Looking for a more calming fitness routine? Try yoga, a practice that connects the body, breath, and mind. Striking a (yoga) pose can not only help improve flexibility, it can help relieve anxiety and pain, and reduce blood pressure for people with hypertension
Body n’ Soul — The Need-to-Know
It’s not all down-dog: Yoga blends a variety of poses (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), and meditation into each class
Roll Out — Your Action Plan
- Commit. Yoga can be great cross training (once a week) or a dedicated practice (everyday!). “As modern yogis, you need to determine when you’re most likely to go,” says Pacheco. Find your level of commitment and set aside enough time for it.
- Find the best fit. Look for a class with a certified yoga instructor. “A good teacher uses all of their life experience to make a positive mind-body experience for the student,” says Pacheco. Personality and energy level can also play into which instructor you connect with best.
- Fuel up. Eat light before yoga and take at least one hour to digest. “Twists do not feel good on a full stomach,” says Pacheco.
- BYOM (Bring Your Own Mat). Some studios provide yoga mats, while others require students to bring their own. Look for a mat that’s cushioned and provides a no-slip surface. Other essentials (usually provided) include props like blocks and belts to assist the body in reaching its full potential. Pacheco also recommends bringing a towel for your mat so you won’t slip to avoid injury, and a water bottle to stay hydrated and focused during class.
- Dress for success. To allow full range of body movement, wear something comfortable. Just avoid loose shirts and shorts, which might be revealing when bending during poses. (Keep your eyes on the prize, not someone else’s behind.) Bare feet are ideal for traction when practicing poses.
- Modify. Anyone can do yoga, (really, anyone — watch this), but don’t force the body. “Always give priority to proper alignment rather than doing the most advanced version of a pose,” says Pacheco. Need a rest? Return to child’s pose and listen for modifications given by the instructor during class. Be sure to always inform the instructor beforehand about any injuries, and make sure your doctor has given you the green light to hit the mat.
- Keep breathing. Breath work is just as important to yoga as the physical poses.Check out the basic techniques here to breathe right during most forms of yoga
Hatha yoga practices: energy expenditure, respiratory changes and intensity of exercise. Ray, U.S., Pathak, A. and Tomer, O.S. Environmental Physiology Division, Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences, Defence Research and Development Organization, Timarpur, Lucknow Road, Delhi 110054, India. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2011;2011:241294..
- Say om (not cheese). Get to know the lingo, including names of poses, hand positions, and meditation techniques, to avoid feeling lost or stressed out during class. You’ll know you’re a pro when you start sounding like these seasoned yogis.
Why do you enjoy practicing yoga? Tell us in the comments below! Photo by Lisa Goulet