Yoga and its benefits

Read more to know about yoga and its benefits. Yoga is becoming more popular now as an exercise which can give both physical as well as mental benefits. If done with proper diet and nutrition, yoga can immensely help a person to attain better health and well being.

Yoga refers to a collection of exercises known as asanas, that can help an individual to gain spiritual control over his/her body and mind. Yoga is different from other forms of exercises as it benefits a person not just physically but also brings calmness to the mind. Another important aspect of yoga is Pranayama, which refers to breathing exercises that help to purify the body and mind. There are many different forms of Pranayama, of which Kapalabhati is a very important form in which one takes very short and strong inhalations and exhalations continuously. Yoga can be modified in its speed and forms so that it enables aged people as well as expectant mothers to do the asanas without difficulty.

Benefits of Yoga

Yoga has many inter-related benefits such as lesser anger which automatically helps to improve human relationships, ease migraines, better posture and flexibility etc.

1. All level fitness- Yoga is very useful for physical fitness as well as for mental stability and calmness. If done at a slow pace, it helps you to connect with your inner soul enabling more control over your thoughts.

2. Improves immunity- Yoga improves one's immunity system and reduces common ailments such as cold and cough.

3. Weight loss- If you want extensive weight loss, opt for Ashtanga/ Power yoga which has more intense poses for better workout. Sun salutations and kapalabhati pranayama are also very effective in weight loss. A person who practices yoga regularly automatically chooses to eat healthy food.

4. Stress reliever- Yoga helps relieve a person from the day's stress and tension and promotes better sleep.

Forms of Yoga

Yoga comes in different forms which makes it possible for a person to choose the type of yoga he/she would like to practice.

1. Hatha yoga- Hatha yoga is an ideal style of yoga for beginners as it is slow paced. Due to its slow and gentle movements, one can attain a feeling of immense peace of mind after a strenuous day at work.

2. Ashtanga yoga- Ashtanga yoga is also known as 'Power yoga' which demands faster body movements enabling weight loss.

3. Bikram yoga- Bikram yoga,also called 'Hot yoga',is a style of yoga in which an intense heater is placed in the yoga room. The extra heat and humidity helps to relax the muscles and enables easier movement while doing the asanas.

4. Iyengar yoga- Iyengar yoga uses props, such as cushions, towels or harness, while practicing the asanas. Most emphasis is given on pose alignment which makes it more effective for those people who have physical ailments.

5. Prenatal yoga- Expectant mothers can opt for prenatal style of yoga. It can be very effective to keep the mind calm and composed even during all the hormonal fluctuations that women go through during pregnancy.

Sun Salutations/ Surya Namaskar

Surya namaskar is a set of 12 poses performed as one continuous exercise with rhythmic breathing. Surya namaskar, if practiced on a regular basis, can work wonders on a person's health and well being. If done at a fast pace, surya namaskar effectively helps in weight loss just as any other cardiovascular workout. On the contrary, if you do them at a slow pace, you get more relaxing and meditative benefits. These 12 set of poses improves health by keeping the digestive, respiratory and circulatory system in good condition. Though surya namaskar can be done at any time of the day, it gives more benefits if done facing east direction, before sunrise on an empty stomach.

Here is an explanation of the set of poses under Surya Namaskar.
1. Stand erect in an upright position. Keep your arms by your sides and feet together. Take a deep breath. As you exhale, join the palms together at your chest.

2. Inhale and stretch your arms straight over your head. Slowly bend backwards and stretch your waist. Keep your knees straight.

3. As you exhale, bend forward and try to place your palms on the floor at the sides of your feet. Make sure that the knees are always kept straight.

4. Inhale and stretch your right leg backwards as much as you can. This is called 'Forward lunge'. Keep the palms as it is. Keep the left foot flat on the floor and bend the left leg slightly ahead. With your right leg resting on the floor, look straight and lift your head up.

5. Straighten your right leg so that it stays on the toes. Slowly bring your left leg back next to the right foot, again resting on the toes. Hold your breathe while doing this pose.

6. As you rest your knees on the floor, exhale slowly. Both feet should be on the toes. Bend your arms with elbows pointing upwards. Lower your chin first, then your chest to rest on the floor while keeping hips raised slightly off the floor. Rest your forehead on the floor.

7. Move forward while inhaling until your hips rest on the floor. Keep the foot flat with toes pointing backwards. Push your chest out and move the head back as if to look at the ceiling. Keep the elbows bent without raising the hands from the floor.

8. Exhale as you raise your hips. Keep the knees straight and put your head between the arms. Both arms should be stretched out in front of you.

9. Bring your right foot forward as you inhale. Keep fingers and toes aligned. Rest the left knee on the floor. Lift your head and look straight in front.

10. Exhale and bring the left foot forward. Keep the right leg straight and head down with palms at the sides of your feet.

11. Inhale and straighten yourself. Then stretch your arms backwards so that the waist is bent towards the back. Do not bend the knees.

12. Exhale and stand straight. Keep the arms on the sides and the back erect. Your feet should be together. Repeat these set of exercises for the left leg.

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