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Feel the Stretch with Yoga

Feel the Stretch with Yoga



What is yoga?
Is yoga hard to do?
What are the benefits of yoga?
Are there any risks to doing yoga?
Can I add yoga to my usual fitness routine?
What are some easy yoga poses to try?


Some girls start practicing yoga to relax or because they want to be more flexible. Others learn yoga to improve their ability to concentrate or focus their attention. Maybe you have heard people chanting or have seen a picture of Madonna with her leg tucked behind her head and thought, "Now that's cool." Whatever triggered your curiosity, you may find that practicing yoga helps you unwind and recharge your batteries at the same time. back to top

What is yoga?
Yoga is a blend of strength, flexibility, breathing, and awareness exercises that can help keep you fit and calm. It's about finding balance inside yourself. The physical practice of yoga consists of gradual, slow movements called poses (or asanas) and focused breathing (or prana). The object of yoga is to listen to your body and develop the mind–body–spirit connection. back to top

Is yoga hard to do?
Yoga can be a very demanding, but rewarding, addition to your fitness routine. And you don't have to be able to twist yourself into a pretzel to do it. There are movements you can do right now that will help prepare your body for more challenging yoga poses. Also there are many different kinds of yoga. Some are more strenuous than others. If you're a beginner, start with a hatha yoga class or video so that you can learn the basic poses. Then you may want to explore different hatha yoga forms like Iyengar, where you hold the pose and focus on your alignment, breathing, and balance; Bikram, which is a specific series of poses practiced in a very hot room; and Astanga, an athletic form of yoga where you flow from pose to pose, linking the movement with your breath. Shop around until you find the form that works for you. back to top

What are the benefits of yoga?
Yoga is a great way to improve your flexibility and strength. If you practice yoga at least three days a week, you may find that your posture improves and you have better coordination and balance. Yoga also improves your circulation, so your muscles become less tired. And yoga can relieve stress and help you concentrate better. You may find yourself feeling more confident and calm as well. back to top

Are there any risks to doing yoga?
If you do the poses incorrectly or push your body too hard when holding some yoga poses, you can strain your muscles, tendons, or ligaments. Some of the movements can put extra pressure on your neck, lower back, and knees. When it comes to yoga, if it hurts, you're doing something wrong. Taking a class with a yoga teacher or following a yoga manual for beginners can help you practice yoga safely. Don't bounce while you hold a pose or stretch. And never hold your breath! If you think you've suffered an injury while doing yoga, see your health professional. back to top

Can I add yoga to my usual fitness routine?
Whether you run, play tennis, dance hip-hop, or surf, yoga can help you. If you're an athlete, practicing yoga can help you reduce your risk of injuries. Yoga poses make great warm-up and cool-down moves before and after you do your usual activity. And yoga can help you strengthen some of those hard-to-work muscle groups like your lower back and abdominals. back to top

What are some easy yoga poses to try?
If you're interested in trying yoga, here is a pair of poses that can get you started.

Cow Pose
  • Take off your shoes and place a towel or matt on the floor. Yogis use something called a yoga sticky matt to keep them from slipping.
  • Get down on your hands and knees. Your hands should be in line with your shoulders and your knees about hip width apart. Press your palms flat against the floor and spread your fingers out evenly, with your middle fingers pointing straight ahead.
  • Imagine that there is a pole running from your chin to your sternum to your pubic bone, and tighten your abdominal muscles.
  • Inhale through your nose and slowly tilt your head back and look up at the ceiling. Think of lengthening or extending your neck, not pushing your head back toward your shoulders.
  • At the same time, press your shoulders down and away from your ears and lower your waist. Push your hips up so your back has a scoop in it.
Cat Pose
  • From Cow Pose, exhale through your nose as you lower your head and tuck your chin toward your collar bone. At the same time, arch your back like a cat. Pull in your abdominal muscles and lift your middle back toward the ceiling.
Go back and forth between the Cow and Cat poses. Remember to breathe evenly and comfortably. Your movements should be slow and smooth. Repeat these two poses several times. Then stretch out on your back in corpse or relaxation pose and breathe deeply. back to top
Last Modified Date: 3/22/2001
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