Many people make the mistake of thinking that yoga is only for the very fit. Unfortunately, all those pictures of lithe double-jointed girls in advanced yoga positions suggest you have to be a contortionist to take it up in the first place, but nothing could be further from the truth. Yoga is the oldest form of keeping fit in the world and its present day appeal is undoubtedly because anyone can take it up at any time in their lives and experience tremendous health benefits.
Yoga is unique in that it not only strengthens all parts of the body, including the internal glands and organs, helping them to function more smoothly but at the same time, it encourages deep mental relaxation and improved circulation., through an emphasis on special breathing techniques. Yoga literally means ‘union’ therefore the entire body gets stronger through practice, not just one isolated part of it. What’s more, each person creates their own level of fitness so you can benefit from yoga whether you are 17 or 70, fit or unfit, used to exercise or totally inactive.
Those parts of the body that yoga strengthens dramatically are the back, core, and lungs – simply because the majority of people are not very fit. Whether you decide to take up yoga for fitness and relaxation or as long, exploratory training, which teaches the exercises, as well as the philosophy of yoga more fully, including diet and lifestyle, yoga practice must be regular to be effective. Yoga is not something you can take up now and again when you feeling a bit sluggish. Learning physical control and stretching your body to its fullest extent means setting aside time to practice – preferably with an experienced yoga teacher.
Whether you practice yoga for 15 minutes a day or for an hour or more, you’ll find that breathing is an essential first step to ‘tuning in’ the body and mind to the rhythm and control of yoga.
Practiced independently of any physical exercise, yoga breathing in itself can help tremendously in helping you to breathe deeply and correctly. This helps to calm frayed nerves and clear a fuzzy head making you feel bright-eyed and more energetic. It also increases the absorption of oxygen into the blood and therefore to the rest of the tissues and helps you to generally become more aware of your body. Try and practice yoga breathing lying down to begin with; when you have mastered the different techniques, try them sitting, standing or even while out walking.