Friday, November 14, 2008

Dispelling yoga myths : 'Yoga isn’t a real workout'

know this was a long held belief of mine. I would contemplate heading to a yoga class, but would trade it in favor of a big time sweat session on the elliptical or a long run, because I wanted a bigger, badder workout. More sweat and heart pounding. Then I took my first class at Baptiste Yoga in Cambridge and understood what it meant to really sweat. Gallons of sweat and plenty of thumping heartbeats. Yet it took me a long time to mentally make the trade-off between my typical gym routine, running, or spinning for yoga.

The thing is, you don’t have to make any trade-offs. Yoga can be part of your regular fitness regime and actually, it can increase your endurance, performance and overall enjoyment of the other things you do. Yoga helps open your body up, strengthens your core and perhaps, most importantly, teaches you how to breathe, really breathe. When I trained for my last marathon, I was shocked at how much a few days of yoga helped me to breathe up those nasty hills and manage the typical runner pains (tight hamstrings, IT bands, hip flexors). You don’t need to do yoga five days a week to reap the rewards. A couple days a week mixed in with your regular routine will still yield noticeable results, physically and mentally.

That said, it is important to note that not all yoga styles are the same. Some certainly are more athletic and physical (Vinyasa, Power Yoga, Ashtanga, Bikram), while others are more meditative and relaxation based (Hatha, Ananda). So, if you are looking for a really good workout – meaning you want to sweat a lot – choose something from the former category. “Hot” yoga classes such as Baptiste Power Yoga and Bikram are guaranteed sweat inducers but I’ve taken some ostensibly less intense classes that have worked me over just the same.

And if you have any question as to whether yoga is a legit “workout”, just take a peek at some of the regulars next time you’re in a class. You’ll know them by their toned limbs and amazing ability to hoist themselves into a handstand or arm balance simply by the will to float (read: very, very strong core muscles). Or, just check out Madonna’s arms.

The key thing to remember here is that the physical side of yoga is just one aspect of the practice. Yes, if you practice regularly you will very likely notice your body becoming more supple, strong, flexible and toned. But, I will argue that over time you will begin to notice and appreciate the less tangible (and arguably more important) mental benefits the practice yields: space, patience, a bit of stillness in our otherwise crazy, mixed-up days. As one of my instructors says, “Yoga allows me to function better in my life.” Who couldn’t use a little bit of that?

Source: By Laura G

Yoga and Pregnancy Benefits

Yoga is claimed to be a good exercise for everyone. Yoga is also a good exercise for pregnant women and provides them with many benefits. So whether you are pregnant or know someone who is, read on to learn the many positive benefits of yoga for pregnant women.

Yoga is a wonderful exercise for pregnant women and can be safely performed throughout the entire pregnancy. Some poses may need to be modified during pregnancy and poses where the woman is lying on her back or stomach should be avoided. The pregnant woman should also avoid any position or pose that does not feel right to her.

Yoga provides many benefits to pregnant women. Among those benefits of yoga are increased flexibility, more energy and stress relief. Yoga also helps the woman prepare for childbirth. This is done by the regular use and stretching of the muscles that are used in childbirth. In addition, the relaxation and breathing skills learned in yoga will help a woman throughout the labor and delivery of her child and may also lessen some of the woman’s pains and anxieties.

As previously mentioned, yoga can play an important part in a woman having a relaxed, comfortable pregnancy and childbirth experience. However, the benefits of yoga do not end there. Yoga can also help the woman to get back into shape after pregnancy and will help to ease the transition into more physical exercise. And the benefits of yoga do not only encompass the pregnant woman; yoga can assist in the mental and physical development of the growing fetus.

Yoga exercises are not the only elements to focus on when performing a yoga routine. A complete, rounded yoga routine for a pregnant woman should include not only the yoga exercises, but also proper breathing techniques, meditation, deep relaxation techniques and mudras, which are yogic gestures. All of these elements of yoga will provide the pregnant woman with many benefits to aid in childbirth.

