Getting Started with Yoga:
What many people new to yoga do not understand is that yoga is not only good for the body, but also for the mind and spirit. The physical benefits of yoga are only half of the story.

Through yoga moves, called asanas, and meditation which is core to many of the yoga styles, a unity of the mind and body helps the practitioner achieve a mental bliss that only yoga can produce. The exact feeling defies explaining; the only way to experience it is to do yoga.

And while it looks easy when you see someone doing it, it is a real butt-kicker; One type of yoga – Vinyasa – burns 594 calories per hour. Just try it and you will see what I mean!

Precautions for beginners

If you have never done yoga before, it is important to heed the precautions below. While yoga is generally considered safe when practiced under the guidance of a trained instructor, there are some situations that might pose a risk, such as:

• A herniated or bulging disk
• A known risk of blood clots
• Eye conditions, including glaucoma
• Pregnancy – generally safe for pregnant women, but certain poses should be avoided or amended
• Extreme balance problems
• Severe osteoporosis
• Uncontrolled blood pressure

While you may be still be able to practice yoga, if you have any of the above conditions, be sure to consult with your healthcare practitioner to see what which poses you should not do or ones that can be amended so they are safe for you to do.

What Do I Need to Wear and Bring to a Yoga Class?
If you’re headed off to your first yoga class, you are undoubtedly excited about all the possibilities. With all of the benefits of yoga, people of all ages and backgrounds are jumping into the trend and using it as a way to lose weight, tone up, and build balance and flexibility. Whatever your goals may be, though, you might be wondering what you should plan on bringing to the class. Here’s a short guide to help you.

1 Wear The Right Clothes

The most important thing is that you dress appropriately for the class. You are going to need to wear stretchy athletic clothing that is breathable. Tighter clothing will allow the instructor and yourself to really check your form and make sure you are doing all of the moves correctly. But, you don’t have to go skin-tight if you aren’t comfortable with that. At the same time, try to avoid super baggy and oversized clothing. A tank top or t-shirt paired with shorts, leggings or well-fitted workout pants will be ideal.

2 Bring A Bag

You might be find wearing your workout clothes into the session, but if you’re going to a cardio style yoga class or one where you know you’re going to work up a sweat, you probably want to bring a bag with you. In the bag, include a change of clothes so that you can get into a comfortable outfit after class. If the place has a shower, you might want to bring some toiletries to wash up before you drive home. But, that part is up to you.

3 Stay Hydrated

Bringing a water bottle is a must. They may have a water fountain at the studio, but you definitely want to be prepared in case they don’t. Always bring a water bottle that is filled to the brim before your class. Take a water break before your session and after. If you need to drink something during, don’t hesitate. Hydration is always the most important thing for your health and safety.

4 Ask About The Mat

Some yoga studios will provide you with a mat to use during class. Otherwise, you might have to bring your own. Always ask so that you have proper padding on the floor before you arrive at the session. Some studios will rent or sell you a mat on the spot, but it’s best to be prepared.

What Should I Eat Before and After Yoga?
If you want to make the most of any sort of heath or fitness routine, you definitely need to look at the entire picture. This perhaps couldn’t be more true than when you are participating in a whole-body routine like yoga, which is all about your body, mind, and spirit. Aligning these three things will take careful consideration that has to go beyond your yoga mat. And, diet is one of those major aspects.

So, if you are looking to get healthy, you may be wondering: What sort of foods should you be eating before and after your yoga sessions? This is actually an interesting question and a common concern, so it’s worth looking deeper into. The first thing to think about is your goals. While your gym buddies might down a pre-workout shake and emphasize protein powder, people usually see yoga in a different light.

Yoga is not body building, but it can definitely help you tone up your muscles and burn off fat. But, it can also be used to increase your balance and flexibility. Best of all, it can do all of these things at the same time. The question you need to ask yourself is, what are you trying to accomplish? If weight loss is your goal, you should opt to eat foods that will give you energy, like natural fruits and vegetables. These will also supply you with the vitamins and minerals you need.

On the other hand, if you are trying to tone up, giving yourself a good source of protein can help you meet that goal. But, you probably don’t need an excessive amount–especially if yoga is the core of your workout routine. Instead, look to the number of calories you are consuming.

It’s always a good idea to fuel your workout with healthy energy, like that provided by fruits or a healthy shake. However, yoga isn’t considered a high-intensity workout. Therefore, it’s not something you need to obsess over. Many people actually do yoga in a fasted state, allowing them to tap into their body’s fat burning abilities in order to fuel their workout. Others will prefer eating a energy bar or even a complete meal before they hit the mat.

