September is National Yoga Awareness Month, so this week’s Need to Know article is focusing on yoga. Based on ancient meditation principles, yoga dates back more than 5,000 years to India. This combination of physical and mental practices is more than just exercise. When done properly, it connects your mind, body and spirit.
Some of yoga’s physical benefits include improving flexibility, strengthening your bones and joints, and giving you better skeletal alignment. But there are numerous other benefits, including lower blood pressure, decreased stress, better circulation, and even improved brain function.
Yoga can also be effective in treating chronic back pain. This is a common ailment for many of us (including the Boise Healthy Living Examiner) who work at a computer or desk all day long. Getting up to stretch is critical to reducing pain in your back. Try to set aside a little time each day to do a couple asanas, or poses, even if you just have a few minutes. You will stand taller, breathe easier and feel better.
Popular yoga styles include hatha, iyengar, bikram, ashtanga, and kundalini. Each has its own specific benefit. Hatha is probably the most popular form of yoga. This has a wide variety of asanas, with a focus on flexibility, circulation, and balance. Iyengar yoga concentrates on alignment and symmetry for mental benefits. Bikram yoga is done in a hot (105 degrees), steamy room. This is a real workout, consisting of 26 asanas and two breathing exercises. Not for the faint of heart. Ashtanga yoga is considered a power yoga. This is another intense workout, meant to build strength, stamina, and flexibility. Finally, kundalini yoga incorporates breathing, chanting and asanas to promote healing.
A good basic yoga routine will include classic asanas like the downward dog and the sun salutation. These are easy to do, making them ideal for beginners or advanced students and you may even be able to do these in your office. A mat is helpful, as are loose, comfortable clothes, but all you really need is some space and quiet time.
The next time you’re feeling stressed out, don’t reach for that bag of cookies or carton of cigarettes. Instead, take a few minutes to become aware of your breathing, stretch your body, and soothe your mind.
Talk it up:
Do you practice yoga?
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