If you’re overweight or need to lose some weight, it can be difficult to take that first step into any new fitness program. There’s the general assumption that you have to be in shape to exercise. Yet you can’t get in shape unless you exercise. It can be a frustrating circle. With yoga there are no barriers. It is infinitely adaptable and can be practiced by people of all ages and fitness levels.
Find a Good Yoga Instructor
It’s always important to find a good yoga instructor. They can guide you to achieve the best poses without causing injury. However, if you’re overweight it’s even more important to find a skilled instructor. You want to find someone who is supportive and willing to work with you to modify the poses to fit your current body and fitness level. There are many yoga instructors who are overweight themselves and serve as an inspiration. Some of these instructors offer specialty classes to their overweight students. You don’t need to find a special class, necessarily, but do look for a skilled and supportive instructor. Ask around to see what teachers in your area receive high reviews. You may also want to take a few one-on-one sessions so that you can get a feel for the instructor’s style. Or call a few yoga studios in your area to find out what is offered.
There are literally dozens of different types of yoga styles to choose from. Some like Hot or Vinyasa style yoga, may not be a good place to start. It’s always best to begin with a gentle yoga class and/or a beginner class if available. Hatha, Kripalu, or Viniyoga are all great styles to begin with. Don’t worry, if you have an aspiration to try Hot or Vinyasa yoga, you’ll get there. For now, learn the basics and develop your fitness.
Be willing to modify the poses to fit your body, your fitness level, and your needs. For example, some poses may require you to use blocks or to widen your stance to accommodate your body. Relax and do what you can. As your practice improves, your modifications will change. Your body will change too. You’ll notice that your alignment improves, your strength increases, and your endurance and flexibility will improve as well.
If you want to lose weight, get in shape, and are interested in yoga then give it a try. Don’t be discouraged by instructors or classmates who can bend their bodies into pretzels – you’ll get there if you want to. For now, enjoy the many amazing physical and mental health benefits of yoga.
**The information in this article should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Before beginning any exercise program including yoga, always check with your physician first to ensure there are no underlying issues that could negatively impact your regimen.
When on the mat, the serious yoga practitioner is the embodiment of focus, discipline, and unwavering concentration. He or she is devoted to the perfection of the asana (poses) and he or she challenges mind and body to achieve a “higher state of being”. Sure, this sounds legitimate and rather impressive, but what does it really mean? What is the ultimate goal of yoga?
This is a complicated question. Arguably, each practitioner has a goal (or goals) individual to him or her. However, yoga has been practiced in various forms for hundreds of years all over the world. There must be a grand design, an ultimate goal… There is. It is called: moksha.
Moksha is the liberation from worldly suffering and samsara (the cycle of birth and death through reincarnation). This release from sequential lives on earth leads to an enlightened relationship with a creator. Different schools of yoga have differing beliefs about this enlightened relationship.For example, according to Hindu monist schools (such as Shaivism and Jainism), at the point of moksha, there is a realization of identity with the Supreme Brahman. For bhakti schools of Vaishnavism, the realization of identity is made with Vishnu.
However, in all styles of yoga, the goal of the practitioner is the attainment of perfect tranquility and spiritual insight while meditating on Brahman (the Hindu concept of divinity). It is this state that will lead to moksha and eternal peace.For serious practitioners of yoga, moksha is worth more than just sweat on the mat and a few classes every week. It requires an austere, self-disciplined life based around the Five Principles of Yoga (proper relaxation, proper exercise, proper breathing, proper diet, and positive thinking and meditation). The rules and guidelines of this self-disciplined life are called yama and niyama.
Yama (social ethics) and niyama (personal practices) are the first steps to building a conscious relationship with the world and with yourself. They are considered the first part of the Eightfold Yoga Path of Patanjali (individual development of the body, mind, and soul). The disciplined life is guided by the understanding that many of life’s problems are self-imposed limitations. Poor habits, frivolous living, and unfounded beliefs all contribute to a confusing, murky world. Yama and niyama help practitioners prioritize their inner and outer worlds so that balance and proportion are restored to all aspects of life.
