No matter your age and body type, there is no denying that yoga can soothe the mind and body. What’s cool about it is that you can roll out your yoga mat any time of the day.
Doing so allows you to enjoy the mental and physical perks that yoga can bring. You do not even have to be a yogi or yogini to reap the benefits!
What is Yoga?
A set of exercises called poses, linked with specific breathing techniques and meditation principles, are the building blocks of yoga.
If a pose creates pain or proves too challenging, some variations and modifications can help students. Aids like blocks, blankets, straps, and chairs can be applied to help you get the most benefit from the poses.
However, yoga is not one-size-fits-all. The best yoga workout for you will depend on your specific needs and goals.
The advantages of a regular yoga practice are wide-ranging. In general, a complete yoga workout can help keep your back and joints healthy. It can also enhance your overall posture, stretch and strengthen muscles, and improve your balance.
Moreover, yoga can be relaxing and reinvigorating. It helps you concentrate on your breath, helping you calm your mind and be in the moment.
In recent years, more and more study is demonstrating the wide-ranging health bonuses of yoga.
History of Yoga
The roots of yoga are shrouded in the mists of time. Nonetheless, it is considered to have been revealed to the great sages of India a thousand years ago.
Yoga is an antiquated system of physical and mental disciplines. It originated during the Indus Valley civilization in South Asia. The primary purpose of yoga is to promote harmony in the body, mind, and environment.
Yoga professes a whole system of physical, mental, social, and spiritual development. For ages, this philosophy was passed on from the master teacher to the student. The earliest written records of the practice of yoga emerged around 200 BC in the Yogasutra of Patanjali. The system consisted of the eightfold path of Ashtanga yoga.
In the West, numerous yoga schools are popular and use some or all limbs of Asthangayoga described by Patanjali. The eight limbs are as follows:
- Yama: rules for prosperous living in a society
- Niyama: methods for managing and purifying self
- Asaana: posture methods for physical and mental balance (what most people think of as yoga)
- Pranayama: breathing procedures for physical and psychological balance
- Pratihara: techniques for separating the mind from the senses for mental balance and calm
- Dharana: concentration methods for mental balance and calm
- Dhyana: meditation procedures for mental balance and calm
- Samadhi: ultimate advanced meditation and psychic processes achieved after regular practice for universal consciousness
The process comprises the arousal of the Kundalini Shakti or serpent power, believed to be located at the human spine’s base. As one practices the different techniques, this power or latent energy grows through a series of centers or Chakras.
When this power obtains the highest center, it results in control over the hypothalamus. In this process, the secretion of hormones from various endocrine glands can be managed.
This mechanism may emphasize the importance of yoga as a stress management procedure.
Numerous schools of yoga exist and use all or some of the eight limbs.
The traditional practice of yoga was quite challenging. A lifelong devotion to the practice and adherence to stern sacrifices is needed. Later-age yoga teachers have transformed the techniques, and various paths began:
- Bhakti yoga: the way of devotion
- Gyana yoga: the way of knowledge
- Raja yoga: the way of wisdom to self-realization and enlightenment
- Karma yoga: the way of action
Other methods such as hatha yoga (path of physical self-discipline), mudra yoga (the path of channeling life force), and chakra yoga (the path of energy forces) have also increased in popularity.
Today, many yoga schools have simplified the procedures and made them simple to practice for working people.
The system of yoga is in the method of developing as an organized science. Various ways have developed and become famous throughout the world, especially in the West. Examples of traditional systems in the West include kriya yoga and Simplified Kundalini Yoga.
Kriya yoga became famous in the West because of the applications of its founder, Paramhansa Yogananda. The Self-Realization Fellowship also brings it to the United States.
The word kriya came from the Sanskrit root kri, meaning “to do,” “to act,” and “to react.” This method incorporates a psycho-physiological procedure by which human blood is decarbonated and recharged with oxygen. This extra oxygen is shifted into the life current to rejuvenate the central nervous system. It also helps reduce and prevent the decay of tissues and enhance the evolution of the mind.
One well-evolved school of yoga is kundalini yoga or a method of the primordial energy union. This school’s trademark is that it begins from the seventh step in Asthangayoga, which is the Dhyana or meditation.
In kundalini yoga, the primary meditation technique involves performing a “formless” contemplation at different points. This practice consists of the pituitary and hypothalamus glands.
In addition to the meditation, chosen asanas, breathing procedures, and relaxation are practiced. This is to reduce muscular strain, improve the lungs’ vital capacity, and balance the endocrine and central nervous systems. With this practice of yoga, physical exercises are simplified.
This school’s methods have been popularized by the Universal Peace Sanctuary (Erode, India), founded in 1937. The same thing goes for the World Community Service Centre (Chennai, India) established in 1958. Both these organizations have numerous branches worldwide and have trained thousands of practitioners.
A recent variation is called power yoga, in which practitioners take a more active approach and rush from one pose to another.
