Yoga is a great exercise for mind and body. Poses, called asanas, help improve your physical strength, while deep breathing during the poses can help clear your mind. Most classes finish with a meditation to rebalance mind, body and spirit.
The benefits of yoga
Despite its popularity, the fitness benefits of yoga can often be overlooked because of a few common misconceptions. Many people assume yoga doesn’t raise your heart rate as much as running or a spin class. However, integrating yoga into your regular fitness routine can actually help you to reach your cardio goals faster, as it increases stamina, strengthens muscles and improves balance and flexibility, as well as easing aches and pains and shortening recovery time.
Styles of yoga
There are different even styles to try depending on what suits your needs. Here are just a few:
Ideal for beginners. The series of postures and static poses are designed to increase core strength and flexibility, while a focus on breathing aims to create inner balance.
Hot or bikram yoga
Get your sweat on with a series of poses performed in a humid studio (similar to a sauna). Practising in the heat promotes flexibility and could also help refresh your skin.
Postures are performed in a series of set sequences, or ‘flow’, all gently connected with your breath. You’ll practice the same set of moves each time and hold the poses for a count of five breaths. You need a good level of fitness, as there are no breaks! Ashtanga is ideal for building stamina, tone, strength and flexibility and there are sessions available for everyone, from beginners to experts.
This style of yoga focuses on alignment through precise movements. Poses are held for a long time, while you focus on controlling your breathing. Classes use a lot of props, such as belts and blocks, to help you get into the postures with precision and correct alignment. If you suffer with injuries or stiffness, or just prefer a slower pace, this is the one for you.
Another form of Iyengar yoga, which focuses on ‘waking up’ the spine, releasing tension and strengthening the core. Deep breathing and gravity are used to ease you into the postures, reviving tired muscles and boosting energy.
Fast-paced and energetic, Vinyasa yoga sessions are made up of quick poses that you’ll move between without stopping. Try a beginners’ class to learn the poses so you’ll feel more comfortable stepping up to a faster speed – it’s a good overall workout once you get the hang of things.
Using props such as blankets, bolster cushions, and eye pillows, this class focuses on total relaxation. You’ll sink in to several different poses throughout the class, and as they tend to be less challenging than other yoga poses, it’s a great option for recovery from injury or simply restoring your mind.