Yoga Basics and Benefits

 

by Fabienne Grossman

Most individuals practice yoga on recommendation of a doctor or friend, or perhaps because of a physical or mental ailment. Yoga, however, can be for everyone. It is beneficial for one’s overall health and well-being. One needs to approach yoga with an open mind and a willingness to learn new ways to help prevent or minimize pain, injury or physical limitation.

 

One need not be flexible or fit to do yoga; that will come with practice. When first starting out, it’s important to learn the basics rather than jumping right into an intermediate or advanced class or postures. Taking a class that is best suited for one’s needs and level will increase the benefits of the practice while preventing injuries.

Yoga involves asanas, pranayama, and meditation. All the components are synergistic with each other and help with improving the health and connection of body and mind.

Asanas are the physical postures. Asanas help balance the body and distribute flexibility and strength throughout the body. The physical postures work on the outside as well as the internal body. There are over 900 asanas and the following are just a few, along with their health benefits:

 

• Standing postures such as Tree Pose, Warrior 1, 2 and 3 help with balance and strengthening the muscles, especially in the lower body.

• Downward Dog stretches palms, chest, back, hamstrings, calves and feet, strengthens arms, wrists, legs and torso and relieves lower back discomfort.

• Twist postures such as Revolved Side Angle Pose and Sage Twist help develop shoulder flexibility, tone the abdominal organs and stimulate sluggish intestinal function.

• Cat/Cow Pose brings awareness and flexibility to the entire length of the spine.

• Elevated Legs Up the Wall is an easy and effective way to relieve the tension of the day and alleviate the symptoms of edema or varicose veins.

 

Pranayama may be translated as control of the breath. Our breath is our most vital life force. During our day to day activities we do not usually think about our breath, but in yoga class we work on bringing conscious awareness to it. We control the length of inhalation, exhalation and sometimes use breath retention and forceful exhalation. The various methods improve respiratory capacity and help stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and bring our autonomic nervous system back into balance — a major factor in relieving stress.

Meditation enables us to quiet the mind. Meditation does not mean emptying the mind, but rather a *clearing of it, being a witness or observer of our thoughts. Meditation is a time to allow oneself to remain still and allow thoughts to float away like clouds in the sky without judgment or problem solving. It is a way to “data dump” and let go of thoughts that are conscious and subconscious. There is an immediate sense of tranquility after meditation, allowing one to be more peaceful and calm. There are many different methods of meditation that are helpful to practice, and various ones will speak to one individual more than another. Meditation has been correlated with greater levels of happiness, better immune function, more flexibility in outlook and temperament. In addition, guided meditation and imagery can help facilitate bodily and mental changes.

One need not twist into “pretzel-like” poses, retain their breath for 15 minutes or meditate for two hours to receive the benefits of yoga. Practicing to the best of one’s awareness and ability will result in positive physical and mental changes.

Fabienne C. Grossman is a 200RYT and owner of Weston Yoga, 2600 Glades Circle, Suite 400, Weston. Yoga Basic Classes are held Mondays 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., Wednesdays and Fridays, 10 to 11 a.m. Grossman will be leading a Yoga Nidra Meditation Workshop, Sunday, September 30, 4 to 6 p.m. Weston Yoga has over 18 classes a week for beginners to advanced practitioners. For more information or class schedule, call Weston Yoga at 954-349-6868 or visit WestonYoga.com. See ad page 58.

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