Ultimately, it comes down to one thing: listening to your body. Yoga is all about tuning into what your body needs, so take the time to think about how you feel each day before you decide what to consume for your session.

What are the Non-Fitness Benefits of Yoga?
The physical benefits yoga can bring to your body are no secret. Increased flexibility, balance, muscle tone, and even fat burn top the list of the many reasons why people use yoga in their daily routines. But, that’s not where the power of yoga ends. Incorporating yoga into your routine can be an extremely valuable choice, even if you don’t care to improve any of the aforementioned aspects of your lifestyle.

Eat Less
In fact, yoga has great benefits for your health and internal wellbeing that you may not have known before. At the top of the list, you might find it interesting that recent studies back yoga’s ability to help regulate your health appetite. In fact, the study found that people who practice yoga regularly do not snack as much as those who don’t. Instead, they are better at “intuitive eating” (eating only when truly hungry). This is linked to yoga’s focus on breathing. Yoga instructors note that by learning to focus more on your breath and inner sensations, you become more aware of your hunger and feelings of satiety.

Think More
Ever wanted to get faster at thinking on your feet? Yoga will help you do it, even more so than running can. While some types of exercise encourage you to tune out, yoga is all about staying in the moment and being present. In fact, yoga practice can even be associated with restructuring inside the brain encouraging you to think more quickly. You’ll be more attentive as a result and able to remember things better.

Relax
The relaxation aspects of yoga are definitely some of the better known, but they should not be underestimated. Being able to relax and let go of stress in today’s busy, screen-filled world is an ever-growing perk of the practice of yoga. By practicing yoga even for just 10 minutes per day, you will begin to feel massive decreases in your regular stress levels. In turn, this can lower your blood pressure, improve your heart health, and make you a happier person overall.

With all of these benefits, you really have no excuse not to start practicing yoga right away.

Why You Should Start Practicing Yoga:
Thinking about getting into yoga? Stop putting it off. Practicing yoga is a great way to increase your balance and flexibility. Plus, it’s great for your mind and soul. But, those benefits are just the tip of the iceberg. If you have been trying to convince yourself to participate in a yoga session, you should take a look at the many perks that come along with yoga practice.

1 Tone Up

Yoga requires you to assume some quite difficult positions as you advance through the various levels. From balancing on your hands to balancing on your head, you will need some great strength throughout your body to properly execute even some simple beginner poses. Plus, holding poses for any extended amount of time will help you build up strength. Even the downward dog will help tone your arms!
That’s why yoga is so great for building your strength, balance, and flexibility whilst helping you tone up. It also has calorie burning potential and certain yoga styles will delve into more cardio routines that will help you burn fat too.

2 Breathe Deep

The breathing techniques that go along with a proper yoga session will help you work on your respiratory health overtime. So too will the general act of being more active through yoga. Yoga also helps your blood flow, benefiting the circulatory system as a whole. In turn, you will experience greater energy and vitality through the practice of yoga. Those are all great reasons to practice it often and consistently.

3 Stay Safe

The balance, flexibility, and greater control that yoga will afford you in your body will help you protect yourself from injury. In fact, this is one of the major reasons why older people get involved in yoga. Being well-balanced helps prevent falls while flexibility reduces the chance of injury if you do fall.

4 Fuel Your Day

Regular yoga practice can actually speed up your metabolism, meaning your body will more efficiently burn fat. A faster metabolism means your body will be able to process foods more effectively and, in turn, you will likely see weight loss as a result. Higher energy levels will also come along with yoga practice–and better endurance! Overall, yoga is great for your entire body.

Which Type of Yoga is Best for Weight Loss?
Yoga has a reputation of being relaxing. It’s an escape that can help you increase your flexibility as you re-center your mind, body, and soul. But, there are many different styles of yoga. While some will take you away to a rejuvenating paradise inside your mind, others can definitely help you work up a sweat and check “tough workout” off your to-do list.

The main types of “active” yoga styles are Ashtanga, Bikram, and Vinyasa. All three require more active moves and a quicker flow that will get your heart rate up and your blood pumping. So, if you have weight loss in mind, any three of these styles would be a perfect addition to your routine.

These styles will have you doing more difficult poses and moving more as you focus on both strength and cardio. Their mixture of strength and cardio can give you a complete workout, especially when paired with a relaxing yoga warmup and cool-down to get your muscles stretched out.

