Improve Your Health and Fitness with Yoga

Yoga Pose
Yoga

It seems to me like yoga is one of those things were people either love it or have never really tried it. Now I’m sure there are plenty of people out there that have tried it and just don’t like it. But then I am curious as to why.

There are a ton of benefits to doing yoga and so many different kinds. Perhaps the reason people haven’t tried it is because they don’t know enough about it and maybe those that don’t like it weren’t doing the best type for them.

Let’s change that.

If you are a beginner or just looking to see if yoga is for you, then you came to the right place! By no means will this cover absolutely everything about yoga. There is just too much information to give in one post.

However, this will give you a great overview to make a more informed decision on whether you should give it a try (or maybe retry).

What is Yoga

I’m sure many of you have a general idea of what yoga is. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines yoga as, “a system of physical postures, breathing techniques, and sometimes meditation derived from Yoga but often practiced independently especially in Western cultures to promote physical and emotional well-being”.

There are many different types of yoga that focus on different areas, but they all have many of the same benefits. It can also be used with meditation to strengthen the connection between the mind and body.

As with anything you do to become healthier, you need to make it a habit. To experience all of the benefits, you need to practice yoga routinely.

Benefits

  • Increase Flexibility
  • Strengthen Muscles
  • Improve Respiration and Circulation
  • Increase Energy
  • Protect Against Injury
  • Decrease Risk of Depression and Anxiety
  • Reduce Pain

Yoga Equipment

If you don’t know much about yoga you are probably thinking, ‘why would I need equipment to stand around doing poses’? Well, there is some handy gear to have if you are going to give yoga a shot and can help you get the most out of it.

Yoga Mat

First off is a yoga mat. This gives you a nice spot to workout rather than just using the hard floor. Remember, you do many different postures in yoga, like sitting, standing, or laying, to name a few. You want to be comfortable when you preform poses.

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This is a popular mat. It is thick, has a nice non-slip surface, and is very durable. It even has a carrying strap, so you can easily take it with you.

Towel

Many people overlook getting a towel. This can replace your yoga mat or be used on top of it to ensure you don’t slip.

Yes, you can get very sweaty doing yoga.

You do not want to worry about falling. Worrying about slipping or falling would defeat the purpose of doing Yoga, so getting something simple like this can really help.

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Yoga Blocks

The use of yoga blocks is becoming very popular. They can be used during pretty much any pose. The blocks help bring the floor up to you and can aid in creating extension. These can be a nice, inexpensive prop to use.

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Straps

Lastly, is the yoga strap. This is used to help you perform stretches, even if you are not the most flexible.

I would highly recommend getting one of these if you are not flexible. You will be able to do many more postures and it will help to improve your flexibility.

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Types of Yoga

As I mentioned previously, there are many different types of yoga. Each focus on different things and some are more intense than others. It is commonly practiced with meditation for added benefit.

To learn more about meditation, check out my post, Meditation: How to Up Your Health & Fitness Game.

Here we are going to look at a few common types and some of the poses you might find in them.

Hatha Yoga

Hatha refers to physical poses. This yoga is very beginner-friendly and usually incorporates meditation, breathing, and basic poses.

Mountain Pose

Stand up straight on your mat with your shoulders relaxed. Take a few deep breaths while you set yourself. Inhale as you raise your arms up. Gently stretch to the side as you exhale. Move back to the center as you inhale again, and gently stretch to the opposite side as you exhale.

Forward Fold

From your standing position, as you exhale you will bend forward at the waist, letting your arms and head hang down. Keep you knees slightly bent and relax in this position for about five breaths.

Hatha Yoga Pose Forward Fold

This pose can be seen done several different ways. Some people barely touch the ground, others have their hands fully touching the floor, or even hold the back of their ankles.

It all depends on how flexible you are.

This pose is meant to focus on lengthening your spine, so if you can’t touch the floor that is fine.

Downward Dog

If you read my post, Why Should I Care About Stretching, Downward Dog was mentioned as a great stretch to do. Start off standing on your mat with your feet shoulder with apart.

Bend at the waist and rest your palms on the floor. Walk your hands forward. For those less flexible, go on your hands and knees.

Keeping your arms and legs straight, push your hips up to the ceiling. Stay in this position for about three breaths.

Downward Dog Hatha Yoga Pose

Warrior II Pose

Start facing forward at the front of your mat. Take your right foot and step backwards, turning your foot so it is parallel with your mat. Bend your left knee. Raise your arms so they are parallel with the floor and turn your head to the left. Stay in this position for about five breaths.

Repeat in the opposite direction with your left foot back.