Some yoga masters have described the ultimate goal of yoga as being “consciously conscious”—meaning that the sense of “personal self” and the sense of unlimited spirit and consciousness are united. They consider the union between the practitioners’ various parts into a whole as the most important aspect of yoga. It is reflected in the asana where all the ‘parts’ of the practitioner’s body are in sync with one another. They are all situated in the most effective way for maximum circulation and meditation. Every part has a place in the whole.
Moksha is a noble ambition that has been shared by billions of people throughout history and the yama and niyama still guide the lives of thousands of yoga practitioners today. Although this is historically considered yoga’s ultimate goal, yoga is a highly personal endeavor with many rewards. So, perhaps the question needs rephrasing: What is YOUR ultimate goal of yoga?
The practice of yoga has been around for thousands of years. The universal appeal of yoga comes from the fact that it can benefit mind, body, and spirit. Although it’s also a great complement to many other sports and activities, yoga can be done by almost anyone. Yoga is not just about movement. It also involves breathing exercises and relaxation techniques. These three are considered to be the main elements of yoga. All are practiced together and are equally important. It’s natural for people to assume that movements are what yoga is all about because that’s the part you see. Movement made up of poses benefit the body.
Poses are usually done slowly and gently. Some are held for a short period of time. Yoga poses work in many ways on all parts of the body. They have been shown to increase strength and improve flexibility and balance. Some yoga positions like bridge or triangle are named after common objects or shapes. Others like downward dog or tree are named for living things or natural objects.
Breathing plays an integral part of every yoga session, including both movement and relaxation. As you do the various yoga poses, you are instructed to breathe slowly and deeply, focusing your attention on your breath. This helps to distribute oxygen to all parts of the body and helps you attain maximum flexibility. Specific breathing exercises are also included in most yoga sessions. These exercises are designed to strengthen the lungs and cleanse the body. But one of the most important functions of breathing in yoga is to deepen your feeling of relaxation.
Yoga is more physically challenging than it looks, so yoga sessions always end with a short relaxation period. This is to rest the body while at the same time calming the mind. This part of the yoga session may include visualization and meditation, but always includes some focus on breathing. With visualization, you are encouraged to picture peaceful scenes or images. These could be things like waves lapping on a shore, or clouds floating by in the sky. Meditation involves emptying the mind of distracting thoughts or worries and focusing inward. Many people find it helpful to focus on their breathing in order to meditate.
Yoga complements many other sports and physical activities. While you won’t learn to go faster or harder with yoga, it will help you to become more flexible and more coordinated, as well as strengthening your bones and muscles, all of which can lead to better performance in other areas.
One of the main benefits of yoga is that practically anyone of any age can do it. You start from where you are and build from there. You aren’t competing with anyone else when you do yoga. Instead you move at your own pace. That means that you can make your own yoga practice very challenging or go slowly if that’s where you are.
Why not give the practice of yoga a try and find out how much it can do for your mind, body and spirit?
When you think of Yoga what comes to mind? Super difficult poses, being vegetarian, or perhaps walking around in a state of Zen all day everyday? If so, then perhaps your perception of Yoga is a bit skewed. I don’t blame you because that is what has always been portrayed. This perception has long been associated with yoga and I'm going to dispel some of those myths.
Myth 1: I’m not flexible
Truth: Yoga will improve your flexibility, along with your strength, balance and overall health, but in order to get more flexible you have to start somewhere. Flexibility comes over time. With a regular yoga practice you will discover not only increased flexibility, but greater mobility and more strength as well.
Myth 2: I have to have equipment and yoga clothes to get started
Truth: There’s no special equipment that you have to have to start practicing yoga. If you don’t have a yoga mat, don’t worry, you can use a big towel or even a blanket. So what if you don’t have “yoga clothes”; wear what you have so long as it’s loose fitting so you’re able to move through an entire practice freely. Don’t let the “lack-of” prevent you from beginning yoga.
