Learn more about this popular form of exercise and start practicing with confidence.
In today’s fast-paced world, we tend to make things quicker and more intense than they need to be. That’s where yoga comes in.
At its heart, yoga is about connecting breath with movement, which has an incredible impact on the body. For the majority of Americans who are always on the go, yoga offers an opportunity to rejuvenate your body, revitalize yourself and slow your entire system down.
One of the greatest things about yoga is that it can be practiced by all age groups. Children love yoga postures and they don’t even know it. Think about kids touching their toes, doing a plié, or stretching before a soccer game. Adolescents get so caught up in technology that it’s difficult to take a step back and meditate in their practices. Studies have shown that for them, yoga helps with self-esteem and confidence, crucial characteristics as they enter their young adult lives. For adults, many of us sit in a chair all day, developing bad habits and bad posture. Yoga can be a chance to take a break and relieve stress, both mentally and physically. For older adults, a slow, restorative yoga is gentle on the body and wonderful for maintaining movement as you age, without raising the heart rate.
Many people worry about being bad at yoga, but there’s no such thing — allow yourself to open up to the process. You don’t have to twist into a pretzel shape to reap the benefits.
The right yoga for you
There are plenty of good options for yoga out there, but not all of them will suit your needs. Think of finding the right class for you as a little like finding the right car — you have to shop around. You wouldn’t pick any old automobile just because it has wheels, so don’t pick any old class just because it’s called yoga. Do research about the types of yoga that are available and test-drive as many as possible until you find the right fit.
Here are a few of the more popular types
- Hatha: A classic, slow-paced style of yoga from which many other types derive; it’s been around for hundreds of years
- Ashtanga: This fast-paced, athletic style of yoga has components of strength, power and muscular development; vinyasa and power yoga are styles that come from it
- Iyengar: This is a good style for beginners and incorporates props like blocks, straps and pillows
- Prenatal: A style of yoga for pregnant women to connect with their changing bodies and prepare for childbirth
While many people enjoy hot yoga, do be careful. It can dehydrate the body, and it creates a lot of soft tissue and muscle pliability which makes it easier to overstretch and potentially injure yourself.
If you’re not able to make it to group classes, there are plenty of free options online, including videos on various websites that can help you put together your own routine.
As for equipment, most people use a yoga mat, and you also may find a strap, blocks and a bolster, or padded yoga pillow, helpful. Some of these items can be pricy, but that should never be a deterrent. If you’re practicing at a yoga studio or gym, usually everything will be provided for you. If you’re at home, you can improvise with a towel for a mat, soup cans for blocks and a pillow for a bolster.
If you’ve never done yoga before, I highly recommend trying it. Everyone can benefit, from those with limited mobility to serious athletes. Just remember, yoga was created to fuse together body and breath, elevating the place of the mind and spirit in the practice of it. If you’re not getting that out of your yoga practice, try something else.
Here’s to rest and restoration, slowing down and breathing deeply. Namaste.
Jeff Halevy is a fitness contributor for NBC’s TODAY show, host of internationally syndicated Workout from Within with Jeff Halevy on Z Living, and founder of Halevy Life, his yoga facility in New York City. Halevy Life teaches Vital Yoga, which has a sharp focus on form, alignment and breathing, but with the nuance of soft tissue and corrective mobility work, as well as elements of both transcendental and mindful meditation