For the benefit of the pregnant woman, yoga exercises stretch the pelvis and reproductive organs to ensure a smooth pregnancy and childbirth experience. For the benefit of the fetus, yoga exercises provide the best possible blood and nutrient supply. The proper breathing techniques, or pranayama, will aid in the pregnant woman’s overall fitness during pregnancy and will supply a rich amount of oxygen for the pregnant woman and fetus.

The benefits of yogic meditation to a pregnant woman are almost self-explanatory. It helps to calm and soothe the pregnant woman, dissolving away any fears and conflicts, whether pregnancy-related or not. It is also claimed to provide the pregnant woman with an unbelievable sense of awareness that helps her connect with her unborn child.

The benefits of deep relaxation techniques are also pretty much easy to understand. Deep relaxation, or yogic sleep, relaxes the pregnant woman both mentally and physically. It also better prepares her for the childbirth experience. The last element of a yoga routine, mudras and bandhas, is yogic gestures. These gestures are believed to have influential effects on the pregnant woman’s reproductive organs, as well as any pains and ailments.

By combining all of the above elements of yoga, a pregnant woman can achieve and reap the benefits of a successful yoga routine. There are many books and websites available that provide acceptable yoga poses and positions for pregnant women. But as is the case with any other exercise, a pregnant woman should consult with her doctor before undertaking a yoga routine.


The Benefit of Yoga

The benefit of yoga practice goes far beyond the actual time you spend in the poses. One of the most common reasons why people begin practicing yoga is to improve their health and well-being. Yoga means union. It is a union of the mind, body and breath, so all aspects of your life are impacted by your practice.

A major benefit of yoga is physical.

Yoga improves your flexibility. – The stretching that you engage in during every practice helps lengthen and stretch muscles, which helps reduce the risk of injuries.

It helps to improve your balance. – The majority of yoga practices include some type of balancing in the poses. A significant number of people, especially as they began to get older, start to have problems with balance, which can lead to major injuries due to falls. By having a greater sense of balance, you are able to move more easily and safely.

Yoga can help reduce pain. - Tense muscles often contribute to pain. Relaxing muscles helps to minimize muscle tension and the pain that is associated with it. Also, breathing deeply into muscles helps lessen pain by altering your perception of it.

It tones your muscles. – Yoga works all the muscles in your body. It helps strengthen and tone them and also builds endurance and stamina.

It helps to increase your level of energy. – Carrying tension in your body takes an enormous toll on your energy reserves. By learning how to relax through your yoga practice, you benefit by enjoying higher levels of energy so you can more thoroughly enjoy your daily activities.

Yoga helps promote a sense of relaxation. – Most people breathe high in their chests. This not only does not allow them to get sufficient oxygen, it also triggers the stress response, which contributes to feelings of anxiety. Breathing deeply as practiced in yoga, helps relax your muscles and also brings much needed oxygen to your cells. The deep sense of relaxation also leads to better quality sleep.

Each yoga practice ends with some type of relaxation. Since your body and mind are one, by relaxing your body you also relax your mind. Many yoga experts believe that a relaxation pose is the most beneficial pose in any yoga practice.

Another benefit of yoga is mental.

Yoga clears your mind and helps you focus your attention. – During your practice, you are focusing your attention on your breath and turning inward. This concentration allows you to withdraw from the distractions in your environment. A significant benefit of yoga practice is that you can take this ability to focus your attention into every aspect of your life. You can be fully present with whatever you are doing instead of worrying about tomorrow or regretting yesterday. Not only will your actions be more productive, you can also enjoy them in a greater way.

Yoga helps reduces stress. - Deep breathing helps reduce the hormones that are released when you are feeling overwhelmed, overloaded, and frazzled. The internal focus that accompanies the poses helps create a relaxation response in your body.

Yoga can help release stuck emotions. – Often stuck emotions find their way into our bodies. Remember, your mind and body are one, and if you are suppressing any painful emotions, you will often experience that as pain in some part of your body. A benefit of yoga is that by breathing deeply into places in your body that hold tension, you can help release the emotions that may be buried there. You can then examine these emotions and let go of those that do not serve you.

