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Month: June 2017

How Yoga Can Improve Your Heath and Fitness

How Yoga Can Improve Your Heath and Fitness


Yoga is an incredible exercise form that is often overlooked because it does not appear high intensity and people, therefore, doubt that it offers any real health and fitness benefits. This could not be further from the truth, and if we dispel the misconception that all exercise needs to be cardiovascular and leave us massively out of breath and sweating to see any improvement, yoga is revealed as a powerful contender for health and fitness.


Improves Core and Muscle Strength


One of the biggest issues people struggle with is the core strength.  Office jobs, sitting down all day, armchairs, and for the ladies – childbirth is all detrimental to core strength – and it tends to be something that cardio exercise does not help.  You can be at risk of injury if you hammer the cardio with a weak core as your posture and frame adapt to poor positions.  Core strength is needed to keep everything in place as you move.  The good news is that yoga improves body strength.  Poses such as ‘The Plank’ target the core muscles, while a range of other poses enables you to hit all muscle groups – targeting strength building without straining anything.


Decreases Stress


Most of us live in a chaotic world, frantically racing from work to home, having to juggle shopping, bills, socialising and of course our jobs.  We live in an almost perpetual state of motion and as a consequence are a nation of poor sleepers.  Leaving the body in a heightened state of stress can impact the mammalian part of the brain (the amygdala) responsible for the fight of flight mechanism.  If our stress levels leave us consistently in this fight or flight stress, we are at risk of many health issues overcoming our vulnerable system.  Stress can be a killer so taking steps to lower levels is vital.  Yoga offers relaxation methods to quiet the mind and halt the relentless chatter we all experience.  This, in turn, boosts the oxygen flow to the brain and shut down the amygdala response enabling us to rest and reset.


Perfect for Weight Loss

By stretching the body into the proper place, and recovering the posture we were designed to have, we can aid weight loss with yoga.  Our bodies develop abnormal positions from the constant damage we inflict, and this can cause pain and unhappiness. Sometimes this is subtle, but over-eating is comfort response that many people use to combat feelings of negativity about body image.  By correcting the posture the body begins to look longer and leaner without actually doing anything more than yoga, and if you combine this with the mind clearing, stress releasing benefit (stress is also a major contributory factor with over-eating), it is no surprise that yoga can actually help you lose weight and feel happier with your body.

There are may other benefits to yoga, including increasing flexibility and lowering blood pressure, so it becomes easy to see why this is something we should all be aiming to work into our lives. It is worth making the time, as the benefits to health and fitness are pretty significant.

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Different Types of Yoga

Different Types of Yoga

Much like a game of Chinese whispers, over time yoga changed as it was taken from its humble roots in India to the dizzying heights of global recognition. Top yoga teachers took their knowledge and combined it with the original concepts to create new styles, or schools, of yoga. Some chose to focus on raising the intensity of the body, some kept it calm and slow, while others moved the focus to the spiritual. Here is a guide to some of the most common types that you might see offered in various studios. There are many others.


The basis of Astanga is six sequences. Students work rapidly through each series that has been designed to be physically challenging. Each pose is matched with a breathing sequence and classes move through the sequences at a fast pace. Beginners naturally begin by working on the primary series, and need to reach the expected standard before moving on to the second series – and so on through the whole 6.


Bikram Choudhury, a yogi with many years of experience, developed Bikram yoga in the 1970’s. He produced a sequence of poses that he believed offered the best workout for body and mind, and then, quite literally turned up the heat. Classes are conducted in rooms offering high levels of humidity and a temperature of approximately 105f. Expect to get hot and sweaty – this is not for the meek, but many find it hugely satisfying.


Hatha yoga is the founding block. It is the most common form of yoga practised in the western world and offers a slow and steady pace focused on building flexibility and breathing. Hatha is suitable for beginners and gives a greater understanding of yoga as a whole. From here you could move on to try another discipline or remain in a school of yoga that offers an excellent body and mind experience.


In Iyengar yoga, you will use straps and blocks to help the body attain the stretches and encourage the flexibility. It was developed by Yogi B K S Iyengar and he believed that uses harnesses and props enabled students to get into better versions of the poses and, in the long run, develop quicker. Do not be fooled into thinking that this makes it simple – it is a workout.


The Kundalini is a metaphorical serpent of energy that lives within all of us, but for main it remains dormant or sleeping. Kundalini is a yoga practice that requires students always to be moving in a fluid motion from one pose to the next. The aim being to wake the sleeping snake, resting at the base of your spine and invigorate your whole being with the energy he provides.


This is a relaxation style of yoga, but offers, as the name suggests, restoration for the body. In one class you may only undertake four poses and remain in each for 15-20 minutes. This is great for all students but also offers an excellent and gentle way for those who are ill or in pain to experience some of the healing benefits as the strain on the body and energy levels is minimal. You will also be offered pillows and props! All you need to do is try and stay awake.

