No matter what you’re age, you’re bound to benefit from incorporating gentler forms of exercise like yoga into your fitness regimen. Just one or two classes a week is enough to start reaping the rewards for your body and mind. But where do you start? Read on for our guide to the health benefits and the different types you can try.
It improves your fitness
It helps with balance, flexibility, strength and keeping the waistline trim.
You can do it at any age
The beauty of yoga is that you can do it at any age or stage. It’s well known to improve bone density, balance, flexibility and strength – especially of your core – and for helping with back pain.
It helps with chronic pain
Even if you’re debilitated by old age, osteoporosis, obesity, chronic arthritis or other forms of chronic pain or stiffness, yoga remains accessible.
It can help to lift depression
What’s more, taking regular yoga classes has been proven to help lift depression and lessen anxiety and that’s true whether you’re doing it in a big group, with a few friends or alone on your balcony, and whether you’re a certified human pretzel or can barely reach your ankles. Ideal for those of us working late hours or stressful shifts at work!
Types of Yoga – at a glance
Often a gentler class, hatha yoga concentrates on holding asanas (poses), physical alignment and balance, does not feature flow between asanas, and can also include breathing exercises (pranayama) and meditation.
Named after its developer, B.K.S. Iyengar, this is a form of hatha yoga that emphasises detail, precision and alignment to promote strength, mobility and stability.
Targeting the deep connective tissues and the muscle fascia, yin yoga aims to help regulate the flow of energy in the body. Poses are more passive, and mainly done on the floor.
One of the more vigorous styles, Ashtanga yoga includes a series of poses that are each held for just five breaths. To keep up the pace, you do a half sun salutation between poses.
This sub-category of Ashtanga yoga is both traditional and safe: it is taught one to-one, but practised in a group setting. Students arrive as they please within a three-hour period.
Also called flow yoga or dynamic yoga, classes flow from pose to pose without pause, giving students a goodworkout. It’s a good idea to take a few slower classes first to become familiar with the poses.
Perhaps the most comprehensive of yoga traditions, kundalini combines meditation, mantra, asanas and dynamic breathing for a practice that is both physical and spiritual.
Until you’ve tried this, you haven’t really sweated. In a studio heated to 41°C, 26 poses are performed in the same order each time. Strengthening and stretching, it also facilitates the release of toxins.
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This article first appeared in Expat Living January 2016.