Long gone are the days when you had to bend yourself into a pretzel to call yourself a yoga enthusiast. These days, there are as many types of yoga as there are types of people doing it. There’s yoga for seniors (generally done with the aid of a chair), yoga for kids (designed to calm the inner Tasmanian Devil), keyboard yoga (for those who sit at a computer, done at the computer), hot yoga (conducted in a room maintained at 95-100F) and even anti-gravity yoga(poses done in slings of fabric hanging from the ceiling). However you take your yoga, the benefits are still the same;increased flexibility, your joints remain lubricated while increasing their range of motion, stress melts away, your mind becomes quiet, your mood lifts, cardiovascular efficiency increases, and your posture improves, just to mention a few. Few pieces of equipment are necessary to take a yoga class. All you really need is loose, comfortable clothing and a yoga mat. Some facilities provide yoga mats for their students however it’s better to have one of your own for hygienic reasons. Sometimes your instructor will want you to wear footwear, other times not. It’s a good idea to take a towel with you as well. As far as classes go, every gym and studio has yoga for beginners. This is the best way to break into the routine and familiarize yourself with the more basic moves, or poses.
You can take yoga classes any time of the day. Yoga’s popularity has even spawned lunch hour classes that get you in and out in a jiffy at mid day.
THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF YOGA
Going back thousands of years, the science of yoga consists of ancient theories, observations and principles about the mind/body connection which modern medicine is now taking a more serious and in-depth look at.
Yoga is considered therapeutic in that it helps the individual become more aware of the body’s posture, alignment and patterns of movement. This is helpful for children moving into adolescence as it increases their awareness of how their body is moving and growing. It’s also helpful for patients recovering from an injury or a surgery which has left them in the position of having to relearn basic daily movements. It makes the body more flexible and helps one to relax.
Yoga has the amazing ability to focus your mind in the moment, therefore blocking out all other stressors and worries. During a yoga class, you can’t help but slow your thinking as well as your breathing. Breath has a central role to play in each yoga posture, or asana. Each of the movements in a sequence is executed while either breathing out or breathing in. For example, during a sun salutation, the raising of the arms over your head is done while taking in a deep breath. In contrast, bending forward to grasp your ankles is done while breathing out. Some postures are executed while standing on one foot. In this case, as you breathe out, you focus on moving your energy downward, toward the ground which serves to root your foot even more firmly on the earth, stabilizing you as you stand. Once you’ve achieved a posture, it is held for a certain number of breaths. Taking slow, deep breaths serves to fully oxygenate every part of your body in a way that can’t be achieved while running through a busy day.
|Physiologically speaking, if done correctly, yoga can, in the very least:
Psychologically speaking, yoga:
In our later years, we expect to deal with ailments such as arthritis, rheumatism, respiratory and cardiovascular issues. However, because we can’t move like we used to in our younger years, it is necessary to find a gentle, yet just as effective way, to keep our bodies healthy and in a shape that can fend off disease. Yoga offers this benefit to seniors. It also aids in the prevention and control of common emotional problems that are linked with our senior years. There are some postures designed specifically to lower blood pressure and improve balance; two conditions ordinarily encountered in our advanced years. Certain breathing exercises assist in opening airways, alleviating respiratory issues and helping the individual to feel more refreshed. And if you can’t get down on the floor or stand for very long, many yoga postures have been adapted so you can do them in a chair.
As we age, loss of muscle mass and strength is a common occurrence, partially due to hormonal changes and largely to do with disuse. Muscles need to be used to stay strong and the first to go are the major muscles of ambulation. The quadriceps on the front of the thighs – which lift your thighs for walking and stairs, and the triceps on the back upper arms – needed to push yourself up from sitting or lying. Weak back muscles and short chest muscles lead to poor posture and not just for seniors either; look around.1
Have a look at this example of yoga for seniors in this YouTube video .
YOGA FOR KIDS
Yoga 4 Kids, in the Toronto area says, “Yoga, adapted for children, develops body awareness, language, good listening skills, cooperation and powers of observation.” It allows children to learn about sequencing, improves their ability to focus and concentrate, and is a gentle introduction to self-discipline.
Have a look at this video to see how regular yoga postures are taught to children.
HOT YOGA – Not For the Faint-of-Heart, Literally!
Living yoga master Bikram Choudhury is a hot yoga innovator. His method is a set series of 26 postures, each of which is performed twice in a single 90-minute class. However, hot yoga can refer to any yoga class done in a heated room. The room is usually maintained at a temperature of 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit. Most often, hot yoga tends to be a flowing style of practice in which the teacher instructs a series of linked poses. As you can imagine, a vigorous yoga session at high temperature promotes profuse sweating and makes the body very warm.2 For this reason, it is unwise to undertake such a class if you are living with high blood pressure, cardiovascular issues or any other condition that excessive heat and stress can exacerbate. Check with your primary health care provider before you take hot yoga classes to see if it’s right for you.
ANTI-GRAVITY YOGA – When You Just Want To Hang Around
This is yoga done in a hammock suspended from the ceiling. The hammock is really a sort of sling with ropes of varying heights. It was invented by an aerial choreographer in New York, who incorporated it into his troupe’s exercise regime. For those of us who don’t perform on, or off, Broadway, it involves climbing into the sling and performing familiar yoga moves, but with a particular emphasis on ‘inversions’ – ie hanging upside down. The cushioning and support of the sling and ropes allow you to manoeuvre yourself into positions you might never achieve without them, such as a handstand or an aerial bridge, where you bend yourself backwards in the sling and grab your ankles underneath.3.
Here’s a fun video all about anti-gravity yoga, explained by a professional who enlists the help of a student who has never experienced anti-gravity yoga before.
CLOTHING AND EQUIPMENT
The requirements for yoga are very few. Basics include:
- Loose, comfortable clothes you can move in (gym wear).
- Lightweight, flat gym shoes.
- Yoga mat and blocks.
- Small towel (to wipe your hands and remove sweat).
- Old blanket (folded under your knees, to protect your knees during postures done on your knees).
Once you’ve attended one class (or visited just to observe) you’ll know what you need for that particular class.
1. Chester Harbour Yoga & Massage Therapy
2. About.com Yoga
3.” Zero-Gravity Yoga: Let it all hang out.”
Carol Roy is a Natural Health Practitioner who received her diploma from the Alternative Medicine College of Canada in Montreal, Quebec. With 12 years experience in her area of expertise, natural health and wellness, Carol has also trained to become a fully qualified Reiki Master, Quantum Touch Practitioner, and Reflexologist.
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