The Benefits of Yoga Poses
The Mind and Body Benefits of Yoga
The stretches of this ancient discipline can burn calories, increase flexibility, and relax your mind.
By Diana Rodriguez
Medically Reviewed by Niya Jones, MD, MPH
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Looking for a way to relieve stress, burn calories, and get fit, all at the same time? Yoga can help accomplish these goals by conditioning both your mind and body.
Yoga, which originated in India more than 3,000 years ago, centers around physical strength and toning. It also focuses on principles of meditation and relaxation. Yoga typically involves a series of poses and deep-breathing exercises. It can be a fast-paced, cardiovascular workout or a slower, more relaxing toning session. It all depends on which type of yoga you perform.
Different Types of Yoga
- Hot yoga.Also called Bikram yoga, this form of yoga is done in a very hot room — at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit — to help purify and cleanse the body by sweating, and by building stamina. While Bikram is a trademarked 90-minute class that follows a specific series of poses, other hot yoga classes incorporate different principles and can vary in length.
- Ashtanga yogainvolves set of core poses that are done in quick succession while you breathe deeply. It’s a high-intensity workout that tones and strengthens muscles and increases endurance.
- Power yoga.Also known as Vinyasa, power yoga is derived from Ashtanga yoga. It’s another form of fast-paced, high-intensity yoga, focusing on stamina and flexibility.
- Iyengar yogahighlights the importance of precision and form while you execute different positions and poses.
- Kundalini yoga.Alternate yoga moves and poses, deep breathing, meditation, and chanting are a part of this type of yoga.
- Gentle and restorative yoga.These yoga disciplines are done at a slower pace than other forms of yoga; the focus is on slow stretches, improving flexibility, and relaxation.
Your First Yoga Class
Yoga has become a popular form of exercise, both for devotees who practice a specific form of yoga every day and for people who incorporate occasional classes into their fitness regimens. Classes are taught at yoga studios, gyms, fitness centers, and recreational facilities around the country. Check with your local health club to find out which types of yoga classes they offer, or look for dedicated yoga studios or centers in your area. You can always ask a friend for recommendations on where to go or what type of yoga to try.
Here’s what you need to know before you take your first class:
- Your workout clothes should be comfortable and allow you to stretch and move with ease. Don't worry about footwear: You'll be practicing yoga in your bare feet.
- Besides a yoga mat, you don't need special equipment. A thick yoga mat can offer extra cushioning and support to the knees, hands, and back as you move through the different poses.
- Bring a bottle of water and a towel to class to stay hydrated and sweat-free.
Be sure to take the time to learn to do the poses safely and correctly. Choose a well-qualified yoga instructor at a reputable studio or gym. And always talk to your doctor to make sure it's safe for you to give yoga a try.
Video: Mayo Clinic Minute: Yoga helps mind and body
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