What is Yoga?

What is Yoga?

In the modern world, yoga is seen as a gentle form of exercise that is great for flexibility and mobility. However, the art of yoga has a long history and is originated as much more than just a way to exercise the body.

The Joining of Body and Mind

Yoga was so called because it originates from the Sanskrit word Yuj, which means joining together. Yoga encompasses the body and the mind, and those who practice yoga in a more traditional way suggest that the union of the body and mind are vital for one to be successful.

While there is no one person responsible for ‘inventing’ yoga, the roots can be traced back to India over 5000 years ago, meaning it has been around for much longer than may people realise.

The Third Element

Not only does the practice unite the body and mind but it places great emphasis on the spiritual as well. It combines poses that stretch and heal the body, with breathing techniques and meditation to address the body in a holistic way, that is to say, the three elements of body, mind and sprit as one.

Learning and using meditation techniques is seen as a way to heal and support the spiritual mind, and can involve using ‘mantras’. A mantra is a short phrase or saying that is used to focus the mind on nothing else, which is, of course, a vital part of meditation.

Modern Yoga Developed New Schools

Over the years various branches of yoga emerged with yoga masters or ‘yogis’ developing new ways of working. These strands all held the major elements of the original style of yoga, but some chose to focus more on the way in which the body was stretched, giving a more intense physical workout. For example, Bikram Yoga (developed more recently in the 1970’s) is carried out in extreme temperatures, and students move quickly to work up a sweat, whereas other forms focus more on the meditation and spiritual side, keeping the physical movements slow and gentle.

In the western world, the most commonly practised form of yoga is Hatha, which is a gentle exercise for that usually includes the correct breathing techniques and a form of meditation usually something quite short, to end the session.

Other Schools of Yoga

There are many other schools of yoga, as people have grown and changed over the years and taken their beliefs and transformed them into practices that are recognised across the world.

Embrace the Old

Many people feel that the meditation side of yoga is something they find uncomfortable. It is worth trying to get on board with the whole practice though, by embracing all parts of yoga you are really offering the best to your body as a whole, rather than just a physical form of exercise. Most yoga teachers are aware of issues regarding meditation and chanting but will offer lots of support to help you get started.

Overall yoga is believed to be one of the best exercises, because it embraces the body as a whole and is suitable for all levels and abilities, from the super fit to those bed or chair bound.

5 Health Benefits of Yoga

5 Health Benefits of Yoga

One of the reasons that yoga is such a great form of exercise is because it helps the body is so many ways. We can do sit ups to work on a flabby stomach or spend hours on the treadmill to boost lung function and running capacity, but these stand alone exercise forms target just a few areas of our overall health. Yoga is an amazing way to work out because it doesn’t place a strain on the body but carries many more benefits than most people are aware of.

1. Yoga Improves Flexibility

This is perhaps the one benefit most people can name. By committing to a regular yoga practice, you will notice that your body moves with greater ease. Muscles can become tight over time, as we under use our bodies moving from work to home and back again. Yoga helps unlock these issues and, as a pleasant side effect, you may well find your aches and pains start to disappear too.

2. Yoga is Beneficial to Bones

As we age our bone density can decrease. It can be a particular issue for women due to the effects of Oestrogen and other hormones as we age. Weight baring exercises are perfect for keeping bones strong and healthy which in turn lessens the risk of osteoporosis developing. The range of poses in yoga also means it is easy to work all of your bones, not just the legs as you would in walking or running.

3. Yoga Builds Balance

Having good balance is also something that we need to maintain as we age. A poor balance will lead to falls and knocks which can damage the body. The longer we can maintain a good balance the more chance we have of not ending up needing walking frames or wheelchairs in old age. Poor balance also places a strain on knees and ankles as we struggle to say upright – better balance will alleviate the problems.

4. Yoga Relieves Stress

There is nothing worse than coming out of work stressed and uptight and transferring that to a night in front of the television. All that does is place a strain on the body as we hold ourselves in a more rigid way when we are tense or upset. A good yoga practice will lower blood pressure and make the body feel much calm, and in turn, decrease the mental reaction to things the cause stress.

5. Yoga Aids Sleep

A regular yoga practice will also bring about improvements to your sleep patterns. Because it can help decrease stress and relieve aches and pains, you will nee going to bed with a happy, nervous system. In turn, this means that the chemicals in the brain needed for sleep will trigger more easily because you will be super chilled by the time your head hits the pillow.

These are just some of the amazing benefits that yoga has on the body. There are many others such as an increased immune system, spine health, and a decreased risk of developing arthritis as we age. Yoga does offer benefits to the body, mind and soul.