Yoga is a mind-body practice that combines physical postures, breathing exercises, meditation and a distinct philosophy. Because of its historical origins in ancient Indian philosophy, yoga was once considered ancient practice. However, all over the world, yoga is gaining popularity. In America specifically, the growth of yoga is astonishing. Since 2012, the percentage of Americans aware of yoga has increased from 75% to 90%. In addition, approximately 37 million Americans practice yoga today, which is a significant increase from the roughly 20 million Americans reported to be practicing yoga in 2012. It’s not just consumers who are catching on to the practice of yoga. Therapeutic yoga programs are now in place in many hospitals and health centers. Why has this practice gained such popularity? It might be because yoga compliments other forms of exercise or maybe it’s simply because yoga is good for you.
Benefits of Yoga
- Improved flexibility
- Stress relief
- Improved relaxation
- Enhanced performance in other forms of exercises
- May reduce fatigue and inflammation
- May reduce low-back pain
- May lower heart rate and blood pressure
- May help to relieve anxiety, depression and insomnia
- May improve quality of life
Common Types of Yoga
- This is the term that is used to describe any type of yoga that teaches physical poses. Any Hatha class you attend will focus on postures. Most Western yoga classes are a form of Hatha yoga. These classes tend to be slower paced and more relaxing.
- This style of yoga incorporates six poses broken down into a series and performed in a sequential manner. Each pose is connected and every movement is linked to a breath. It is a more rigorous and physically demanding style of yoga.
- Vinaysa is a more active and movement-rich style of yoga that incorporates a sequence of poses. Unlike Asthanga yoga, the poses change from class to class depending on the teacher and what they have choreographed for that day. Similar in intensity to Ashtanga yoga, these classes are generally fast-paced, physically demanding and lively.
- This type of yoga incorporates poses performed in heated studios at temperatures around 105 degrees Fahrenheit. In order for it to be truly considered Bikram, these classes must include a series of 26 unchanging scripted poses that were created by the founder Bikram Choudhury.
- Yin is a quiet more relaxing and meditative form of yoga. The slow-paced style of yoga incorporates poses that are held for longer periods of time.
- As the name implies, this form of yoga is for expecting mothers. It incorporates breathing, gentle stretching, poses and relaxation. This form of yoga is great for helping moms-to-be stay in shape, develop or maintain strength and flexibility and may even help prepare them for labor.
Yoga Practice Essentials
- Yoga Mat – A non-slip yoga mat is preferred.
- Yoga mats come in different sizes, depending on the amount of cushion you are looking for. For example, a 1mm yoga mat will offer less cushion between you and the ground than 3mm yoga mat.
- Fitness Apparel – Comfortable, loose-fitting clothing that is sweat-wicking and has stretch is ideal.
- Yoga Blocks – These are intended to help support poses and aid alignment.
- Yoga Straps – Like blocks, straps provide help with support, alignment and posture.
- Mat Carrier – Some mats can be heavier than others, but all are awkward to carry by hand. Yoga mat bags and straps can make lugging your mat around much easier.
Tips to Consider if You’re Going to Start Practicing Yoga
- You don’t have to incorporate yoga into your life every day at first. You can start slowly with one or two classes per week. You may even want to get started by just adding some poses into your cool-down routine after a run or workout.
- If you have any medical conditions make sure you speak with your health care provider before starting any type of yoga practice.
- Start by taking a beginners yoga class, although not as common as the classes above, many studios offer them.
- Find a studio that is convenient and easy for you to get to.
- Make sure to attend classes from experienced and certified instructors.
- Educate yourself on the type of class you are taking before taking it.
- Inform the teacher of any pre-existing medical conditions or injuries.
- Go with friends or workout partners.
- If practicing at home, find a clean and quiet area where you will not be distracted or bothered.
- Everyone is different. Make sure to modify postures based off your individual needs and abilities.
- Try out all different styles of yoga until you find the style that fits you.