Yoga: Types, Benefits and All You Need To Know


What is Yoga?

Yoga can best be described as an ancient physical and spiritual discipline and branch of philosophy that involves integrating of all aspects of the individual body with mind and mind with soul to achieve a happy, balanced and useful life.
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Yoga increases your muscular strength, flexibility, relaxes and calms you and also centers your thoughts. This exercise originated in India more than 5,000 years ago. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuj, which means to yoke, join, or unite. The crucial objective of yoga is to reach kaivalya, which means emancipation.

How Yoga Works

Yoga uses postures, focused concentration on particular body parts, and breathing techniques to integrate the body with mind and mind with soul.
The body
Yoga asanas (postures or poses) help condition your body. There are thousands of poses called kriyas (actions), mudras (seals), and bandhas (locks) in Sanskrit. A kriya concentrates on the force necessary to move energy up and down the spine. Mudra is a gesture or movement to hold energy or concentrate awareness while bandha uses the technique of holding muscular contractions to focus awareness.
The mind
Yoga focuses on the mind by teaching you to concentrate on exact parts of the body. You may be asked by the instructor to focus deeply on your spine, or let your mind go and have your body sink into the floor. This awareness keeps the mind-body connection sharp and doesn’t allow a lot of time for worries. The focus is internal, between your head and your bodyh.
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During savasana, you lie on your back with your eyes closed and just allow the whole of your body sink into the floor. The idea is to not fight any thoughts you have, but to let them come and go while the instructor leads you through visual imagery to help you focus on how your muscles feel. The desired and often attained result is to drift into a peaceful, calm, and relaxing state. Savasana is generally the final pose of a yoga session before final chanting or breathing exercises.
The spirit
Yoga uses controlled breathing as a way to fuse the mind, body, and spirit. The breathing methods are called pranayamas; prana means energy or life force, and yama means social ethics. It is the controlled breathing of pranayamas that will control the energy flow in your body. Controlled breathing helps to center on muscles that are working, it slows down my heart rate, calms my mind, and leads to a deep, inner calm and sense of relaxation during savasana.

Types of Yoga

There are dozens of types and they developed over the centuries as different yogis advanced their own philosophies and approaches and taught them to keen students, who then passed them on to their own students.
Hatha yoga for example is perhaps the most popular type taught in the U.S. It was developed by Yogi Swatmarama in India in the 15th century and described by Swatmarama as “a stairway to the heights of Raja yoga. Raja is one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy, outlined by Patanjali in his Sutras.
Types of yoga includes:
  • Hatha
  • Purna
  • Karma
  • Mantra
  • Tantra
  • Jnana
  • Ashtanga
  • Raja
  • Bhakti
  • Bikram
  • Kundalini
  • Iyengar
  • Sivananda
  • Ananda
  • Anusara
  • Vini
  • Kali Ray Tri
  • Integral
  • Kripalu
  • Kundalini
Hatha yoga
is the most widely practiced type of yoga in the U.S. and is perfect for beginners. Hatha stretches and work your muscles, get in touch with your body, relax, and decrease stress. It is calm with slow and smooth movements, and the focus is on holding the poses and integrating your breathing into the movement. It’s a great introduction to yoga as it integrates many different asanas, as well as pranayamas and chanting. Hatha yoga will prepare you for other yoga types that might be taught at your yoga center.
Iyengar yoga
is also good for beginners. It is a form of yoga that uses poses similar to Hatha, but concentrates more on body position and balance, holding poses longer, and using props such as blankets, blocks and straps.
Kundalini yoga
This type has to do with rapid movement through the poses and emphasizes chanting and breathing. It has a more spiritual feel than Hatha and focuses on energy balance in your body. Kundalini may be physically and mentally challenging if you’re a beginner and unfamiliar with yoga poses and meditation.
Bikram yoga
The Bilkram is derived from traditional Hatha yoga, but is mostly practiced in an unventilated room, sometimes heated to about 105 degrees Fahrenheit. The objective is to loosen muscles and to sweat to cleanse the body and remove symptoms of disease. There hasn’t been any research on the safety or efficiency of Bikram, so it is not advisable to practice, owing to the potential risk of dehydration, overheating, changes in blood pressure, and cardiac issues. Bikram has grown in popularity, and some people vouch for its efficacy. It is best to discusss with your doctor first before trying it out.
Ashtanga or power yoga
This is an ancient type taught at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore, India. It is an forceful workout where you move quickly from one pose to another to build strength and endurance. There is little emphasis on meditation with Ashtanga, and at the end of the session you will feel more like you have completed a traditional weight-training or callisthenic workout than you would with any other type.
Prenatal yoga
This type claim that expectant mothers can ease symptoms associated with pregnancy, such as sciatica, fatigue, swelling, and problems with digestion, and that the asanas will prepare them for labor, delivery, and postpartum recovery. Prenatal classes will spiritually inspire mothers to deeply connect with their babies and prepare them for their new journey together. There’s also yoga for kids that can help them experience their physicality.

