Yoga is a popular form of exercise that decreases stress and anxiety. If you are new to yoga and don’t know where to begin, this article will guide you. The three main components of yoga include breathing, stretching, and meditation.
To begin your session, you will need loose-fitting clothes and a yoga mat or thick towel. Yoga does not have to be difficult. I have new clients in their sixties who learn how to do yoga with ease, and you can too!
Don’t eat a heavy meal before performing yoga or drink water during the class. In fact, it is best to have an empty stomach. Drink plenty of water after the session as toxins may release from your muscles and need flushing out of your body.
Breathing is an essential element of yoga. We do not usually think about breathing, much less concentrate on breathing deeply. However, moving additional oxygen into your cells will make you feel better and give you more energy, not just during yoga, but all day long!
Always focus on your breathing during yoga postures. Your entire body will benefit. Imagine your lungs are a balloon, and this balloon expands and deflates entirely with each inhalation and exhalation.
Recently, I went to the doctor and had a pulse oximeter placed on my index finger. The oxygen level in my blood was 94 percent. I thought it was low even though the medical assistant said 94–100 percent was normal. The following week, at my chiropractor, I took several deep breaths before they placed the pulse oximeter on my finger. This time, my oxygen level was 100 percent. I brought up the oxygen level of my blood 6 percent just by breathing deeply!
An excellent way to determine how long to hold a yoga posture is by counting the number of breaths. A breath is a complete cycle of inhaling and exhaling. Try to stay in most positions for three to five breaths. For specifics in my book, Yoga for Beginners, I list the optimal number of breaths desired for each pose.
Flexibility is the ability to move our muscles and joints through a complete range of motion. Stretching stimulates the production of tissue lubricants which help the muscles rebuild with healthy tissue. Additional benefits of stretching include joint lubrication, improved healing, better circulation, and enhanced mobility.
When you stretch to the edge of discomfort, it can elicit feelings of pain. Therefore, you should slowly allow your muscles to release their tightness, then gently push further into the posture at your own pace. When you stay in a stretch for at least twenty seconds, your connective tissue becomes more elastic.
Stretching and breathing are interrelated in yoga movements. As you inhale, your muscles tighten slightly, but as you exhale, they seem to grow longer, and you can push further into the pose. The exhalation relaxes the muscles which facilitate the stretch.
Once engaged in the full posture, you may experience a pleasant moment of inner peace. Relaxation follows and your stretching is enhanced, as well as your sense of well-being. Now that you are breathing deeply and stretching all the muscles in your body, you will discover your stress dissipates, allowing you to recapture inner harmony.
Rarely do we allow ourselves meditative time to be quiet and think, or spend time with our Creator. As we do so, meditation also enhances our brain function. Numerous scientific studies have revealed increased brain activity occurs during meditation. It decreases perceived stress, improves psychological well-being, memory, and cognitive performance. Meditation is a superb form of exercise for the brain.
We go to the gym to exercise our physical bodies, and we perform aerobic training to work our hearts. So why don’t we perform exercises for the brain? Meditation is the exercise we’re missing. It enhances brain function, which is crucial with the rise in the occurrence of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Check out my pamphlet, “How to Prevent, Improve, and Reverse Alzheimer’s and Dementia” for more details.
Yoga prepares the mind for the meditative session by releasing tension from our bodies and minds, allowing us to go deeper into meditation. This involves training your mind by acknowledging its content without becoming wrapped up in what you are thinking. Through focusing the mind, your concentration increases. Some of the benefits of meditation include increasing happiness and contentment while decreasing anxiety, worry, and fear. It also benefits the physical body by lowering blood pressure and improving memory.
Now that we have reviewed the key elements of yoga and what you need, let’s get started with the ten poses in this blog. While performing a pose, do not force yourself further into a stretch than what your body would naturally do. It is better to allow time (twenty seconds or more) and gravity to bring you further into the pose than to push yourself prematurely. Personally, I like to perform 15–minutes of warm-up stretches before doing yoga poses. Warm-ups stretch all the muscles in the body and prepare one for the yoga postures. If you would like guidance regarding my classes that includes the initial stretching poses, check out my yoga DVD and yoga card deck.
By Susan U. Neal RN, MBA, MHS