Warrior II Hatha Yoga Pose

Kundalini Yoga

Kundalini yoga is focused on using meditation, chanting, and poses to release kundalini energy believed to be stored in the base of your spine.

This type is usually started with chanting its mantra three times, Ong namo guru dev namo (“I bow to the divine creative consciousness within, I bow to the teacher within”).

The time you hold each pose is slowly increased as you go.

You keep your eyes shut and focus on your third eye (the chakra). To deepen your focus, you repeat Sat (truth) as you inhale, Nam (identity) as you exhale.

Cobra Pose

Start by lying on your stomach. Put your palms flat on the ground. Push up, extending your back, lifting only your upper body. Push your feet and pelvis into the ground. Keep your elbows slightly bent and relax your shoulders. Hold this pose for about 2 minutes while you take deep breaths.

Cobra Kundalini Yoga Pose

Stretch Pose

Start by lying flat on your back, arms at your sides. Lift your head, upper chest, and arms off the ground. While keeping your lower back flat against the floor, raise your legs about 6 inches off the ground and point your toes. Hold this position for about 2 minutes.

Kundalini Yoga Stretch Pose

Bow Pose

Start by lying on your stomach with your arms at your sides. Bend your knees and grab your feet or ankles with your hands. Push your shins out. By doing this your chest and thighs should lift off the ground. Hold for about 2 minutes, or as long as you can.

Kundalini Yoga Bow Pose

Restorative Yoga

Restorative yoga is as its name suggests. It is a relaxing yoga where you hold your poses for a long period of time allowing your muscles to relax.

Happy Baby Pose

Start by lying on your back. Exhale and bring your knees into your belly. As you inhale, grip the outsides of your feet with your hands.

Note: If you have difficulty you can use a strap looped over your feet.

Make sure your knees are slightly wider than your torso and bring them up towards your armpits. Your ankles should be directly over you’re your knees. Then, gently push your feet into your hands and slightly pull down with your hands.

Restorative Yoga Happy Baby Pose

Adept Pose

Start by sitting in a comfortable cross-legged position. Make sure that your knees are not higher than your hips (a blanket can be used to prop yourself up if need be). Rest your palms on your knees. As you inhale, lengthen your spine. Once in this position, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Stay in this pose for at least 2 minutes.

Restorative Yoga Adept Pose

Prenatal Yoga

Prenatal yoga is done by those who are pregnant. It can help expected mothers prepare for childbirth, but also help them to stay fit and relaxed.

There is a strong focus on breathing which is used to help work thorough contractions. This is not a strenuous type of yoga.

It is very similar to hatha or restorative yoga and has many of the same poses, so I won’t go into a list of them.

Yoga Trends

There are two new forms of yoga and I feel I would be remiss if I did not mention them. They are not tradition forms of yoga. However, they have become popular. I’m sure you already know which ones I am talking about.

Yes, goat yoga and beer yoga. Sounds like a good time to me. I have not tried either one, but I think they are very interesting. Maybe they are more your speed as well.

Goat Yoga

Goat yoga is just what it sounds like. Yoga with goats. It has been described as animal-assisted therapy. As with any type of yoga, it can be a great way to relax and relieve stress.

It can also be a lot of fun because, well it’s with goats! They are running and jumping around sometimes even on you. If you are looking to have a little more excitement while doing yoga, or get a good laugh, this is the way to go.

Goat Yoga- Yoga Pose with a Goat on People's Backs

Beer Yoga

Beer yoga is still relatively new. It is yoga that is done in a brewery or taproom. You prepare the poses, obviously, while drinking beer. There have been many people that say that this type of yoga has no health benefits.

The way I see it, if you are doing something rather than just sitting there, that should count for something. It is a great way to unwind, especially with a bunch of friends.

It gives you the opportunity to try something new. And who knows, maybe it sparks some to try more traditional forms of yoga as well.

Beer Yoga- Yoga Pose holding beer

The Take Away

There are many health benefits to trying yoga. Maybe you are looking to relieve some back pain or become more flexible. We have gone over several different types of yoga and some of the different poses found in each.

This should give you a good idea about what each has to offer. It should also help you to determine which style is right for you.

If you want to know what kind of snack you should be eating before and after yoga, read this post.

Learn About Yoga
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Published by Amy

I have always had a strong passion for health and fitness, as well as helping others. So much so, that I went on to receive my Level 1 Precision Nutrition Certification. My goal is to help others feel at their best! I know it can be a struggle to reach your fitness goals, whether it is losing weight, getting in shape, or improving your overall health. I want to help you reach your goals and find what works best for you so you can stick to it! Let's work on making you Happy Healthy and Strong!

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