The differences between each of these yoga styles lies in their “flow” or the progression of movements throughout the routine. An Ashtanga session, for instance, will usually feature primary, secondary, and advanced series of postures. Meanwhile, a Vinyasa yoga session usually centers around one peak pose. Any of these styles can be a good introduction into the world of yoga, so long as you join a class that matches your skill level.

Since these yoga styles are more active, it will do you well to review the basics before you dive into a session. The transition between moves will need to be quick and smooth for you to get the most benefits, so knowing the moves of the class beforehand will really help. If you’re nervous or unsure, look them up online, practice ahead of time, and never fear asking the yoga instructor for help.

A beginner level class in any of these yoga styles will walk you through everything and keep the flow challenging but basic. You should be able to master it in a few weeks’ time and move on to a more advanced class for even more calorie burning potential!

How Long Does it Take to Get Good at Yoga?
For many people, yoga is something that is incorporated into the daily routine. But, even if you only plan to use yoga as part of a workout routine or as an activity done occasionally to relax, it is something that takes time to get good at. How long it takes will depend on a few factors, and what you define as “good” in your books.

1 How Active Are You?

Your current activity and flexibility levels will heavily influence how long it takes you to become “good” at yoga. If we’re basing skill level on the number of advanced poses a person is able to do correctly, then becoming an advanced yogi could take years of practice. But, people who are already relatively fit and flexible will have a major head start.

2 What Style Do You Want To Do?

Some styles of yoga are much more involved and precise than others. Hatha yoga, for instance, is very basic. It just focuses on the physical postures and puts less emphasize on the spiritual side of things. Iyengar yoga, on the other hand, is extremely precise. Instructors spend years learning in order to master the movements and help guide students through the proper flow of poses. Most people recovering from an injury will choose Iyengar yoga for this reason, and it will take a very long time to reach an “advanced” level in this style.

3 What Are Your Goals?

Every one has different benchmarks that they measure their progress by. For instance, if you would consider yourself to be successful after losing so much weight, then it could take months for you to get to your goal using yoga. On the other hand, if you will measure your progress in yoga based on your flexibility, it might take between 2-8 weeks to see the results. It all comes down to how you measure success.

All of these things considered, you can definitely sit down and get a good estimate of how long it will take you to advance in the world of yoga. In a few weeks of practice, you could definitely be edging out of a beginner level class and into something more intermediate if you put in the effort.

How Often Should a Beginner Do Yoga?
If you’re just getting started in the world of yoga, congratulations for joining a growing hobby. Many people do yoga consistently throughout their entire life and they are able to reap great benefits because of it. No matter how old you are, though, starting yoga at any time will improve extremely beneficial. As a beginner, of course, there are certain limitations you’ll need to contend with. Failing to acknowledge these limitations can actually cause you to get hurt, so take them seriously.

If you’re wondering how often you should do yoga as a beginner, that is among the most common questions beginners have when they start a yoga routine. And the answer is: it depends. If you are already an athletic and active individual, you could definitely get into yoga up to 7 days a week–if that fits your lifestyle and goals. Even a complete beginner could manage a daily session, but it will come down to your endurance, activity level, and the style of yoga you choose to follow.

In reality, there are many different styles of yoga that you can get involved in. They range from very easy and relaxed to fat-burning cardio. Chances are, you will end up trying out a variety of different styles. This will help you explore what’s out there and find which styles you like best. And, by using many different styles, you can make the most of your yoga practice. For instance, you might choose to do a more relaxing style like restorative yoga. If you want to get your heart rate up, Bikram or Vinyasa could prove to be the right fit. You’ll probably mix things up often depending on your goals and routine for the day.

So, if you’re trying to decide how often you should get into yoga practice, the answer will really be up to you. Are you trying to lose weight? If so, think about your endurance and activity level. Commit to between 1 and 6 sessions per week to make the most of the fat-burning potential. On the other hand, if you’re just wanting to use yoga as a way to reset your mind and body, you might want a nightly session or just one long session on the weekend.

There is no wrong answer. Listen to your body and be careful not to over do it.

Improving Mental Acuity through Yoga:
When trying to improve our fitness level, most of us think only physically. But increasing your mental acuity is just as important because as you know, what the mind wants, the body does.

