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Discover how to look and feel fantastic with yoga
2006-10-02

People will go to all sorts of lengths to loose weight, get fit and generally improve the way they look and feel. If you're not yet one of the estimated 20-30 million yoga practitioners globally, here's the just the tip of the iceberg of what you're missing out on.

If you're looking to yoga as a natural remedy for specific ailments, it is highly advised to seek professional medical advice, and begin practicing yoga under the guidance of a professional instructor with experience in your particular affliction.

What is yoga?

The origins of yoga are thought to date to somewhere between 5000 - 8000 years ago in the northern Indian subcontinent and is tightly entwined with the philosophies, rather than the religion, of that region. Hatha yoga, the system of yoga most commonly practiced in the west, is a small part of the full yoga teachings and was formally documented over 500 years ago in the Hatha yoga Pradipika. Yoga was first introduced in the west in the last century by various pioneering yogis of that time most notably Swami Sivananda. The popularity of yoga and western learning about yoga has exploded since the late 1960s and 70s with the publishing of various books including light on yoga by B.K.S Iyengar.

What is all the fuss about yoga?

The actual mechanisms that make yoga so powerful are still being studied by the medical community, with more than 900 research papers listed by pubmed.org (a Service of the National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of health). Traditional yoga texts teach that Hatha yoga provides its health benefits for the body and mind primarily through the combination of breathing (Pranayama), physical postures (asana) and meditation.

Each individual posture is designed to provide specific benefits, so this is not intended to be an exhaustive list but to illustrate the benefits of yoga go far beyond those acheived through other fitness or exercise regimes. The more established benefits of yoga include:

Physical benefits

The physical postures require a combination of resistance exercises and deep stretches, which are key to some of the most visible benefits of yoga. Primarily the resistance exercises require you to use various muscles to lift your body weight helping to build muscle strength and stamina - which improves muscle tone and definition. However, toned muscles are no more attractive if they're covered by a layer of fat. Yoga helps in this respect too. Toned muscles burn calories at a faster rate, helping to turn your body into a fat burning machine, even when you're not exercising - great news.

The deep stretches also play an important role. By helping to loosen muscles and open joins you can increase your flexibility, providing a greater range of motion in your limbs and increase the fluidity and ease of movement. Yoga is generaly accepted to be effective in the treatment of back pain and arthritis, under the instruction and supervision of trained professionals.

The physical postures, and to an extent the pranayama breathing techniques are also thought to provide benefits through the stimulation of internal organs and glands. The stretching, compression and massage these organs help to balance their function and the hormonal balance within the body. The health effects include more effective metabolism, appetite suppression, improved digestion, and the release of toxins. These changes are effective in burning fat and improving overall health.

Mental benefits

Possibly the most compelling benefits of yoga, and likely the reason why so many people become attached to yoga once they start to practice, are the changes to the state of mind. Achieved through a combination of balanced hormone levels, the changes in oxygen consumption through pranayama and the meditative aspect of yoga. A correctly designed yoga practice leaves you feeling relaxed and calm and yet energised and refreshed. When practiced regularly, yoga also helps to improve your emotional balance, increase your ability to cope with and mange stress and even helps you to sleep deeper and longer - improving energy, motivation and concentration.

A balanced practice

While you may only be interested in one or two of the health benefits mentioned or indeed specific benefits not mentioned here, yoga is intended as a stable and balanced approach to overall health and well-being. Yoga is most effective when you follow a complete and correctly designed practice. The quality of your yoga instruction is essential in helping you to achieve your individual health goals as well as all the other health benefits of yoga.

To help you acheive your health goals, make sure that you always get access to effective yoga practice no matter where you are in the world without the need to check yoga center listings and directories or class schedules.

Read more...

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Ushtrasana - Camel Pose
2006-10-29
watch the free streaming yoga video, helping you learn how to do yoga online for free The full and extended backward curve of the body stretches the abdomen including the stomach and intestines to stimulate the digestive and reproductive systems. The extension of the neck also stimulates the thyroid gland. The backward bend of the spine opens the vertebrae to releive back pain and help to improve the posture. Camel pose should be followed by any forward bending pose. Camel pose should not be practiced by people with severe back pain.
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Moving deeper
2007-02-05
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