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Are You Getting Bent Into or Out of Shape?

Filed Under: Men's Health at 9:22 am | By: Susan Coyle, Senior Editor
Yoga PoseIt’s surprising that simply mentioning yoga doesn’t spawn a cacophony of hallelujahs, the parting of clouds and the presence of angels. After all, it’s the miracle exercise. Practicing yoga will heal you, mind, body and soul. It will bring you serenity, flexibility and clarity. It will trim your waistline, ease your aches and soothe your heart. You can spend an hour freely focusing on breath, calmly bending into poses or seriously sweating it out in a 100 degree room. With a form for everyone  and a benefit with every pose, it’s no wonder that yoga is the recipient of devout workout-worship. It can do no wrong, or can it? 

In the past year, 13,000 Americans have been treated for yoga-related injuries. They have gone to class, stretched into a pretzel and wound up in the doctor’s office or emergency room.  Some of the injured are once-a-weekers; they assume that showing up to class once every seven days will enable them to slip into any pose without practice, help or warm-up stretching. Others are overachievers; they push themselves too far, often practicing the more strenuous styles, such as power or Bikram yoga, every day. Either way, they are all making the same mistake. They are getting caught up in yoga’s hype and jumping headfirst into a multifaceted exercise, without a clue.

Proper yoga involves proper practice. The first step towards achieving that is making sure you have a proper yogi. Although teachers can be certified and must meet certain requirements to do so, only a small fraction of the estimated 70,000 instructors have obtained certification. If the class guru is uninformed, how do you think the novices will fair? So, look for a true yogi when beginning yoga. Then, make it a regular part of your life. If you only stretch once a week, you’ll never be able to safely bend the way you want. However, don’t overdo it. Yoga is no different than any other exercise. Too much can tax your body. Take a break every couple of days; allow your body to recover.  Lastly, don’t expect miracles. Yoga’s popularity has led to more than one false claim. It can’t, for example, cure asthma or reestablish your youth.  And on its own, it won’t contribute an ounce to weight loss. Incorporating it into an overall healthy lifestyle is the only way to truly balance mind, body and soul. 

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