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Practised for over 5,000 years, yoga is a peaceful approach to mind and body interaction that has been attracting fans from all walks of lif.

Practised for over 5,000 years, yoga is a peaceful approach to mind and body interaction that has been attracting fans from all walks of life. Perhaps the attraction lies within the yoga principle: A whole person consists equally of body, mind, and spirit. All three must be fully developed before an individual can realize true inner potential."

The practice of yoga is beneficial for several reasons including relief from low back pain, arthritis, and even digestive disorders. As an expansive practice it can aid in spinal alignment as well as open up joints and lung regions. Others choose yoga to stay young, keep their bodies fit, and feel as energetic as possible. Lastly, there are those who have selected this age-old practice as a form of meditation, stress relief, and relaxation.

The system of yoga is based on three main structures:

  • exercise
  • breathing
  • meditation

Hatha Yoga

One type of yoga that is quite popular is Hatha yoga, otherwise known as the yoga of physical postures (asanas). This sanskrit word, asana, means comfortable, stable pose. Hatha yoga places emphasis on the alignment of the body to safely achieve maximum benefit from the postures.

According to Hatha yoga, the energy of the body is balanced through the postures and the breath to allow the vital force called prana to be regulated. There are many types of Hatha yoga including Kripalu, Ashtanga (Power yoga), and the recently popular Moksha yoga.

Yoga Breathing

Ask any yogi, and he or she will tell you breath equals life. One of the keys is to maintain calm and balanced abdominal breathing, in and out of the nostrils. This allows the lungs to be used to their greatest capacity. All postures are to be done as thoroughly as possible while still maintaining this calm breathing pattern.

Once you have a good handle on your breathing techniques, they can increase the length of time you can hold postures as well as your endurance and strength. In addition, yoga enthusiasts will tell you that once your breathing techniques have been mastered, the effect spills over into your daily life allowing you to stay calm and peaceful in stressful situations.

If you are a yoga novice, remember that the instructions and pictures of the postures are merely goals. With time and practice your body will open up and you will be able to go deeper into the poses. Attending yoga classes with a qualified instructor will help you perfect your technique and learn modifications to better suit your body type.

When beginning, ensure that you are wearing comfortable clothing. Yoga is done in bare feet on a nonslip mat or a towel. Always do a gentle warmup before beginning any session.

Begin with Mountain Pose

This will allow you to improve posture and balance.

Stand with feet together, hands at your sides, eyes looking forward. Spread your toes and ensure that your entire foot is touching the floor. Raise your chest up and out. Stretch your fingers down to the floor. Contract your thighs.

Hold the posture for five to 10 slow breaths. On your next inhale, raise arms over head and hold for several breaths. Lower your arms on an exhale.

As a warmup, try synchronizing the raising and lowering of your arms with your breath raise, inhale; lower, exhale.

Repeat five times.

Forward Bend

Begin in mountain pose. Inhale and raise arms overhead. Exhale, bend at the hips, bring the arms forward and down until you touch the floor. It's okay to bend your knees.

Breathe in and out for 30 seconds. To come out of the pose, curl up one vertebra at a time, leaving the head down until last. Repeat this pose two times.

Child's Pose

Kneel on the ground with your big toes together and your knees about as wide as your hips. Exhale and lay your torso down between your thighs. Lay your hands on the floor, palms up alongside your torso. Allow your shoulders to drop towards the floor.

Stay in this pose from one to three minutes.

When the principles of yoga are incorporated into your lifestyle, they lead to an overall awareness of your body and a tool to achieve inner and outer balance. Give yourself the opportunity to experience yoga's amazing benefits. Namaste.

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