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Yoga: The Road to Relaxation

The Road to Relaxation

What is yoga?
How can yoga help me feel less stressed?
What kind of yoga is best to get rid of stress?
Do I have to be flexible to try yoga?
How often should I practice yoga?

Let's face it. Daily stress can wear you down. Whether it's studying for a math test, helping a friend who's in trouble, or keeping up with weekly chores at home, life is not always easy. It can drain your energy and make you feel physically and emotionally exhausted. To help get through the tough days and enjoy the easy days more, millions of Americans, including celebrities like Madonna, have taken up yoga. back to top

What is yoga?
Yoga got its name from the word yug, which means union. It's a union of your body, mind, and spirit that helps you bring balance to your whole self physically, mentally, and spiritually. Yoga is perhaps the oldest physical exercise routine, stretching back to 3000 BC. When practiced regularly, yoga lets you step away from who you are on a day-to-day basis and helps you recognize and pay attention to the whole person inside.

Combining breathing, meditation, and physical poses, yoga helps release physical tension in your muscles and joints while releasing emotions that may be bottled up inside you. It does this by using movement, breath, posture, relaxation, and meditation to create a healthier, happier approach to living. back to top

How can yoga help me feel less stressed?
Yoga has both mental and physical benefits. It combines controlled breathing, physical poses, and meditation in ways that help improve your overall health. Controlled breathing helps boost your brain power, improve your metabolism and digestion, calm your nerves, and make you feel sharper and better able to concentrate. Meditation relaxes you, reduces headaches, lowers your blood pressure, and helps you feel less anxious. Physical postures strengthen and tone your muscles, improve flexibility and circulation, and improve coordination. Together, breathing, meditation, and poses can help improve your overall health.

You may find yoga particularly helpful if you have a problem with certain conditions that get worse when you're feeling stressed. These can include acne, constipation, headaches, period cramps, and PMS (premenstrual syndrome). back to top

What kind of yoga is best to get rid of stress?
Think about what it feels like to be stressed out: Your heart races, your breathing gets fast and shallow, and your muscles tighten up. There are many styles of yoga, and all of them can help make these stress symptoms go away.

The style of yoga most people practice in the United States is hatha yoga, which focuses on physical well-being. With a serious focus on breathing, hatha yoga postures—such as downward dog, cobra, child's pose, and corpse—work to balance different energy flows within your body. Hatha yoga is especially good for beginners, and because it focuses on breathing deeply and relaxing the muscles, it can help loosen those stress knots.

There are many other forms of yoga too, with names like Iyengar, Kripalu, Raja, and Kundalini. All of them can help you beat stress. back to top

Do I have to be flexible to try yoga?
Despite what many people think, yoga does not mean tying yourself up like a pretzel. Yoga generates motion without causing strain to your body. While not very aerobic, it involves almost every muscle in your body and challenges them to work in a different way. In some cases, yoga uses muscles you may not have known you had. You may find that your muscles ache, especially after your first few classes. This is normal, and discomfort will go away as you continue to practice. If you suffer from any medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or neck injury, talk with your health care provider before beginning a regular yoga routine. back to top

How often should I practice yoga?
Yoga has more benefits when it is practiced regularly. Whether you practice yoga every morning, do some brief yoga poses at your desk during the day, or join a weekly yoga class, you will notice benefits if you stick to some form of regular yoga routine. Many people find it easier to stick to a routine when they do yoga with a friend. Having someone else to practice with can help you make time for yoga when you feel you're too busy or too tired. And once you take time for yoga, you may find that it gives you the concentration and energy you need to get through even the toughest of days.

If you are new to yoga, it's great to get started with a class. That way, you'll learn how to do the poses correctly, and the instructor can help you along. Many community centers, adult education centers, and hospitals offer inexpensive yoga classes. back to top

Last Modified Date: 3/30/2001
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