The Benefits of Yoga
The benefits of different yoga methods are said to improve body flexibility, reduce stress, and achieve inner peace. It is also believed to aid the healing of several ailments. This includes coronary heart disease, depression, anxiety, asthma, and more.
The system has also been recommended as behavioral therapy for smoking cessation and substance abuse.
If you practice yoga, you may obtain these benefits:
- Enhanced body flexibility and balance
- Increased cardiovascular endurance (healthier heart)
- Enhanced digestion
- Increased abdominal strength
- Enhanced overall muscular power
- Relaxation of muscular aches
- Weight management
- Boosted energy levels
- Improved immune system
- Ease of stress resulting from the control of emotions
- Blocking and relief from stress-related disorders
- Intellectual enrichment, leading to improved decision-making skills
- Life with meaning, purpose, and direction
- Inner peace and tranquility
A word of caution about the incorrect practice of yoga is essential at this point. The multiple benefits may come as an injury for new practitioners of yoga or those doing it without proper instruction.
Over 36 million Americans are reported to be following some form of yoga, and health care professionals see injuries. This includes muscle and ligament sprains, neck and back pain, and cartilage damages.
Thus, before attending a yoga class, ask about the credentials and training of the instructor. You may wish to sit in on a class and witness before committing yourself to a set program.
Specific Health Conditions Improved by Yoga
Rheumatoid arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis afflicts about 1.3 million Americans — most of them are women.
Yoga can help people with arthritis deal with pain and stiffness. Doing so allows them to increase their range of motion strength for daily activities.
Multiple sclerosis: Specific forms of yoga may help lessen fatigue in people with multiple sclerosis (MS). This is according to researchers at Oregon Health and Science University.
Individuals who are inactive or elderly: If you are sedentary, yoga may be the ideal exercise for both mind and body to start your activity life.
Yoga also helps reduce stress, strengthen the bones and muscles, and improve posture. It also helps improve health and vitality. Because you don’t have to be in top physical shape to practice yoga, it is the right exercise for sedentary people and seniors.
Instructors can help adjust yoga poses. You don’t have to get down on the floor or a mat to practice yoga. It can be started while you remain in a chair.
Losing Weight with Yoga
While yoga isn’t traditionally reflected as an aerobic exercise, specific yoga types are more physical than others.
Active, intense forms of yoga help you burn the most calories. This may help stop weight gain. Ashtanga, vinyasa, and power yoga are patterns of more physical types of yoga.
Vinyasa and power yoga are usually taught at hot yoga studios. These varieties of yoga keep you moving almost always, which helps you to torch calories.
Practicing yoga may also help you promote muscle tone and improve your metabolism.
While therapeutic yoga isn’t a primarily physical type of yoga, it still aids in weight loss. One study found that therapeutic yoga was efficient in helping overweight women to lose weight.
These findings are especially encouraging for people whose body weight may make more dynamic forms of yoga difficult.
A review of studies from 2013 found that yoga is a great way to help with behavioral change, weight loss, and maintenance. That’s because it allows your body to burn calories, heighten mindfulness, and relieve stress. These factors may help you to decrease food intake and become aware of the effects of overeating.
More in-depth, high-quality investigations are required to expand on these findings.
How Often Should You Do Yoga to Lose Weight?
Practice yoga as regularly as possible to lose weight. You can do a more active, powerful practice at least three to five times per week for at least one hour.
On the other days, balance out your practice with a more relaxing, soothing class. Hatha, yin, and therapeutic yoga classes are great options.
If you’re a newbie, start slowly and gradually develop your practice. This enables you to build your strength and flexibility and prevent injuries. If you don’t have time for a full class on some days, do a self-practice for at least 20 minutes. Indulge yourself in one full day of rest each week.
Link your yoga practice with activities such as walking, cycling, or swimming for added cardiovascular benefits.
As part of your routine, withdraw from weighing yourself directly after a yoga class, particularly if it’s a hot yoga class. Instead, weigh yourself at the same time every day.
10 Yoga Poses You Need to Know
The building blocks of yoga are poses. These are good ones to learn as you develop a regular yoga practice.
These ten poses are a full yoga workout. Move gently through each pose, remembering to breathe as you move. Pause after any pose you find challenging, mainly if you are short of breath, and start again when your breathing comes back to normal. The idea is to maintain each pose for a few slow breaths before moving on to the next one.
This calming pose is a good default stop position. You can use a child’s pose to rest and refocus before proceeding to your next pose. It smoothly stretches your lower back, hips, thighs, knees, and ankles and relaxes your spine, shoulders, and neck.
Do it: When you want to get a nice soothing stretch through your neck, spine, and hips.
Skip it: If you have knee injuries or ankle difficulties. Also, avoid it if you have high blood pressure or are pregnant.
Modify: You can rest your head on a pillow or block. You can put a rolled towel under your ankles if they are uncomfortable.
