5 Things You Should Know About Yoga

Professional hockey players are doing it; triathletes are doing it; race car drivers are doing it; basketball playersyoga, mountaineers, even rock stars. Nobody is too young, too old or too darn perfect not to benefit from yoga.

It won’t build your quads or biceps, but it can give you better balance, better flexibility, better concentration and better core strength.

Yoga Basics

Most types of yoga practiced in the United States emphasize asana(physical poses) and its therapeutic value. By combining asana withpranayama (breathing techniques), structurally refining poses and adding specific sequencing, yoga becomes a kind of moving meditation with holistic benefits.

The Benefits of Yoga

On a simple level, the practice of yoga can give you the tools to make whatever you do better. Whatever outdoor adventure you pursue—mountain biking, climbing, skiing and so on—a regular yoga practice can build strength and flexibility. This can help you withstand greater stress on your body, react more quickly and calmly to changes, and breathe more efficiently.

Types of Yoga

There are many styles of yoga. Some people find one and never change; others prefer to follow multiple disciplines. It’s up to you. Here are some popular options:

Ashtanga: This is the most gymnastic, perhaps most physically demanding style of yoga.

Anusara: Anusara is rooted in Ashtanga, but adds elements of play and deeper meditation.

Hot yoga: Temperatures usually range from 85° to 100°F, so this is a very sweaty way to practice, but it’s gaining popularity because it’s notably easier to get “warmed up” (no pun intended), and it feels good when you’re finished. Bikram, Baron Baptiste and Core Power Yoga are among the chains that offer hot yoga.

Hatha: This type of yoga places premier emphasis on breath. Poses are held for longer, enabling you to use breath to push deeper.

Vinyassa: Many like this style of yoga because of the sequential, almost dance-like flow between different asanas (poses) and because it works well with music.

Finding a Class

Yoga classes are widely available. In addition to yoga studios, you can find classes at health clubs, community centers and spas. Most of these places offer introductory or gentle yoga classes. These offer a great way to get started—even if you’re already pretty fit—so you can familiarize yourself with the basic yoga format and style.

A Typical Hatha Yoga Class

As noted earlier, a hatha yoga class is made up of poses (asana) and breath work (pranayama). The breath helps direct one’s attention inward, clearing the mind of distractions so it can focus on what is happening in the present moment.

A class begins with “centering” or a focusing of the mind and body, then a series of asana to help heat up the body, followed by calming, quiet time. The final relaxation (called “savasana” or resting pose) is most important because it allows the body to assimilate the work on a physical level while letting the mind be calm and peaceful.

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