Also, as you take your body past the limits of where it has been, you start to feel that you can move past other limitations in your life as well.

You gain a sense of peace and tranquility. - Most yoga practices include some time for meditation. Regular meditation helps your mind reach a state of inner calm. It helps you gain control over your thinking instead of being at the mercy of wayward thoughts.
As you can see, the benefit of yoga has far reaching effects in every area of your life. Maintain a regular yoga practice, and you will see for yourself, how yoga can benefit you too.


The Purpose Of Yoga

Yoga, or its ancestor, first appeared somewhere around 5,000 years ago. Since then, it has gradually evolved into the modern form. However, its “modern form” is neither completely modern, nor is it the only form of yoga. In the western world, when we speak of “yoga” we are commonly referring to Hatha Yoga, a branch of yoga introduced by Yogi Swatmarama in the 15th century. To keep it simple, Yogi Swatmarama saw Hatha Yoga, not as an end in itself, but as part of a pathway to a higher state on the yoga journey. Hatha Yoga concentrates more on the physical training, conditioning, and “preparation” aspects of yoga. So, as we talk about the purposes of “yoga”, please keep in mind that we are talking only about one portion of the entire range of disciplines encompassed by the word.

We sometimes hear of someone who learned to become more relaxed by the practice of yoga. Or, maybe we have heard of someone who became more invigorated and energetic as a result of their practice. Perhaps someone else was able to play a competitive sport better than before they began practicing yoga, or perhaps they were able to lay aside the competitive aspect of their nature that had been driving them into bad health and broken relationships. We may have even heard all of these types of stories. I have! This, and all the claims made about the practice of yoga, creates a very confusing picture even in the minds of those willing to believe what they hear. For those who have doubts already, the multitude of claims can sound like those of an old-timey snake oil salesman.

Actually, research conducted by many prestigious organizations and institutions has confirmed that a regular practice of yoga can actually produce all of these effects and more. While some uncertainty exists in some areas as to exactly WHY yoga is so effective in relation to a given situation, condition, or result, the common ground seems to be that it works.

While yoga can return the same physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits as any other physical training or exercise program, it also produces a blend of positive results that allow the individual organism to integrate the effects and actions of several different systems to produce a whole overall outcome which seems to be greater than the sum of its parts. For example, the increased ability to relax may help the ability to perform, the strengthening of the physical body helps the emotional output to be brought under control. All specific benefits of yoga, when practiced regularly, work together for the overall benefit of the person.

It appears that this synergistic outcome combines the more specific benefits associated with any regular exercise program, with meditation, with deep breathing, with the “exercise” or “massage” of internal organs normally ignored by standard physical activities to produce the confusing array of “positive” outcomes mentioned at the beginning of this article.

Whatever the other positive outcomes of a regular yoga practice may be, its effect on physical and mental health in general should not be ignored. Yoga has been found to have a positive effect on such conditions as asthma, respiratory difficulties, high blood pressure, pain management, back pain, arthritis, and weight loss. Psychologically, it tends to increase self awareness, create a positive self-image, and uplift the spirits of the participant. Many who come to yoga for the first time find themselves with a “new lease on life” as one practitioner put it to me and find themselves trying new experiences, finding new friends, and taking control of a life which had, up until then, been in control of them.

Apparently, yoga has the potential of being effective in many aspects of life and health, and can, in most cases at least, mold itself to your needs. It might be said that the purpose of yoga is to serve in whatever capacity it is needed.

Donovan Baldwin is a Texas writer and a University of West Florida alumnus. He is a member of Mensa and is retired from the U. S. Army after 21 years of service. In his career, he has held many managerial and supervisory positions. However, his main pleasures have long been writing, nature, and fitness. In the last few years, he has been able to combine these pleasures by writing poetry and articles on subjects such as health, fitness, yoga, writing, the environment, happiness, self improvement, and weight loss. Learn more about yoga at You can also find articles on yoga and other health related subjects at .