Boosting brain function starts with increasing blood flow to the brain, which in turn increases the amount of oxygen it receives. Admittedly, some yoga positions are better at doing this than others. Here are some of the top Super Brain Yoga (yes this is a type of yoga now recognized in the medical professional and educator world) moves that not only increases blood flow to the brain, but good for your brain in general:

• Plow – Helps improve blood flow to the brain and calm the nervous system; stretches the back and neck, reducing stress and fatigue.
• Seated Forward Bend – Stretches the spine and helps relieve stress; relaxes the mind by removing negative emotions like irritability and anger.
• Big Toe – An inversion move that calms the brain, by increasing blood flow; helps reduce and prevent headaches.
• Shoulder stand – Another inversion move that nourishes the brain as more blood reaches the pineal and hypothalamus glands; helps improve all cognitive functions.
• Bridge – A type of inversion move that strengthens and stretches the neck and spine therefore improving blood circulation to the brain; helps calm the brain and the nervous system, thereby reducing anxiety, stress, and depression.
• Humming Bee Breathing – Releases negative emotions, improves concentration and memory, and builds confidence through controlled deep breathing.
• Lotus – The classic yoga move that calms the mind with deep meditation; strengthens the spine and upper back, thus helping to reduce tension.
• Channel Cleaning Breath- Another type of breathing technique that lowers heart rate and reduces stress and anxiety; synchronizes the two hemispheres of the brain.

Some of these work due to the fact they reduce tension which can restrict the operation of the brain (think tension headaches). Others work because they force you to diaphragm breath – a deep breathing method. More air drawn in means more oxygen available for absorption into the bloodstream. Some moves work by creating more mental calmness.

Is Yoga Good for Flexibility?
If you’re trying to get more flexible, you’re not alone. There are many reasons why people want to improve their flexibility. One of the most common is mobility. With greater flexibility, you will find it much easier to simply get around in day to day life. Whether your hobbies involve strength, cardio, or some form of running, jumping, or climbing, flexibility is definitely something you will benefit from improving. As people age, flexibility also becomes a critical factor in protecting against injury. But, flexibility can actually help everyone, at every age, protect themselves from muscle strains and tears. It can even help prevent broken bones!

So, whatever your reasons are for wanting to get more flexible, there are a few different ways you can go about accomplishing your goal. Yoga is definitely one of them that deserves to be near the top of the list. In fact, one of the primary benefits of yoga is increasing your balance and flexibility at the same time. Pair this with its other benefits, like increased muscle tone and even fat burn, and you will surely love the addition of yoga to your daily routine.

Like anything, consistency is key. You might not see results from just one yoga session, but taking the time to slowly stretch your body out with a 30-60 minute yoga session each day will definitely have you noticing a change in just a few days time. In a matter of weeks, you could be doing the splits, depending on where you started from and which muscle groups your stretches focus on.

One of the most important aspects of any sort of physical routine is making sure that you give your body the chance to properly warm up first. A warm-up, which will mostly just consist of more stretches and possibly some light cardio, will get the blood flowing and ensure you can sink into a stretch gradually. This will help you stop yourself from getting hurt or straining a muscle, which will only contradict your goals.

The other thing is to cool down properly. After a good yoga session, make sure you allow yourself to calm down, relax, and stretch everything out thoroughly before you get back to your daily routine. This, too, will boost your recovery and help you avoid injury on your path to increased flexibility.

Is Yoga a Form of Strength Training?
Yoga has many benefits, with improved muscle tone and strength being one of them. But, does that mean yoga classifies as strength training? This a really good question, but the answer isn’t as straightforward as many hope.

In reality, it all comes down to the style of yoga you are doing. Yoga poses can definitely help you build strength and, therefore, yoga could be considered a form of strength training. But, the intensity with which you approach a yoga session and the type of yoga you participate in could mean that it could also classify as cardio or almost meditation. It’s up to you to set the tone by establishing a flow that matches your goals.

If you want to build strength, yoga is a fantastic way to do it. If you choose the right poses, you will get to reap many benefits at once. Aside from toning up your body, you can also burn fat, boost the speed your metabolism, and improve your respiratory system through proper breathing practices. Improved blood flow, balance, and flexibility also come along with proper yoga practice.

The muscle tone potential of yoga depends specifically on the type of poses you’re doing and how long you hold them for. If, for instance, you hold even a basic pose like downward facing dog for over a minute, you will begin to feel the burn in your arms and the rest of your body. Meanwhile, you will be stretching out the back of your thighs and calves while helping to relieve tension throughout your back.

