What is Yoga?

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Yoga is a combination of physical and mental exercises designed to improve physical health and mental well being. Meaning union or self-realization, yoga incorporates posture (asana), breath work (pranayama), and meditation to integrate the mind, body, and spirit. Asanas are gentle stretching movements designed to strengthen the physical body. By increasing the oxygen and blood flow to the body, the postures rejuvenate the spine, glands, brain, and internal organs. Pranayama is the breath, infusing the body with pran or life-force energy. Meditation practice develops mental discipline, teaching the mind to become still and aware of movement.

Is Yoga a Religion?

Yoga defies categorization. Whatever your method of contacting the Divine, Yoga can accelerate movement in that direction. It does not discriminate on the basis of gender or religion or race. Yoga is truly universal. Most people find that they can practice Yoga without any conflict with their religious beliefs.

Is Yoga Aerobic Exercise?

The physical Yogas are certainly aerobic, because they improve oxygenation of the blood through increased heart rate and deeper breathing. Astanga, Vinyasa, and Vini Yoga are good examples.

What if I am out of shape?

Finding a good teacher is the optimum way to go. Remember, if you have any condition or physical situation you are in doubt about, consult your health care practitioner.

How is Yoga different from other exercises?

Yoga focuses more on process than goal. Gym activities or other more goal-driven exercises are quite different. You are not competing with anyone when you do yoga. Toning is the way in which Yoga achieves muscular strength, in contrast to, for example, weightlifting, which breaks down muscle to build it.

How often should I do Yoga? For how long?

Any yoga is better than none. Ideally, practice every day for 60-90 minutes. If that is not possible, do what you can–and do not come down on yourself for not doing more. Shorter sessions like 20-30 minutes a day are better than one 90-minute session a week.

Should I do Yoga while I am pregnant?

Yoga is a great way to strengthen the pelvic area, normalize thyroid function and blood pressure, and reduce stress, all of which are good for the baby. It is fine to continue modified practice if you were doing yoga before; if you are just beginning, it is best to work with a teacher who has prenatal experience. In general you should avoid strain, compressing the abdomen, and inverted postures, especially in the later stages.

Can Yoga help with social anxiety?

Stress and anxiety levels can be drastically reduced by Yoga practice. A stronger sense of self is built with regular practice, and over time this increased confidence and well-being can reduce or nullify feelings of anxiety. You may also become more able to observe the factors that lead to an anxiety attack, and deal with them before the symptoms escalate. There can be significant improvement within months.

Can Yoga help to control high blood pressure?

Yoga promotes a feeling of calm and relaxation as well as bodily awareness, so some people can experience help in this. Belly or diaphragmatic breathing reduces stress. Pranayama (controlled breathing) techniques, called Nadi Shodhana, are very helpful. Avoid the Shoulder Stand, Headstand and Downward Dog. Also approach the Warrior 1 and 2, the Mountain, Triangle, Half Moon, Tree, Standing Squat and Symbol of Yoga with care and do not hold these poses for more than a few breaths.

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