Kriya Yoga - A Golden Opportunity To Reach Higher States Of Consciousness

The Kriya Yoga technique highlights the relationship between breath and mind. Breath influences mind and vice-versa. Their mutual relationship has revealed the mystery of how to control the mind. Breath control is self-control. Breath mastery is self-mastery. Kriya Yoga is a golden opportunity to reach higher states of consciousness and change your life, gaining all-round development of body, mind and soul. It is a quick and easy path. Kriya Yoga techniques are passed down from guru to disciple, master to aspirant, teacher to student.

There is no written record of when the ancient tradition of Kriya Yoga began. It is a spiritual technique which has been practised by saints, seers and sages from time immemorial. The rishis (seers) of the Upanishads, Shri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, Maharshi Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras, and many other masters of yoga, practised and taught this scientific method through the ages. Kriya Yoga is not a religion; it is a powerful tool to be used by those of all religions inorder to hasten their own spiritual development. Adi Shankara, in the Viveka Chudamani, wrote that three things are very rare in the world: to get a human birth, to have desire for liberation, and have the company of a great soul and realized master.

In modern times, an elusive and mysterious master, Mahavatar Babaji, in 1861 brought the Kriya technique to the public through his able disciple, Shri Shyamacharan Lahiri, a pious householder. Lahiri Mahasaya, as he was popularly known, had many realized disciples. Foremost among them were Swami Shriyukteshwar, who was well-versed in the scriptures of both the East and West,and who attained the highest stage of realization, and Shrimat Bhupendranath Sanyal Mahasaya, a householder yogi most noted for his metaphorical interpretation of the Bhagavad Gita, in the light of Kriya Yoga. Among the many disciples of Shriyukteshwar were Paramahamsa Yogananda, author of the Autobiography of a Yogi, and Swami Satyananda Giri, who until 1971 was thepresident of Karar Ashram founded by Shriyukteshwar in 1903. Paramahamsa Hariharananda, who became the head of the Kriya Yoga Institute, USA, as well as the international organizations, was also a direct disciple of Swami Shriyukteshwar. Both Paramahamsa Yogananda and Paramahamsa Hariharananda were not only self-realized, but became instrumental in spreading the teachings of Kriya Yoga around the world.


Kicking Old Habits With Kundalini Yoga

I like to think I’m immune to celebrity endorsement. But then, a few years ago, I heard about a yoga teacher who counts Cindy Crawford, David Duchovny, Courtney Love and Annette Bening among her clientele. And she was coming to Vancouver. Quick as a paparazzo snapping a shot, I signed up.

Gurmukh Kaur Kahlsa teaches one of my favorite styles of yoga: Kundalini, a fast-paced, dynamic style of yoga that strengthens the nervous system (and, if my aching muscles were any indication after my first session—your entire body). Classes with my Kundalini teacher had not only helped me get in shape, they’d enabled me to tap into an inner strength I never knew I had.

About Kundalini
Kundalini is a fun, dynamic, fast-paced form of yoga, designed to balance and energize your body. The bliss-boosting benefits include weight control; stress, anxiety and insomnia relief; lymphatic cleansing; and developing will power. Each class includes a mind-calming mantra, warm-up, posture set, deep relaxation and meditation. Definitely not your average, pose-and-hold style, Kundalini even satisfies the “yoga is boring” set.

Top Five Take-Away Tips
1.The mind creates the body. Habitual, body-protecting thoughts formed when we’re young can create weaknesses, illnesses, and injuries when we get older. Case(s) in point: “You have blood sugar issues, so you will feel shaky if you do these exercises without stopping to eat.” “You have a bad back, so after you lift this table, it will hurt.” “You have anxiety, so after this busy week, you will feel very anxious.”