Health Benefits of Yoga

Yoga helps with high blood pressure (hypertension)
The American Heart Association Report on Prevention, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure does not mention yoga as a form of treatment. However, many people believe that practicing yoga can help lower blood pressure using breathing techniques and stress reduction. Lifestyle changes like regular physical activity and stress management can help lower and manage blood pressure, however it doesn’t do so in all cases.
Research carried out on one hour of daily yoga for 11 weeks discovered that both medication and yoga were effective in controlling hypertension. You shouldn’t stop taking your blood pressure medication if you start practicing it and you should discuss with your doctor before going off medication.
It helps with Diabetes
Some studies suggest that yoga may lower blood glucose. A research carried out on 98 men and women 20-74 years of age after eight days of this mindful workout, discovered that fasting glucose was better than at the beginning of the study, but subjects in this study were also exposed to dietary counseling and other lifestyle interventions, and so it’s difficult to know if the yoga on its own helped the changes.
It helps improve Mood
Men reported decreases in fatigue, tension and anger, and women reported fairly similar mood benefits, after eight days of engaging in this exercise.
It eases pain associated Carpal tunnel syndrome
Individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome who engaged in this mindful exercise twice a week for eight weeks had less pain their wrists than people with carpal tunnel who wore a splint.
It improves Strength and Flexibility
In one of the studies, men and women 18-27 years of age who participated in two yoga sessions per week for eight weeks increased the strength in their arms by 19% to 31%, and by 28% in their legs. Their ankle flexibility, shoulder elevation, trunk extension, and trunk flexion increased by 13%, 155%, 188%, and 14%, respectively.
It may help reduce Asthma Symptoms
Regular yoga can help in reducing symptoms of asthma and even reduction in asthma medication. You should however discuss with your doctor before stopping medication.

Equipment Needed for Yoga

Mats: You don’t need much to practice yoga, but you will need a sticky rubber mat to keep from slipping on hardwood floors. You can also rent a mat from the yoga studio for $1 to $2 if you’re just starting out.
Towel: Bring a towel to your first class because they may not supply you with one and you might want it to wipe away sweat, or even roll it up for support under your neck.
Blanket: Most studios supply blankets which is helpful to fold up and sit on if you have difficulty sitting flat on the floor with legs crossed like in a pose called sukhasana. A blanket is also useful to cover you when you lie still during savasana if the room is cool.
Blocks and wedges: Blocks are brick-sized pieces of foam that help with body alignment and getting into some of the poses. Most studios supply these.
Straps: Straps are made of cotton and useful for stretching and holding poses, particularly for poses with your legs. They come with a D-ring or quick-release buckle to adjust the length.
It is probably best to speak with the studio or instructor to find out what they suggest you bring to a first yoga session.

How to Dress for Yoga

Tank tops, T-shirts, leggings, tights, shorts or clothing that is unrestrictive will be just fine for this exercise. You will be bending, twisting, and possibly be upside down during your yoga session, so wear clothing that won’t expose more of you than you are comfortable with.
A typical yoga class lasts for at least 75 minutes. There is a 15-20 minute period of breathing, chanting, and warming up. Though this varies by type of instructor. It is also followed by the asanas and then 15-20 minutes of relaxation (savasana) at the end.


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