Myth 3: Yoga is for women
Truth: Not true! Yoga was originally practiced by men in India thousands of years ago. Some of the best known and most respected yoga teachers around the world have been men.
Myth 4: I have to be thin to practice yoga
Truth: All people- tall, short, fat or thin are able to practice yoga. As with flexibility, you practice what you are physically able to do. Yoga can help a practitioner lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle but no matter what body type, different styles of yoga are available for everyone to receive the benefits.
Myth 5: I’m too old for yoga
Truth: You can do yoga at any age. Yoga is a great way for people to maintain their health and wellness as they age. There is no age limit of when you can begin or end. There are a variety yoga classes, apps, and DVD’s available for children, seniors, and everybody in between.
Myth 6: Yoga is not a real workout
Truth: There are many high impact workouts that provide fast results but are also hard on the body. You can't do yoga without understanding your body and your limitations. This is not the case for many other forms of exercise which promote rote repetition. Depending on the style of yoga, it can be particularly intense for beginners and advanced practitioners as yoga practice asks for overall body strength. With the various styles of yoga, you’re sure to find one that provides you with a “workout”.
Myth 7: I have to be a vegetarian or vegan to practice yoga
Truth: There is a notion that in order to practice yoga you cannot eat meat and must become a vegetarian. This is not true. Although there are tremendous health benefits to being vegetarian or vegan, there is no requirement of vegetarianism in order to practice yoga.
Myth 8: I don’t have enough time for yoga
Truth: You can practice yoga for just 15-20 minutes a day. You don't need to commit to an hour or two of yoga to reap the benefits. You can practice Sun Salutations for a few rounds several days a week. Yoga is flexible. Yoga can be made to fit your body, your life, and your time constraints. A little yoga is better than none at all.
Myth 9: Yoga is a religion
Truth: Yoga is actually a science. It is a time tested science with the goal of revealing the true nature of reality. Although yoga has been practiced for thousands of years in India by Hindus, yoga in and of itself is not a religion. Yoga is a practice, it is a step by step process with the end goal of calming down the thought waves in our mind and about being in the Here and Now. A yoga studio or instructor may share readings to students; however there is no pressure to follow a particular belief system.
Myth 10: All Yogi’s reach Enlightenment
Truth: There is a feeling of serenity that takes over once a yoga practice is over. How can one not feel calmer after resting in Savasana for 10 minutes or longer? Meditation and a consistent yoga practice can change a yogi’s way of thinking, but enlightenment is very rare. Having brief moments of bliss is what one should work towards as a starting place with a yoga practice. We have all had moments of bliss and this can be possible, but it takes a great deal of dedication and hard work.
Eagle pose (Garudasana) is one of the 84 original poses (asanas) listed in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. The pose is named after Garuda, “the mythic king of the birds” whose spirit helps him to overcome obstacles and discover his true potential. Significantly, this pose works to strengthen the body and improve concentration and awareness.
Begin by putting all your weight on your left leg. Bend your knees as though you are about to sit in a chair. Keep your spine extended long. Lift your right leg and place it across your left leg. It should start to look like you are sitting in a chair with your legs crossed.
If it is possible, your right thigh should be above your left knee. In time and with practice you will be able to hook your right ankle behind the left lower calf. If that is not possible, place the top of the right foot on the left calf or press it against the inner left calf. Take time to squeeze the inner thighs together. This will bring you into a more solid center.
Keep your hips squared to the front of the mat, and try to bend the left knee even deeper.
Bring your arms out to the side, cross your left elbow over the right in front and center of your body. Keep wrapping and twisting your arms until the palms come together. This full expression of the pose may take time and practice for your shoulders to open enough to perform it.
Relax your shoulders out of your ears, and keep the shoulders squared to the front of the mat just like your hips. Gently raise your elbows to shoulder height, and slowly press your hands toward the front of the mat until you feel a nice opening between your shoulders and deep in the joint. From the waist down feel your body sink. From the waist up lift and lengthen. Maintain the pose for several deep breaths, and slowly unwind the body and repeat on the other side.
