Researchers have discovered that the regular practice of yoga may produce many health benefits, including increased fitness and normalization of blood pressure. Yoga is a renowned antidote to stress. Over time, yoga practitioners report lower levels of stress, and increased feelings of happiness and wellbeing. This is because concentrating on the postures and the breath acts as a form of meditation.
The classical techniques of yoga date back more than 5,000 years. The practice of yoga encourages effort, intelligence, accuracy, thoroughness, commitment and dedication. The word yoga means ‘to join or yoke together’. It brings your body and mind together, and is built on three main elements exercise, breathing and meditation.
The exercises of yoga are designed to put pressure on the glandular systems of your body, increasing your body’s efficiency and total health. Breathing techniques increase breath control to improve the health and function of body and mind. The two systems of exercise and breathing prepare the body and mind for meditation, with an approach to a quiet mind that allows silence and healing from everyday stress. When practiced regularly, yoga can become a powerful and sophisticated discipline for achieving physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
Each yoga posture, or asana, is held for a period of time and linked with breathing. Generally, a yoga session begins with gentle asanas and works up to more vigorous or challenging postures. A full yoga session should exercise every part of your body and should include pranayama, relaxation and meditation. The practice of yoga asanas develops strength and flexibility, while soothing your nerves and calming your mind. The asanas affect the muscles, joints and skin, and the whole body glands, nerves, internal organs, bones, respiration and the brain. The physical building blocks of yoga are the posture and the breath.
Yoga is taught in classes, catering for beginners through to advanced practitioners. It is non-competitive and suitable for anyone, regardless of your age or fitness level. Your yoga teacher should carefully guide and observe you, and modify postures when necessary. An asana should never cause pain. If it hurts, ease back on the stretch or don’t do it at all. It is important to keep within your physical limits.
If you are over 40, haven’t exercised for a long time or have a pre-existing medical condition, you should check with your doctor before starting any regular exercise routine. Pre-exercise screening is used to identify people with medical conditions that may put them at a higher risk of experiencing a health problem during physical activity. It is a filter or ‘safety net’ to help decide if the potential benefits of exercise outweigh the risks for you.
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