GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - Yoga, the 5,000-year old fitness fad, continues to work its magic in today's high-stress society as it rejuvenates body, mind and spirit. Most traditional yoga styles don't raise the heart rate high enough or long enough to be a substitute for cardio exercise. But yoga is a natural compliment to cardio workouts and for that matter, strength workouts too. Many athletes enjoy the many benefits the ancient practice offers, but there are still some athletes asking the question: Do I really need to take a yoga class or can I just stretch?
Yoga can often provide a deeper stretch than traditional stretching. With age and overuse, hips, hamstrings, ankles, knees and even feet need more attention; the gentle, low-impact yoga asanas (postures) will help you to stretch and tone your muscles, relieve muscular tension, increase elasticity, improve strength, lubricate joints and keep ligaments and tendons healthy.
Not only does yoga enhance flexibility, but it also teaches us deep breathing (pranayama) techniques. Yoga teaches mindfulness through deep breathing that calms and cleanses the body. Yoga poses in conjunction with your breath, help to expand your lung capacity and improve the flow of energy (prana) within the body. This can improve circulation, help you gain strength, and build endurance.
Yoga also promotes balanced thinking, and an inner calm-even when your outer world is stressful. Since yoga is a stress fighter and that means naturally lowered cortisol levels, as well as an increased sense of self-esteem. Yoga has even been said to make you a better spouse, friend, parent and person because of its calming, nourishing and rejuvenating effects.
Which type of yoga is right for you?
There are many styles of yoga, and it comes down to personal preference. Hatha may be the most popular style of yoga. But there are many others: Vinyasa (flowing ) yoga, Hot Yoga, and Ashtanga Yoga to name a few. If you are new to yoga, start slowly and take your time to learn the poses. It can be a great test for completive athletes to participate in an activity where there are no winners. It's all about the experience.
Many people are attracted to yoga as a way to keep their bodies lean, supple and fit. Some try it in order to get relief from stiffness, pain and tension. No matter your motivation, the more you practice yoga, the better you feel. Find out what yoga means to you this September, during National Yoga Month.
(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)