Tips for Beginners
Modify this pose until you can reach the full posture.
1. If the balance is too much or you can’t hook your toes behind you, keep your toes on the ground or along the outside of your shin.
2. If you feel any pain in your shoulders, bring your palms and forearms together in front of you or stack your elbows and connect the top of your hands instead of your palms.
If you suffer from any knee problems, don’t try to hook the toe behind you. Instead, bend your knees slightly, or place one leg on top of the other without pain, do so while keeping your toe on the ground.
If you suffer from shoulder problems, follow the modifications listed above.
Like many people who often suffer from migraines, or a migraine “attack”, I know first-hand how debilitating they can be. A migraine can be defined as a recurrent throbbing headache that typically affects one side of the head and is often accompanied by nausea and disturbed vision. The excruciating pain that migraines bring can last for hours or even days. Migraine is a common problem affecting about 36 million Americans, or roughly 12% of the population. Migraines rank in the top 20 of the world's most disabling medical illnesses.
Migraine attacks can sometimes be so severe that some people may have to abandon their regular routine for three or four days at a time. The attack can last a couple of hours to several days and has a tendency to recur. Other symptoms such as nausea, blurred vision, loss of appetite, and fatigue may also be present. According to Ayurveda, migraine headaches are due to a disorder in tridosha, disorders in vata, pitta, or kapha, migraines frequently occur when systemic pitta moves into the cardiovascular system, circulates, and affects the blood vessels around the brain. Yoga is an activity that focuses on postures and breathing exercises. It is an excellent way to get rid of stress and also a great way to help you feel more relaxed and keep you flexible. Out of those three advantages the one you want to focus on is stress, a common migraine trigger.
Here are 4 yoga poses that may help to alleviate migraine pain:
Tadasana or Mountain Pose: Tadasana is the beginning pose for most of the standing asanas.
Benefits: Tadasana stretches the body and lengthens the spine and enhances its flexible; it also increases overall body balance and improves focus.
Virabhadrasana I or Warrior I Pose: Begin in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), with hands beside the body. Now place the left foot a good distance from the body. Bend the left leg from the knee so that the thigh becomes parallel to the ground. Now take both hands joined at the palm and raise them straight above the head. Now bend the entire body above waist and the head towards the back. Look up or backwards. Stay in this position for 1 minute. Now inhale and while exhaling bring down both the hands. Then straighten the knee and stand in Tadasana. Rest for 1 minute and repeat the otherside.
Benefits: In Virabhadrasana, the body is stretched in the opposite direction and various muscles and joints of the spine, legs and waist are stretched which increases the mobility of the body parts; thus improving blood circulation. Additionally the stomach and abdominal organs get extended and hence their functioning improves.
Trikonasana or Triangle Pose: Stand in Tadasana. Place the left leg at a good distance from the right towards the left. Inhale and while exhaling bring down the left hand touch the left toe with the left palm. Now raise the right hand straight above the head. Keep the head steady and look at the right hand. Hold in this position for 1 minute. Inhale and while exhaling bring down the right hand and raise the left hand and stand in Tadasana. Rest for 1 minute and repeat on the right side.
Benefits: In Trikonasana one side is stretched and other side is contracted. This helps in overall blood circulation, stretching key body organs, joints and muscles thus improving their mobility.
Vrikshasana or Tree Pose: Begin in Tadasana. Now raise the left leg and press the palm of the leg to the right thigh. Exhale and while inhaling take both hands and raise them above the head touching the ears and join the palms above the head. Stay in this position for 1 minute. Inhale and while exhaling bring both hands and the leg down and stand in Tadasana. Repeat on the other side.
Benefits: Vrikshasana improves overall body balance and helps in toning and relaxing the muscles and the joints thus improving their mobility.
Yoga has been proven to relieve stress by using exercises that unify the mind, body, and spirit. If you are new to yoga, these seven tips will start you on the road to a more centered life.
