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The foundation of yoga is a series of structured poses linked with your breathing. The benefits of regular practice include increased fitness and lower levels of stress and anxiety. A full yoga session should exercise every part of the body and should include pranayama (breath control practices), relaxation and meditation.
Yoga is an ancient Indian philosophy that dates back thousands of years. It was designed as a path to spiritual enlightenment, but in modern times, the physical aspects of Hatha yoga have found huge popularity as a gentle form of exercise and stress management. There are many different varieties of yoga, but each one essentially relies on structured poses (asanas) practised with breath awareness.
Researchers have discovered that the regular practice of yoga may produce many health benefits, including increased fitness and normalisation of blood pressure. Yoga is a renowned antidote to stress. Over time, yoga practitioners report lower levels of stress and increased feelings of happiness and wellbeing. This is because concentrating on the postures and the breath acts as a powerful form of meditation.
Each posture, or asana, is held for a period of time and linked with breathing. Generally, a yoga session begins with gentle asanas and works up to the more vigorous or challenging postures. A full yoga session should exercise every part of the body and should include pranayama (breath control practices), relaxation and meditation. The different postures or asanas include:
Inverted, or upside down postures.
Benefits of yoga
The physical building blocks of yoga are the posture (asana) and the breath. A series of poses held in time with breathing, exercises every part of the body. Benefits include:
Cardiovascular system (heart and arteries) – asanas are isometric, which means they rely on holding muscle tension for a short period of time. This improves cardiovascular fitness and circulation. Studies show that regular yoga practice may help normalise blood pressure.
Digestive system – improved blood circulation and the massaging effect of surrounding muscles speeds up a sluggish digestion.
Musculo-skeletal – joints are moved through their full range of motion, which encourages mobility and eases pressure. The gentle stretching releases muscle tension and increases flexibility. Maintaining many of the asanas encourages strength and endurance. Weight-bearing asanas may help prevent osteoporosis, and may also help those already diagnosed with osteoporosis, practiced with care, under the supervision of a qualified yoga teacher. Long-term benefits include reduced back pain and improved posture.
Nervous system – improved blood circulation, easing of muscle tension and the act of focusing the mind on the breath all combine to soothe the nervous system. Long-term benefits include reduced stress and anxiety levels, and increased feelings of calm and wellbeing.
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