Sunday, September 30, 2012

What Is Yoga? Classes, Studios And Styles For Beginners

What is yoga and how do you get started with it? How do you choose from so many styles, studios, classes and levels out there now. If you are new to yoga and wanting to learn the basic of the poses then consider taking a class for beginners. There are many styles to choose from depending if you want a vigorous, moderate, gentle, meditative or therapeutic style and if you want how to yoga poses.

If yoga for weight loss is your goal, then the vigorous styles such as vinyasa, power, flow hot, or Bikram are your best choices. These will be very physically demanding and the instructor often just call out the names of poses without explaining how to get into them properly.

The instructors also don't offer modifications if you have past injuries, surgeries of physical conditions that will limit your practice or range of motion such as arthritis or a herniated disc. Hot yoga such as Bikram is not for the faint of heart and will add another level of difficulty to a demanding practice. Because of the challenging nature of these styles of yoga, they are not ideal choices if you are unfamiliar with yoga unless you are an athlete and in prime physical condition already. Most injuries come from these kinds of styles of yoga due to their aggressive nature and lack of modifications.

The more moderate styles such as hatha yoga can range from challenging to accessible depending on your athletic ability and range of flexibility. Hatha yoga is usually the standard taught at most yoga studios in the US. You will find many of the classical poses here such as warrior, down-dog, cobra, plank and chair pose. There is not a lot of variation in these classes and if you are looking for a challenging practice without it being overwhelming then it might be an appropriate choice for some beginners. There is not a lot of modifications in these classes so if you have injuries or limiting physical conditions such as knee or wrist problems then it is not an ideal choice.

If you have injuries or limitations but still want a challenging practice then an Iyengar class is ideal. Iyengar teachers have the most rigorous standards for their teacher training in terms of their knowledge of biomechanics and anatomy. They have superior knowledge with working with students with a range of conditions such back pain or tendinitis. If you are new to yoga, make sure to go to a level one class.

If you want a gentle, more meditative style or are suffering from anxiety, insomnia, cancer or depression, restorative yoga is an ideal choice. This will not be a workout the way some of the other styles of yoga are but you will be passive in many of the poses with a lot of props such as bolsters and blocks which will help the body to release deeply embedded patterns of tension and tightness. You won't have to worry about injuries since it is not physically demanding like the other styles of yoga.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Yoga Poses And Massage Therapy

In massage therapy school, one of the things we are taught is how to give our clients the appropriate home care. Stretches to be done after the treatment that will help decrease the tension in painful or tight muscles. We spent two years learning stretches for almost every large muscle group in the body and most of these stretches I have given to my clients at one point in time or another. Until I was introduced to yoga. Not only do most yoga poses provide an excellent stretch but also can increase relaxation and a sense of wellbeing as well. After nine years of practising massage therapy, I only give out yoga poses as home care. Here are some of the yoga pose I personally find most effective.

Child's Pose

This pose is perfect for relaxation as well as stretching out the hips and back. Sitting on your knees, fold your body forward until your forehead touches the ground. The arms can be stretched out in front of you or by your sides, whatever is most comfortable for you. Take deep breaths and try to clear you mind of all the worries of the day. Feel the hips and back opening as you breathe.

Cat Pose

The back is one of the hardest areas to stretch and the cat pose is what I give to clients that are experiencing back pain. This pose can help with flexibility of the spine, all of the little muscles in between each vertebrae and stretches the abs well. Kneeling on all fours with hands and knees shoulder/ hip width apart bring your head and bum up and arch your back.

Cow Pose

The cow pose is the opposite of cat pose and can both be used as a combination stretch. You are in the same position as the cat pose, on all fours but instead of bringing the head and bum up, you will be curling them under. This also helps with flexibility of the spine and is a great stretch for the muscles of the back.

Half Moon Pose

Half moon pose is a wonderful pose for opening up the ribs and stretching the sides of the body. Stand with your feet close together with your arms shoulder width apart towards the sky. Bend first to one side, holding the pose for 30 seconds or more, move back to centre and then bend to the other side. Try and make sure your hips stay centred as much as possible.

Cobbler's Pose

This stretch is particularly good for athletes with groin injuries, because the focus is on the muscles that line the inner thighs. Sit on the ground almost as if you are in a crossed leg position but with the soles of your feet touching. Hold onto your heels with your hands as you slowly lower yourself in a forward bend. This stretch can be quite intense so only go as far as you feel comfortable without pain.

If you are having problems visualizing these yoga poses, please click on the link. To get the best results from any stretch that you do, try to heat the muscles before hand. Either with a hot shower, a soak in the tub or a heating pad. A muscle that is heated is more pliable and will stretch better. Also try to stretch several times a day and for 30 seconds or longer if you can. If there is pain, stop the stretch immediately. Never push yourself to the point of possible injury. If you are interested in more yoga stretches, check out your local yoga studio, and sign up for classes!