Yogis and yoginis who have devoted their lifetime to practicing yoga and learning about it are known to live a long and healthy life. There have been so many yogis in the ancient vedic civilizatio who lived for hundreds of years. Even today, there are many practicing yogis or yoga gurus who have lived, or are living, a very healthy life. For example, yoga guru, B. K. S. Iyengar from India, lived a healthy life until his last moment at 91 years-old.
So how does a series of exercises offer so much? Well, yoga is not just a series of exercises, but a way of life. The different physical postures involve thought processes and breathing techniques that give it a whole new dimension. You may not be aware that our breathing patterns influence our health, mood, and weight. Breathing from your stomach is considered extremely important in yogic traditions. There are various other slow and fast breathing techniques called “pranayam.”
Our thought processes also influence our mental and physical health. When doing a particular yoga posture, it is essential to breath—inhale and exhale—in the right manner, and to focus on some object in front to help declutter the mind. So, the postures not only tone the body, but also help to develop the inner self. Focusing on thoughts and the inner self through various breathing and meditation techniques promotes enlightenment and develops conscience. The wisdom behind every posture, breathing technique, and meditation technique is just astounding.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of Art of Living Foundation, an organization that is into teaching yoga, meditation, and life lessons, states that “Yoga is not just physical exercises, it’s emotional integration, spiritual elevation, with the touch of a mystic element, which gives you a glimpse of something which is beyond all imagination.”
Yoga is best practiced early in the morning, in a relaxed atmosphere (preferably outdoors in fresh air), using a yoga mat. Wear comfortable clothing, start with simple and basic asanas, and keep a bottle of water handy. Avoid consuming anything before practicing yoga. We’ve listed some simple asanas or poses for you to start off with.
Basic Yoga Poses
- The Padmanasa or Lotus Position improves digestion, reduces anxiety, and cures menstrual cramps. Sit on the ground with your legs stretched out. Bend the right knee and place your foot towards the left thigh. Repeat the same for the other leg. Place your hands on the knees and hold the position with gentle, long breaths.
- The Vajrasana is a basic position where you sit on the heels, in a kneeling position. Place your palms on your lower thighs. This is a very basic pose which leads to many other postures.
- The Vrikshasana or Tree Pose improves concentration and brings balance. Stand tall with your arms stretched out. Bend your right knee and place it on your left thigh and balance. Join your hands in a ‘namaste’ position. Breathe slowly while focusing on a distant object
- The Utkatasana or Chair Pose tones the lower body and exercises the spine and chest. Stand tall and stretch your hands in front with palms facing down. Bend knees and push your pelvis down as if sitting on an imaginary chair. Maintain the position for a few minutes.
- The Savasana or Corpse Pose is done at the end. It helps to repair tissues and cells, and releases stress. It also reduces blood pressure and anxiety. Lie flat on your back and keep legs slightly apart and knees relaxed. Place arms on either side with palms facing upward. Practice slow and relaxed breathing, focusing on each part of your body from head to toe.
Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutations
There are certain postures done in a particular way, by sitting in a particular direction, and at a particular time of the day. For instance, Surya Namaskar is a form of yoga done during sunrise, facing East. You can do it during sunset facing West.
“Surya” means sun and these are postures done facing the sun. This is an absolutely wonderful form of exercise for the entire body, done in 12 steps. These 12 steps consist of stretching the muscles of your hands, legs, back, neck, abdomen, and almost the entire body. These steps are normally done 12 times by chanting 12 different names of sun in Sanskrit. Each of these 12 steps is a yoga posture in itself. If you are a beginner, you can start with two or three namaskars and then gradually increase the count. In a matter 15 minutes, you will be done with your exercise regime for the day.
This is a relatively modern form of yoga practiced by many celebrities, fitness enthusiasts, and yoga teachers to increase stamina, lose weight, and build muscle strength and flexibility. Power Yoga is a spin-off of Ashtanga yoga, which has been wonderfully blended with contemporary aerobic exercises. It is yoga done at a high speed and many has advantages of its own.
Who Can Practice Yoga?
This ancient science does not restrict its practice to any particular age group. Starting at an early age gives the body more time to adjust to this particular form of exercise and reap its benefits much sooner. Studies show that yoga also benefits the mind. Practicing it regularly from an early age helps manage stress and cope with difficulties in your life effectively, increases attention span and concentration levels, and prevents sickness by building immunity.
Aging problems and symptoms can also be cured by practicing the right yoga techniques, even when you hit 30. Yoga works on the principle of calorie restriction (CR) which is known to extend longevity and slow down the natural process of aging. Calorie restriction is a method to lower the amount of calories consumed on a daily basis. However, though the calories decrease, the essential nutrients required for a healthy life are kept intact.
