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Everybody Loves YOGA!

You may say yoga is not for me, but yoga is just not yoga; there are lots of different kinds for lots of different people. Many people think that yoga is just stretching. But while stretching is certainly involved, yoga is really about creating balance in the body through developing both strength and flexibility. This is done through the performance of poses or postures, each of which has specific physical benefits.

All studios offer a Beginner Basics, which is recommended for those brand-new to yoga. You will learn about the philosophy and benefits of yoga, and practice basic breathing techniques and postures.


HATHA

Hatha is a very general term that can encompass many of the physical types of yoga. If a class is described as Hatha style, it is probably going to be slow-paced and gentle and provide a good introduction to the basic yoga poses.


VINYASA

Like Hatha, Vinyasa is a general term that is used to describe many different types of classes. Vinyasa, which means breathe-synchronized movement, tends to be a more vigorous style based on the performance of a series of poses called Sun Salutations, in which movement is matched to the breath. A Vinyasa class will typically start with a number of Sun Salutations to warm up the body for more intense stretching that's done at the end of class. Vinyasa is also called Flow, in reference to the continuous movement from one posture the the next.


ASHTANGA

Ashtanga, which means "eight limbs" in Sanskrit, is a fast-paced, intense style of yoga. A set series of poses is performed, always in the same order. This practice is very physically demanding because of the constant movement from one pose to the next and the emphasis on daily practice. Ashtanga is also the inspiration for what is often called Power Yoga, which is based on the flowing style of Ashtanga with out keeping strictly to the set series.


BIKRAM/HOT YOGA

Pioneered by Bikram Choudhury, this style is more generally referred to as Hot Yoga. It is practiced in a 95 to 100-degree room, which allows for a loosening of tight muscles and profuse sweating, which is thought to be cleansing. The Bikram method is a set series of 26 poses, but not all hot classes make use of this series.


RESTORATIVE

Restorative yoga makes use of props to support the body as it relaxes into poses over the course of several minutes. The idea is to stay in each pose long enough to encourage passive stretching. Seated forward bends, gentle supine back-bends, and twists are examples of the type of poses that can be adapted to be restorative with the addition of props like blankets and bolsters. Often the challenge comes in learning to be still and let go.

YIN

This style of yoga targets the deeper tissues of the body - bones, joints, connective tissues, and fascia. Postures are practiced mostly upon the floor and are held for longer periods of time than other styles. For those yogis that wonder why sitting in meditation is still difficult even though you practice other forms of yoga (often very muscularly based), this class helps to balance the opposing forces within the body.


RAJA

Raja yoga meditation is generally based on directing one’s life force to bring the mind and emotions so into balance that the attention may be easily focused on the object of meditation. It is focused on movement as a form of meditation and linking body, breath, and mind; a flowing series of postures that are aimed at awakening the body, increasing clarity of mind and heightened awareness for the up coming day.


CHAIR YOGA

Chair yoga is a general term for practices that modify yoga poses so that they can be done while seated in a chair. These modifications make yoga accessible to people who cannot stand or lack the mobility to move easily from standing to seated to supine positions. Many of the basic body mechanics of the individual postures are retained, no matter the stance of the practitioner. While seated on chairs, students can do versions of twists, hip stretches, forward bends, and mild backbends. In addition to a good stretch, chair yoga participants can also enjoy other health benefits of yoga, including improved muscle tone, better breathing habits, reduction of stress, better sleep and a sense of well-being. It is great for seniors.


There are many other styles of Yoga developed by various Yoga studios. Check out the closest studio near you to find out which styles they offer; there is a style suited for just about everyone.


WHY DO YOGA?

The short answer is that yoga makes you feel better. Practicing the postures, breathing exercises and meditation makes you healthier in body, mind and spirit. Yoga lets you tune in, chill out, and shape up -- all at the same time.

For starters, yoga is good for what ails you. Specifically, research shows that yoga helps manage or control anxiety, arthritis, asthma, back pain, blood pressure, carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic fatigue, depression, diabetes, epilepsy, headaches, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, stress and other conditions and diseases.

What's more, yoga:

~ Improves muscle tone, flexibility, strength and stamina

~ Reduces stress and tension

~ Boosts self esteem

~ Improves concentration and creativity

~ Lowers fat

~ Improves circulation

~ Stimulates the immune system

~ Creates sense of well-being and calmness


Some people find that the physical practice of yoga becomes a gateway into a spiritual exploration, while others just enjoy a wonderful low-impact workout that makes them feel great. Whatever your tendency, you will be able to find a yoga class that suits your style.


Kathryn Hartwell