Origins of yoga
Yoga was born in the Indus valley civilization of South Asia over 5000 years ago. The ancient practice of yoga was often a solitary study in forests, where masters passed knowledge of asanas (poses) and breathing techniques to the students. After several changes through pre-classical, classical, and post-classical phases, yoga as we know it today finally arrived in North America in the late 1800s.
What does it involve?
A typical yoga class includes performing a number of poses and ends with members of the class lying on their mats in quiet meditation (focusing and calming the mind and body, not necessarily a religious observance). A class is usually 60 or 90 minutes in length with a qualified instructor teaching a group of people.
Class members perform various stretches in standing, sitting, and lying positions. The instructor describes the pose and tells you to inhale at a certain point during the pose and to exhale at another point. Breathing helps you focus on the stretch and relax into the pose. Proper breathing helps you focus when trying to maintain a position in which stability is required. Overall, breathing and concentration are keys to becoming aware of your body’s limits and its potential strengths.
As one experienced yoga enthusiast acknowledged, you should be prepared to feel frustrated and off-balance during the first few workouts.
Myths about yoga
Myth #1: You have to be really flexible to begin yoga.
You might think that you need to be able to bend yourself into a pretzel in order to do yoga, but this is not true. Why teach flexibility only to people who are already flexible? In fact, having poor flexibility is an excellent reason to take up yoga. As you begin to learn the basics of yoga, your body becomes more flexible. Over time, you will see an improvement in your ability to do the various poses. There are many levels, so there is always the right amount of challenge for everyone.
Myth #2: You don’t get a workout with yoga.
Most people don’t think of a cardiovascular workout when they think of yoga. Although you are not doing fast movements, and there is no booming music pulsing through the room as with many aerobics classes, the challenge in yoga is certainly enough to increase your heart rate. In a class, you perform poses that require concentration and the ability to maintain the pose, and this can give your muscles a good workout – imagine holding a sit-up halfway up for a minute. It also helps your heart and lungs. Learning to inhale and exhale properly allows you to get the most out of each pose.
Myth #3: Yoga is boring.
Nonsense! Yoga is fun and challenging. More and more people are starting to enjoy this ancient form of exercise. If you like competition sports, consider this: you’re competing against your own limitations to reach your full potential.
What are the risks?
Even though yoga is a class in which individuals aim to move smoothly from one pose into the next, injuries can occur. Risks involved with yoga include:
- cartilage tears
- muscle and ligament sprains
- neck and back pain
- repetitive strain injuries and overstretching (can happen at the wrists, shoulders, neck, spine, pelvis, hamstrings, and knees)
With the right precautions, you can minimize your risk of injury. Just follow a few simple tips:
- Go at your own pace. Don’t try to be a show-off – it’ll backfire.
- Listen to your body. Recognize the difference between pain and discomfort. If you feel pain, do not force yourself to hold the pose.
- Be careful bending your back if you already have back problems.
- Do not eat a meal for 2 to 3 hours before doing yoga.
- If you have any injuries or medical conditions, tell your instructor before you start the class.
Check with your doctor if you a serious medical condition, since yoga may or may not be right for you.
All material © 1996-2014 MediResource Inc. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.