As you can see, just this one simple pose has a lot of benefits. If you assemble a yoga routine composed of poses specifically designed to help you build strength, you will have a killer workout in no time at all. And, that’s part of the beauty of yoga. A hatha yoga routine will focus on putting together different poses in order to achieve a good workout. That makes it a good place to start.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for something more focused on fat burning as well as strength, you should opt for Ashtanga, Bikram, or Vinyasa yoga. All three of these styles are coveted for their calorie burning potential.

Is Yoga Good for Lower Back Pain?
Yoga is a great way to stretch out your body and increase your flexibility. It has many benefits, ranging from improving your muscle strength and tone to even helping you burn fat. Many turn to yoga when they want to improve their balance as well. It has benefits for every person of every age and background. No matter your athletic ability or lifestyle, you can definitely find perks in the world of yoga. But, can yoga help with lower back pain?

Among the many benefits of yoga, lower back pain is one of the primary reasons why people pick it up. With lower back pain being such a common issue around the world due to sedentary lifestyles and general poor posture, yoga has become a go-to solution. In fact, certain yoga poses can not only help stretch out the lower back for relief but also help strengthen the entire abdomen and core to help promote better posture in every aspect of your life.

These things mean that yoga won’t just help you relieve yourself of any lower back pain you are experiencing, but it can also help prevent it in the future. Plus, a strong abdomen and the good posture that comes with it will also make a positive impact on many other areas of your life. So, how do you use yoga to improve lower back pain?

The first step is identifying what poses would best benefit your lower back. The extended child’s pose is definitely one of the best, following by the one-legged king pigeon, the cow pose, and the upward facing dog. The downward facing dog and the seated forward bend are also simple moves that can help you find relief from your lower back pain.

These poses will all stretch out your back, helping relieve tension. With repeat and consistent usage, you will be able to feel the progress as your muscles grow more relaxed. Increased flexibility throughout your legs, back, shoulders, and arms will definitely help you in avoiding back pain in the future. Pair these poses with ones that will boost your core strength and you will begin to notice major difference in how you hold your body and, therefore, how your body feels.

How to Improve Your Fitness Level Though Yoga:
Fitness is measured using certain “markers”. Some of those markers and associated moves used to test for that marker are:

• Joint Range of Motion (flexibility) – Sit and reach
• Muscular strength and endurance – Push-ups and sit-ups
• Balance – Both static and dynamic
• Aerobic capacity – Measuring both the heart rate at rest and target heart rate when working out
• Body composition – Measuring waist circumference and calculating Body Mass Index (BMI)

Why these 5 fitness markers?
A commonly asked question, below is why improving your fitness in these five areas is beneficial.

Joint range of motion – As we age our activity level usually decreases and over time, we lose muscle mass which in turn makes our joints less flexible. Though yoga, we can keep the muscles flexible and maybe even add back in some of the lost muscle mass. Improving flexibility not only gives us more range of motion in our joints, but it decreases joint pain.

Muscular strength and endurance – Another factor of aging is a loss of strength for the same reasons as a loss of flexibility. However, through yoga, we cannot only tone muscles, but also build some. The additional muscle strength (and even the toning of existing muscle) makes everyday tasks like laundry, grocery shopping and cleaning house much easier.

Balance – one of the primary reasons for falling (especially as you get older) is losing your balance. Yoga improves balance and can prevent an injury from falling.

Aerobic Capacity – this is another one of these things you can use when going about your daily routine. Yoga increases the lung capacity as it teaches you how to breath properly. Increased lung capacity not only makes it easier to do your everyday tasks but also improves every part of your body by getting more oxygen in the lungs and into the bloodstream and taking more carbon dioxide and other wastes out of the body.

Body composition – It is just a fact that it takes more energy to carry around weight and the more you weigh over what you should, the harder it becomes to move. The less you move, the more weight you gain. So doing yoga helps takeoff weight by burning calories and if mixed with a healthy eating plan and lifestyle, your BMI will drop into a healthier range closer to normal or even normal (18.5 to 24.9).

Most people will see some type of improvement in these markers after eight weeks if they do at least 3 hour-long Hatha yoga classes per week. Add in other forms of cardio and strength training, along with a healthy diet, and you will see results sooner; after eight weeks they will be greater.

You can either set up your own fitness test to see where you are at with each marker, use the test on the Mayo Clinic Website or employ the assistance of a personal trainer. Then after eight weeks, run through the test again and see how your numbers improved.