Yoga basics – achieving lifetime fitness

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Yoga is a light, which once lit, will never dim. The better you practice, the brighter the flame – B.K.S.Iyengar

We all know that yoga is a great form of workout, but there is more to it than those intimidating postures where you twist and turn your body. Yoga is a way of life, it brings about a harmony of the mind, body and soul. Through working with the body, yoga teaches us to gain better control over the mind.

Yoga is the only workout that leaves you energised and at the same time, relaxed since it combines breathing, meditation and physical exercise, all at the same time. According to Yoga-sutra, yoga is an eight-limbed practice, which, in a nutshell, includes codes of moral conduct, physical postures, breathing practices, concentration, self-discipline, diet, concentration, meditation and control of the senses, speech and actions. Isn’t that a comprehensive definition of how our lifestyle ought to be?

For newbies or those who want to start but find it overwhelming, I would like to share with you some of the tips I learnt from my yoga teacher, (who is a traditional Indian yoga instructor) on how to get the maximum out of yoga by doing it right:

  • Yoga is best done out in the open, preferably near trees, where the air is less polluted. If you have only the indoor option, choose an airy room.
  • Early morning is the best time to do yoga. We get the energy for the whole day, the mind becomes relaxed and empty where we can put in productive stuff and we don’t have to sweat out in the sun.
  • Always start and end yoga with “ohm” chanting (at least 5 times each). It has several benefits like reducing anxiety and depression, boosting immunity, balancing our moods and overall sense of well-being.
  • The ohm chanting should be followed by pranayama (breathing exercises). While doing pranayama, remember to have a small smile on your face. You don’t have to be serious while doing yoga. It serves as a facial exercise as well as keeps you smiling throughout the day (a strategy of faking it until you get it!)
  • Next follows the stretching exercises, which is similar to warming up at the gym.
  • The asanas (postures) start with the sun salutation (Surya namaskar) which includes 12 different poses. If you are too hard-pressed for time, you can just practise this one posture. It is a very powerful workout, however, people with specific issues like a backache or pregnant women should avoid it.
  • Don’t judge your practice only by how far you can stretch and also you don’t have to push yourself too hard. Yoga is all about being comfortable and relaxed.
  • Start small. If you are not comfortable holding a pose for 10 seconds, practice for 5 seconds first. Slowly increase the time as your confidence increases.
  • The postures should always be done along with intentional breathing. In addition to getting more oxygen to your cells, breathing helps you focus better.
  • It is important to note when to inhale and when to exhale in a posture. The rule of thumb is that when you raise (your hand, leg or body) inhale and when you lower, exhale.
  • Finally, wrap up with Shavasana (corpse pose) which is equivalent to cooling down after a workout.
  • Don’t forget to finish with “ohm” chanting.

Yoga can be custom-made to suit your needs. There are yoga asanas for everyone – young, old, pregnant women, ailing or recuperating and for every issue – arthritis, backache, menstrual cramps, stress, depression or overall well-being. You have even “chair yoga” for those who can’t squat down. Once you get started, you will be amazed at the number of options that are available.

There is no excuse for not doing yoga. If you are inflexible, have weak joints, too old or too tired, that is precisely why you should be practising yoga! 30 minutes of your day is all that is needed. Like the saying goes, if you don’t make time for yoga, you will have to eventually make time for illness.

So why not start today?

Do you agree with me? Anything else you can think of that I’ve left out?

If you find this post useful or interesting please remember to share and comment.

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