Yoga-nna Love It
Considering it's thousands of years old, referring to yoga as a new fitness craze isn't really accurate. However, yoga has become increasingly popular in the U.S. in recent years. Yoga offers many benefits including: improved flexibility, posture, balance, circulation and coordination; increased self awareness; reduced risk of injury for other activities and relaxation and stress reduction. With all this going for it... don't you think it's time you give yoga a try?
What Exactly is Yoga?
Yoga is an ancient philosophy or discipline that originated in India. Most people think of yoga as stretching, breathing or a meditation activity only to be enjoyed by people who eat granola and wear sandals. The truth is yoga has many benefits that can be enjoyed by everyone. The concepts of yoga can be difficult to translate and often refer to concepts rather than concrete definitions.
Types of Yoga
There are three main types of yoga but there are different ways to practice each type. Hatha yoga is the most popular in the U.S. and taught at 24 Hour Fitness. These are the three types of Yoga:
- Japa refers to the yoga of the mind. It's practiced with meditation and chanting. This type of yoga is more of a spiritual or religious type of yoga and doesn't involve stretching and flexibility.
- Karma yoga deals with healing and emotions and is also practiced through meditation. The emphasis is the effect of a person's actions or conduct and the positive effects towards others. This is also a more spiritual or religious type of yoga.
- Hatha yoga is considered the physical yoga and is usually practiced by stretching and breathing but can also include some chanting. Most people are only familiar with 2 of the stages of hatha yoga but there are actually 8 different stages. The first 2 steps (yama and niyama) deal with ethics, morals and personal conduct. The 3rd step (asana) is the stretching and flexibility portion and the 4th step (pranayama) has to do with controlling breathing. The 3rd and 4th steps are most commonly known in the U.S. The next three steps help you control your senses (pratyahara), concentration (dharana) and meditation (dhyana). The last stage (samadhi) is sort of a combination of the previous stages and results in reaching a new spiritual level.
Although the different styles of Hatha yoga may use the same positions (known as postures or asanas), they can be practiced differently with the emphasis changing from breathing technique (known as pranayama), the alignment of your body or the movement from one asana to another. Below are just a few of the different styles of Hatha yoga named for their founders:
Iyengar yoga focuses on the how the asanas are done, paying close attention to the alignment of the body, strength and flexibility. The goal is to balance and strengthen the body and improve muscle imbalances and posture.
Ashtanga (or Astanga) yoga uses a fast paced series asanas (sort of like "circuit yoga") that are designed to improve strength and flexibility but also to warm up the muscles. This is less relaxing than Iyengar yoga but can be an excellent workout.
Bikram yoga, which is becoming more popular, is done in a warmer room and uses 26 different asanas. This type of yoga is also designed to stretch the muscles and connective tissue (ligaments and tendons).
Just learning the asanas and practicing can improve your flexibility, reduce stress and prevent injuries. Practicing asanas and pranayamas requires concentration and over time this will lead to an increased self-awareness. All of these things are helpful for athletes, people who exercise, a mother of 3, students, busy professionals... basically anyone.
So what are you waiting for? Yoga is fun, challenging and can improve many areas of your life. 24 Hour Fitness offers yoga classes in many of our clubs, check out the Class Schedule at your club.
This information and other information on this site is intended for general reference purposes only and is not intended to address specific medical conditions. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice or a medical exam. Prior to participating in any exercise program or activity, you should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional. No information on this site should be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition.