Yoga basics – achieving lifetime fitness

Yoga basics are something each one of us should be aware of. Yoga, as a way of achieving physical and mental strength, is so much more than a fitness regimen. It is a way of life, an amazing habit that strengthens you from within, relieves you from stress, improves your concentration, immunity, and sense of well being. Achieving toned muscles is a bonus!

a woman doing yoga in the woods
yoga basics

Yoga is a light, which once lit, will never dim. The better you practice, the brighter the flame – B.K.S.Iyengar

We all know that yoga is a great form of workout, but there is more to it than those intimidating postures where you twist and turn your body. Yoga is a way of life, it brings about a harmony of the mind, body and soul. Through working with the body, yoga teaches us to gain better control over the mind.

Why you should try yoga

  • Yoga is the only workout that leaves you energized and at the same time relaxed since it combines breathing, meditation and physical exercise, all at the same time.
  • No equipment required, you just need to bring your mind and body together.
  • Like any other good habit, once learned and practised, yoga sticks to you for life.
  • According to Yoga-sutra, yoga is an eight-limbed practice, which, in a nutshell, includes codes of moral conduct, physical postures, breathing practices, concentration, self-discipline, diet, concentration, meditation and control of the senses, speech and actions. Isn’t that a comprehensive definition of how our lifestyle ought to be?

For newbies or those who want to start but find it overwhelming, I would like to share with you some of the tips I learnt from my yoga teacher, who is a traditional Indian yoga instructor.

You’ll learn how to get the maximum out of yoga by doing it right:

The best place

Yoga can be done anywhere since you don’t require any special equipment, except for the yoga mat. However it is best done out in the open, preferably near trees, where the air is less polluted. If you have only the indoor option, choose ana large, airy room.

The best time

Early morning, at sunrise, is the best time to do yoga. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • The experience is invigorating and as a result, you bounce with energy for the whole day.
  • The mind becomes relaxed and empty where you can put in productive stuff. This way, you are ready to deal with the day’s stress.
  • You don’t have to sweat it out in the sun, so one more reason for you to wake up early.
  • By doing yoga at the beginning of the day, you are prioritizing fitness. No more excuses like not finding enough time or having a packed schedule. Kudos!

The right way to do yoga

  • Always start and end yoga with “ohm” chanting (at least 5 times each). It has several benefits like reducing anxiety and depression, boosting immunity, balancing our moods and overall sense of well-being.
  • The ohm chanting should be followed by pranayama, in other words, breathing exercises. While doing pranayama, remember to have a small smile on your face. You don’t have to be serious while doing yoga. It serves as a facial exercise as well as keeps you smiling throughout the day (a strategy of faking it until you get it!)
  • Next follows the stretching exercises, which are similar to warming up at the gym.
  • The yoga asanas (postures) start with sun salutation (Surya Namaskar) which includes 12 different poses. If you are too hard-pressed for time, you can just practise this one posture. It is a very powerful workout that involves your entire body. However, people with specific issues like backache or pregnant women should avoid it.
  • Intentional breathing is an integral part of doing yoga. It is important to note when to inhale and when to exhale in a posture. The rule of thumb is that when you raise (your hand, leg or body) inhale and when you lower, exhale.
  • Finally, wrap up with Shavasana (corpse pose) which is equivalent to cooling down after a workout.
  • Don’t forget to finish with “ohm” chanting.

The best way to improve your yoga postures

  • Don’t judge your practice only by how far you can stretch and also you don’t have to push yourself too hard. Yoga is all about being comfortable and relaxed.
  • Start small. If you are not comfortable holding a pose for 10 seconds, practice for 5 seconds first. Slowly increase the time as your confidence increases.
  • Doing yoga every day is excellent, but if you’re just starting, alternate with your other workout options like running or swimming, for a change.

Who is yoga for?

Yoga is for absolutely EVERYONE, even if you are not in perfect shape or health. The postures can be custom-made to suit your needs. There are asanas or postures for everyone – young, old, pregnant women, ailing or recuperating, those who want to lose weight,  and for every issue – arthritis, backache, menstrual cramps, stress, depression or overall well-being. You have even “chair yoga” for those who can’t squat down. Or do it together with your buddy or partner as “couple yoga”. Once you get started, you will be amazed at the number of options that are available.

silhouettes of 2 women doing yoga
do yoga with your buddy

Start today

There is no excuse for NOT doing yoga. If you are inflexible, have weak joints, too old or too tired, that is precisely why you should be practicing yoga. 30 minutes of your day is all that is needed. As the saying goes, if you don’t make time for health and fitness, you will have to eventually make time for illness.

So why not start TODAY?
Anything else you can think of that I’ve left out? Feel free to add on to my list in the comments column:
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4 thoughts on “Yoga basics – achieving lifetime fitness”

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