The Magic of Yoga

by Jeff Behar

The Magic of Yoga

Medical experts no longer disagree about the health benefits of yoga. As a result, people around the world are working through the poses – in yoga centers, in health clubs or in front of their living-room TVs.

The benefits include:

  • Improved muscle tone
  • Greater flexibility
  • Improved strength and endurance
  • Better balance
  • Improved weight control
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Reduced risk of disease

Common Types of Yoga

Hatha Yoga. Hatha yoga is the most popular form of yoga taught in the United States. It includes all types of yoga that use physical postures, or asanas. Gentle and slow, Hatha yoga is excellent for beginners. The focus is on holding poses and integrating your breathing into the movements. This form of yoga is a great way to stretch, work your muscles, get in touch with your body, relax and reduce stress.

There are several variations of Hatha yoga, including:

  • Ashtanga yoga, or power yoga, provides an aggressive workout in which you move quickly from one pose to another to build strength and endurance. There is little emphasis on meditation. At the end of a session, you'll feel more like you've completed a traditional weight-training or calisthenic workout than you would with any other type of yoga.
  • Lyengar yoga. While Ashtanga yoga emphasizes speed, the lyengar form of yoga focuses more on correct form. It emphasizes body alignment and balance and uses props such as straps, blankets and blocks. It's a good choice for beginners.
  • Bikram yoga is practiced in a room heated to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The objective is to loosen muscles and sweat in order to cleanse the body. Bikram yoga has grown in popularity, but there is a potential risk of dehydration and heightened blood pressure. You should speak with a physician before trying this kind of yoga.

Kundalini Yoga. Kundalini yoga combines features of Hatha yoga with techniques from other forms. It emphasizes rapid movement through poses along with breathing, chanting and meditation. It focuses on psycho-spiritual and physical growth, giving special consideration to the role of the spine and the endocrine system. If you're a beginner, you might prefer to start with Hatha yoga before embracing the more physically and mentally challenging Kundalini yoga.

No matter what form of yoga you prefer, it will improve your health, fitness level and sense of well-being – especially when coupled with a good diet and regular exercise.