra features in tantric and yogic traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism. Chakra are believed to be centers of the body from which a person can collect energy. They are connected to major organs or glands that govern other body parts. Its name derives from the Sanskrit word for "wheel" or "turning" • The regular practice of yoga can help you maintain balance in the different chakras and keep the spirit and soul strong and healthy, thereby benefiting both the body and mind.
Backtastic! • According to yoga philosophy, a healthy spine creates balance and is a conduit to a sound mind. Yoga is designed to stimulate the nerves running along the spine. • Poses involving twists and upside-down positions are especially effective for this purpose. When you practice all categories of yoga poses-seated, standing, lying down on your stomach or back, and upside down-you cause each vertebra (bony segment of the spine) to be slightly separated from the ones above and below it. • Creating space between the vertebrae serves to 'plump' the disks between them, allowing energy to flow freely to the brain and giving the blood a clear passageway to circulate in a healthy manner.
Real men…… • Boys and young men in their teens usually develop their legs and arms through sports or weight training. However, they often overlook flexibility of the spine, back, arms, and legs. • Yoga stretching poses are highly beneficial in correcting this imbalance and in strengthening muscles that are not used in strength training. • The stretching may be difficult at first, but with practice, you will become more flexible and the poses will become easier.
Ladies, Ladies, All the Ladies • When a girl begins developing breasts, the muscles that hold the spine in place are often weakened or strained, because the front of the torso is carrying more weight. • Doing chest opening, backward bending, forward bending, and upside-down yoga poses will strengthen arms, shoulders, and back, as well as teach these parts of your body to balance out the weight in front.
Guts and More • Internal organs are growing and changing during this period and can become upset with diet changes or over stimulation of nerves. • Yoga helps to keep organs healthy despite everyday stresses. It also assists in balancing out the mood swings and eliminating the body aches resulting from the hormonal imbalances experienced during sexual maturing. • During this growth period, yoga is useful in easing the tension of tight muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and it can also help to strengthen bones. Certain poses alleviate menstrual cramps (hooray!), and others work internally on clearing energy blocks that may cause headaches, sinus problems, irritability or digestive problems.
The Dealio • Yoga promotes unification of body and mind, and as you practice, it will increase your awareness and your ability to look within, think for yourself, and trust yourself. • The result is that you will feel more peaceful and self-confident during a period of rapid change and be able to engage the world with a more positive outlook.
No Stinky People….Hygiene! • In yoga philosophy, the body is considered a temple to be treated with respect, understanding, and acceptance; but dealing with the rapid physical changes of adolescence can be difficult at times. For instance, as girls undergo hormonal changes and begin to experience the internal cleansing process of the menstrual cycle, keeping the body clean and free of odor is very important. As boys undergo the hormonal changes leading to manhood, they often experience glandular secretions resulting in sweaty feet and underarms, which also require regular cleansing. • Frequent cleansing is necessary to keep the pores open so that the skin is able to release toxins freely. Bathing before practicing yoga enhances the capacity of the pores to open and expel toxins and excess oil through sweat glands. Yoga deep breathing exercises promote the process of internal cleansing by improving circulation. An added benefit of yoga practice is the release of negative energy, which can block nadis (energy channels), glands, and pores.
Benefits of Yoga • Elimination of lower back pain • Glowing skin • Increased confidence • Lower blood pressure • Weight loss (if your body needs it) • Improved posture • Increased energy • Clearer mind • Less cravings for unhealthy habits (without much effort....it just happens) • Improved reactions to stressful situations (some quicker than others) • And the list goes on and on!