1. Talk to your doctor and explain what type of yoga you intend to practice. Show your doctor pictures of some poses for illustration. Your doctor may rule out specific poses if you have high blood pressure, glaucoma, a history of retinal detachment, or heart disease. Make sure you follow your doctor’s recommendations.
2. Find a yoga class that best fits your abilities. Talk to prospective teachers, and decide whether or not you can handle a program before you sign up. It’s very important to take it one step at a time. Try a few beginner classes before you attempt more vigorous classes.
3. Listen to your body and be aware of your physical abilities. You don’t want to hurt yourself. Make sure the instructor understands your level of experience and any limitations you may have. Don’t allow anyone to push you ahead too quickly. Remember, this is supposed to be fun and relaxing.
4. If you can’t find a class that meets your needs, practice yoga at home. There are many books and online resources available to help you get started. Search for the best products on the Internet and read reviews. Talk to other yoga students for recommendations.
5. Try private yoga lessons: you can schedule one-on-one sessions with a yoga teacher in your area or even online via Skype. Most yoga instructors offer private classes or can help you design your own program. This is a good way to get started. You can always take group lessons or practice at home after you’ve had private lessons and learned the basics.
6. Find a yoga buddy. It’s nice to practice with someone and it will help reduce injuries. It’s also a great way to keep up your enthusiasm and interest.
7. Eat lightly before practice. Wait at least two hours after meals before yoga class or practice. An empty stomach is best, but don’t let yourself get too hungry to think. You won’t be able to focus on the poses or enjoy yourself during the relaxation or meditation exercises.
Now go grab your mat and a towel and get the most out of your yoga practice.
While eating healthy is a great way to enhance your well-being, taking a holistic view of cleansing your system means being aware of your body at a more subtle level. That’s where the practice of yoga comes in. The alternate stretching and tightening of your muscles in yoga not only helps stimulate your digestive system, but also helps your circulatory system work more efficiently.
Yoga asanas help the lymphatic system collect and remove unwanted substances. And, the mind-body nature of a yoga practice can help trigger calming responses in the brain. Yoga is also useful for detoxifying your thinking. Every time you tell yourself about your tight hamstrings, bad balance or weak arms, you feed your mind a diet of negative thoughts. That can be a toxic way of thinking. Making the choice to practice means you believe in yourself enough to take on the challenge of whatever yoga class or at-home practice offers. Somewhere inside, you know you can move forward and grow. The more you focus on a positive attitude, the easier it will be to remove the old thought patterns that hold you back and limit you.
These 4 poses will help your digestive system. Try them the next time you feel bloated or sluggish.
1. High lunge twist
Begin in high lunge with right foot forward.
Place your hands in a prayer position at the center of your chest. Take a deep inhale, using your thumbs to slightly lift your chest.
Use your exhale to engage your abdomen and twist your torso to the right.
Place your left elbow outside of your right thigh. Breathe for at least three deep breaths
Repeat on the other side.
Strengthens the quadriceps and gluteus muscles
Stimulates abdominal organs
Improves digestion and elimination
Stretches the psoas and hips
Relieves sciatica pain
Develops stamina and endurance in your thighs
Improves your balance, concentration and core awareness
2. 1-Legged Downward Dog
From Downward-Facing Dog extend one foot up to the sky while the opposite foot is rooted into the earth.
The hips are squared and the toes are active.
The forehead reaches for the earth as the shoulder blades move back (opening the heart area).
The gaze is towards the belly button.
Stay for 5-7 breaths, then lower your leg
Repeat on other side.
Calms the brain
Helps relieve stress and mild depression
Relieves menstrual discomfort when done with the head supported
Helps prevent osteoporosis
Relieves headaches, insomnia, back pain, and fatigue
And it is therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica, and sinusitis
Strengthens the glutes, arms, and core
3. Plank Pose
Start in pushup position with your hands under your shoulders, arms perpendicular to the floor
Engage your abdominal wall and draw it slightly in
Press the front of your thighs up toward the ceiling
Lengthen the back of the neck and looks down at the floor (keeping throat and eyes soft).