2.Don’t let your mind tell you you can’t. “Oh yeah?! Just watch me.” In a Kundalini class or workshop we challenge ourselves to drop out of our head and into our heart. We don’t move into any pain, but we do move beyond our limitations. We breathe deep, think strong, and believe our teacher when she says “You can do it. Just a little bit more”—even after 100 squats. Our mind’s “You can’t” becomes “I just did.”

3.Dancing. You know that feeling when you go to a concert and everyone there, including you, vocalizes the same words, same thoughts, and same emotions, at the same time? And you all shake your booty with abandon? That’s yoga, baby. In Kundalini, we sometimes dance it up, to bhangra music, to Sanskrit music, and, sometimes, to Love Inc.’s “You’re a Superstar.” We close our eyes and suddenly, we’re dropping self-conscious, self-limiting thoughts, and maybe, just maybe even smiling right into the eyes of the people around us.

4.Mantras matter. It’s nothing new to read that repeated sounds, words, or phrases can help us tap into that inner source of spirituality. But how often do we address those other mantras, the ones we tell ourselves? “I’m stressed,” “I don’t have enough money,” “I’m too fat,” I’m too shy,” “I can’t do it,” Imagine what might happen if you change your negative mantra, to one that lifts you up, the possibilities are endless.

5.You’re stronger than you think you are. In the right atmosphere, we can tap into that strength we all have, deep inside, that’s always there. Once we do it, we can do it again and again, any time life throws us a curve ball that. Never give up.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Iyengar Yoga - What Is It And How Can You Benefit From it?

Iyengar yoga was founded amid a poor caste of Brahmins in Belur Karnataka, India by Belur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar. As a child, he suffered from malaria, tuberculosis, typhoid fever and malnutrition. To overcome these maladies, he studied the vedas and the yoga sutras of Patanjali. He has published fourteen books on Iyengar yoga, including "Light On Yoga" (the quintessential yoga book) and most recently, "Light On Life." He was awarded the Padmi Shri (1991) and Padma Bhusan (2002) as a distinguished citizen of India and was named one of the 100 most influential people by Time Magazine in 2004. Today, the eighty-six-year-old yogi continues to practice the style of yoga he founded and has inspired tens of millions of students.

Spiritually, Iyengar yoga is based upon Patanjali's eight limbs of raja yoga. The first is Yama, meaning physically and mentally abstaining from the following five things: violence toward others and oneself, from coveting others' belongings, from sexual intercourse, from attachment to possessions and anything that is untrue. The second limb is called Niyama, referring to the five observances: cleanliness of body and mind, satisfaction with what one has, penance and mental control, introspection and surrender to God. Asana refers to posture and position (ideally an erect stance with relaxed muscles) and Pranayama is the directed control of one's breath, which is so vital to successful yoga practice. Pratayahara calls for the quieting of senses connected with the outer world. Only then will Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (oneness with the Supreme Being) naturally follow.

In practice, Iyengar yoga is a strange form to watch. Instructors position students in various poses using straps, belts, sandbags, benches and blocks. In total, there are 200 posture positions (also known as "asanas"), as well as 14 breathing techniques (known as "pranayamas"). Beginners, elderly participants and those recuperating from illness often select this form of yoga because it's relatively easy on the body and each member of the class receives individualized attention to ensure that they get the most from the class.

Iyengar yoga has spread like wildfire in the United States, with hundreds of teachers. Major branches of the Iyengar Yoga National Association of the United States are located in California, Colorado, Washington, New York, Nevada, Texas, Michigan and Minnesota. To find classes near you, check out as a starting point toward enlightenment and happiness.

It may surprise you to learn that Yoga dates back to 3300-1700 B.C.E. and has long been a practice of Buddhists, Hindus and other Eastern religions. But what should not be surprising the tremendous benefits that this form of exercise and meditation can bring to your life. Working professionals, students, home-makers and the retired alike are finding how wonderful they feel after participating. The sense of calm that prevails as well as the satisfaction of muscles well worked all make Yoga the perfect blend of philosophy, religion and exercise. Even if you do not practice the spiritual aspects of this ancient practice, you can still benefit.