Be mindful: Concentrate on relaxing the muscles of the spine and lower back as you breathe.
Downward-facing dog strengthens the arms, shoulders, and back. Meanwhile, stretching the hamstrings, calves, and arcs of your feet. It can also help ease back pain.
Do it: To help relieve back pain.
Skip it: This pose is not suggested for people having carpal tunnel syndrome or other wrist problems. It’s not recommended for people with high blood pressure or is in the late stages of pregnancy.
Modify: You can perform the pose with your elbows on the ground, which takes the weight off your wrists. You can also use blocks under your hands, which may seem more comfortable.
Be mindful: Concentrate on distributing the weight evenly through your palms and lifting your hips up and back, away from your shoulders.
A usually seen exercise, the plank helps build strength in the core, shoulders, arms, and legs.
Do it: Plank pose is ideal if you are looking to tone your abs and build your upper body strength.
Skip it: Bypass plank poses if you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome. It can be tough on your wrists. You might also skip it or adjust it if you have low back pain.
Modify: You can adjust it by placing your knees on the floor.
Be mindful: As you perform a plank, imagine the back of your neck and spine lengthening.
Four-Limbed Staff Pose
This push-up variation follows plank pose in a typical yoga series known as the sun salutation. It is a great pose to learn if you want to eventually work on more advanced poses, such as arm balances or inversions.
Do it: Like plank, this pose improves your arms and wrists’ strength and tones the abdomen.
Skip it: Avoid this if you have carpal tunnel syndrome, lower back pain, a shoulder injury, or are pregnant.
Modify: It’s a good idea for newbies to change the pose by keeping your knees on the floor.
Be mindful: Press your palms equally into the floor and lift your shoulders away from the floor as you keep this pose.
This back-bending pose can help strengthen the back muscles and improve spinal flexibility. It also helps expand the chest, shoulders, and abdomen.
Do it: This post is excellent for strengthening the back.
Skip it: Avoid this if you have arthritis in your spine or neck, a low-back injury, or carpal tunnel syndrome.
Modify: Lift a few inches without trying to straighten your arms.
Be mindful: Attempt to keep your navel drawing up away from the floor as you continue this pose.
Beyond helping develop your balance, it can also strengthen your core, ankles, calves, thighs, and spine.
Do it: Excellent for working on your balance and posture.
Skip it: You may want to skip this pose if you have low blood pressure or any medical conditions that can affect your balance.
Modify: Put one of your hands on a wall for support.
Be careful: Concentrate on your breath in and out as you hold this pose.
Triangle, which is a part of many yoga sequences, helps develop strength in the legs. It also stretches the hips, spine, chest, shoulders, groins, hamstrings, and calves. It can also help improve mobility in the hips and neck.
Do it: This pose is ideal for building strength and endurance.
Skip it: Dodge this pose if you have a headache or low blood pressure.
Modify: If you have high blood pressure, turn your head to gaze downward in the last pose. If you have neck difficulties, don’t turn your head to look upward; look straight ahead and hold both sides of the neck long.
Be mindful: Keep lifting your raised arm to the ceiling. It helps maintain the pose buoyantly.
Seated Half-Spinal Twist Pose
This twisting pose can improve your back’s flexibility while stretching the shoulders, hips, and chest. It can also help ease tension in the middle of your back.
Do it: To loosen tight muscles around the shoulders and upper and lower back.
Skip it: Avoid this if you have a back injury.
Modify: If bending your right knee is stiff, keep it straight out in front of you.
Be mindful: Raise your torso with each inhale, and twist as you exhale.
This is a back-bending pose that develops the muscles of the chest, back, and neck. It also increases strength in the back and hamstring muscles.
Do it: If you sit most of the day, this pose will surely help you open your upper chest.
Skip it: Avoid this pose if you’re having a neck injury.
Modify: Put a block between your thighs to help have your both legs and feet in proper alignment. Or you can put a block under your pelvis if your lower back is troubling you.
Be mindful: While maintaining this pose, try to keep your chest lifted and your sternum toward your chin.
Like life, yoga classes usually end with this pose. It enables a moment of relaxation, but some people find it hard to stay still in this pose. However, the more you attempt this pose, the more comfortable you sink into a relaxing, meditative state.
Do it: Regularly!
Skip it: If you don’t want to hold a moment’s peace.
Modify: Put a blanket under your head, if that feels more comfortable. You can also roll up a blanket and place it under your knees if your lower back is sensitive or hurting you.
Be mindful: Feel the pressure of your body sinking into your mat one part at a time.
Commit yourself to do yoga regularly, especially if you want to practice it for weight loss.
Make small, continuous changes and set modest goals so that you’re more likely to stick to them. As you develop your practice and awareness, you may find yourself naturally pulled to healthy foods and living ways.
While it’s not guaranteed that you’ll lose weight, your positive effects may extend far beyond weight loss.