Breathe for 5 breaths or more
Strengthens the arms, wrists, and spine
Tones the abdomen, strengthens the core
4. Boat Pose (modified)
Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you.
Lift through the top of the sternum and lean back slightly (make sure your back doesn’t round)
Keep your arms straight out in front of you with arms parallel to the floor
Exhale and bend your knees, then lift your feet off the floor
Slowly straighten your knees (for a modified version, keep your knees bent), raising the tips of your toes slightly above the level of your eyes
Stay in the pose for 10-20 seconds. Gradually increase the time of your stay to 1 minute
Release the legs with an exhalation and sit upright on an inhalation.
Strengthens and tones the abdomen, hip flexors, and spine
Stimulates the kidneys, thyroid and prostate glands, and intestines
Helps relieve stress
Surya Namaskara B (Sun Salutation B) is a series of postures that are linked together by using the breath. Surya means the sun and Namaskar means a greeting or salutation in honor of the divine present in each of us. The sequence presented here is usually practiced after several rounds of Sun Salutation A (Surya Namaskara A). Sun Salutation B includes many of the same components of Sun Salutations in most styles of yoga, with the inclusion of Warrior I pose. Remember to breathe through your nose as you practice; it will help to warm your body and bring a meditative state of mind. If you’re having trouble breathing smoothly, relax your practice a bit. Make sure not to force yourself and always work within your own range of limits and abilities.
The art of chakra healing has been used for centuries to balance important energy centers in our body called chakras. We can use a number of different tools such as stones or meditation during chakra balancing. The end result will be a physically healthier body and a happier, more peaceful you.
According to practitioners of chakra healing, we all have seven primary chakras that correspond with vital areas of our bodies and emotional and spiritual aspects of our lives. The seven chakras form a line from the base of your spine to the top of your head. Chakras have their own color, vibrational frequency, and symbol. For example, the first chakra is found at the base of the spine and is known as the root chakra. This chakra governs the spinal column, kidneys, legs, feet, rectum, and immune system. So, when this chakra is out of balance, it may lead to lower back pain, varicose veins, leg cramps, rectal conditions, depression, as well as immune related disorders. A lack of balance in the root chakra may be caused by feelings of low self-esteem, insecurity, or family concerns.
Other chakras include the sacral, solar plexus, heart, throat, brow, and crown chakras. Each energy center must be vibrating at the proper frequency independent of one another in order for the entire body to vibrate in harmony. Therefore, each chakra is equally important to optimal functioning of the body according to the chakra healing tradition.
Many powerful tools can affect the vibration of the chakra, and that’s where chakra balancing comes into play. Chakra stones, the human voice, music, chants, mantras and chakra meditation bring the frequency of the chakras back into proper vibrational alignment. For example, the root chakra is greatly affected by the hematite, onyx, ruby or garnet gemstones. During chakra healing a practitioner may use one or all of these chakra stones to cleanse your root chakra and bring it into harmony.
Chakra meditation may also be used to open up your chakra centers and improve the flow of positive psychic energy in your body. During meditation you simply concentrate on each of the chakras starting with the first one and working your way up to your crown chakra. By imagining the flow of energy from chakra to chakra, you are helping to remove blockages in each energy center that might be causing pain and disease.
Because the chakras govern every organ and system in your body, chakra healing has far reaching health implications. Chakra balancing can lead to improved heart, lung, and brain, immune and digestive function and may also help with depression, anxiety, and other emotional imbalances. Many believe that the chakras have the power to transform your life both physically and spiritually. It is only when our chakras are in sync that we can truly access higher levels of consciousness.
If the powerful art of chakra healing sounds intriguing to you, visit an experienced chakra healer. A good healer will ask you plenty of questions about your health in order to pinpoint which of your chakras are the most blocked or unbalanced. From there he or she may employ any number of tools to help lead your energy centers into harmonious vibration.
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