This process slowly and gradually works towards increasing lifespan and maintaining weight, too. Excess weight leads to issues like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and also shows signs of aging like saggy skin and double chin. CR works effectively in maintaining a radiant and youthful appearance, increases activity levels, and delays age-related diseases.
Yoga also improves skin and hair texture. A fit, toned body and a clear mind reflect in one’s physical appearance, especially on the face. This, along with a good diet, will result in glowing skin and soft hair. It relieves stress and keeps you cheerful and focused. Doing yoga prevents premature aging because of the healthy cells it helps generate in the body.
Benefits of Yoga for the Mind & Body
Yoga benefits not only the body, but calms and clears the mind and rejuvenates the soul, too. The 5,000-year-old vedic wisdom focuses on meditation, breathing, and physical postures to bring about a drastic change in an individual’s lifestyle and everyday habits.
Here are some of the key benefits of incorporating a few minutes of yoga in your daily routine.
- It helps stretch and relax sore muscles, builds muscle strength and immunity, and improves joint mobility and flexibility.
- It is a powerful way to release anxiety and deal with everyday stress effectively.
- It unites the body, mind, and spirit allowing the individual to completely submerge and heal in the powerful process.
- Yoga on its own or combined with a physical sport like running, biking or walking is excellent for maintaining an overall fitness level.
- It calms the nervous system.
- It improves blood circulation in the body, enhances digestion, and helps eliminate toxins, thus leaving you feeling energized and fresh for longer periods of time.
- Yoga helps to get a good night’s rest.
- Combining yoga with a right, balanced diet helps tone the body and reduce excess fat.
- It improves immunity and increases your lifespan in the process.
- Yoga slows down the process of aging.
Yoga to Relax Mind and Soul
Yoga is known to not only benefit the body, but calm the mind and soothe the soul, too. In addition to practicing asanas in your everyday routine, also make it a point to learn a few simple breathing and meditation techniques. Although breathing is a natural process, it is often taken for granted. Since the process is natural and effortless, its power is often underestimated.
Proper breathing techniques go a long way in calming and relaxing the mind, eliminating bad thoughts, vibes, and negativity, and keeps you composed. The methods are simple, require minimal effort, and show their benefits as you master and gain control over them.
Drink Plenty of Water
Although yoga works effectively in toning and shaping the body and improving the skin’s appearance, another great anti-aging tip is to drink at least eight to ten glasses of water every day. You may increase this quantity during the summers, or if you do heavy-weight workouts and grueling exercises. Drinking water keeps the body hydrated, flushes out toxins, and makes the skin glow. It also prevents sunstroke, dehydration, and kidney stones. Water helps increase blood production in the body, resulting in brighter, radiant skin and eliminating skin issues.
Stretch after Working Long Hours
For those that have a desk job, be sure to stretch regularly to improve blood circulation in the body. Long hours often result in numb joints, sore muscles and affects bone health, too. Go for a short stroll, use the washroom, or stretch and relax the arms and legs a few times to get relief.
Take a Break from Your Screen
Excessive glare by using phones, tablets, and laptops results in dark circles, headaches, and migraines. Dark circles makes one look older, tired, and stressed out. Opt for homemade remedies using fresh cooling ingredients and use eye packs after long work hours.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
A good, undisturbed sleep schedule at fixed hours beats stress and promotes calmness and composure. It also increases energy and cures depression. Aging is closely related to poor sleeping schedules and lack of sleep. Consider using calming oils like lavender and chamomile, consuming warm milk, and opting for a dark room.
Eat well, do not over work, and exercise regularly. Stay away from alcohol, sugar, smoking, and fatty foods. Work on reducing anger. All of these factors prolong the aging process.
Best Yoga Teachers in the U.S.
- Noah Maze’s unique style of Anusara and Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga is taught at his institute, MYoga School, in Los Angeles. Connect with him at email@example.com.
- Seane Corn, founder of Off the Mat Into the World, a yoga organization based in the U.S., has more than two decades of experience. Connect with her at Seane@seanecorn.com.
- With more than 16 years of experience, Elena Brower is known for Hatha and Kundalini styles of yoga. Connect with her here at elenabrower.com.
- Heidi Kristoffer teaches Hatha and Vinyasa flow styles of yoga at Strala Yoga. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yoga has a lot more depth than what we’ve mentioned here. It is not possible to cover all of its aspects in a single article. So, watch this space for more information, tips, and techniques related to yoga.
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