Want to improve your muscle tone, strength, articulation, sleep, and immune system? Want to reduce your food cravings? Yoga is an ideal activity for all of this and much more. Many people report that they are less prone to cramps and can improve their flexibility by about a third after two months practicing yoga.
If you are suffering from cardiac problems, high blood pressure, lower back pain and depression, yoga can also benefit you.
However, there are a few precautions you need to take to get the greatest benefits and avoid any negative side effects.
1. You are aware of the different types of yoga courses
Many people are now into hot yoga (Bikram) where the exercises are done in a much more vigorous way. The temperature of the room is usually 105° F with a humidity of about 40%. If you have a heart condition or you are pregnant, then this is not the type of yoga for you. Traditional yoga with the emphasis on gentle stretching and deep breathing will be ideal if you have any health issues.
2. You know about prenatal yoga
If you are pregnant, you will be aware that certain types of yoga poses can be extremely beneficial in preparing for the big event. Just concentrating on breathing techniques may help you with shortness of breath and also when you have to manage the labor contractions. The other exercises concentrate on improving balance and flexibility while learning how to stretch gently. You just need to avoid certain back and abdominal poses but if the class is for pregnant women only, this will not be a problem.
3. You choose a qualified yoga teacher
If there was a national qualifying certification board, then this would be easy. Unfortunately, due to the many different types of yoga available and the multiple training courses, there is no such body.
The best way is to ask a prospective yoga teacher about how and where they got their training. You can also ask if they have accreditation from a well known yoga association. Their answer usually is an indicator of their skills but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. For example, I had a very demanding teacher who used his knees to push my back in order to straighten my spine. I told him that was torture and left his school!
4. You know the best environment for yoga
You may have to do yoga classes indoors. The room should be quiet and free of clutter. Access to fresh air is ideal so outdoors in the summer is great.
5. You wear suitable clothes
Wearing light and loose fitting clothes that you feel comfortable in, is essential. As regard to the fabric cotton, linen, or jersey are suitable. Forget about corduroy, denim or leather.
Women need to wear a well fitting top so there are no embarrassing moments when you do an inversion.
6. You know about eating before and after yoga
Ideally, yoga is done several hours after eating which is why early morning and evening are favorite times. But I know some people who did a late evening yoga class who had to give up because it disturbed their sleep.
7. You know the etiquette about footwear
Most people know that shoes and socks are removed before you enter the yoga room. Check to see where other students are leaving their footwear.
8. You inform your instructor about any injuries
Maybe a past injury could cause you some discomfort while doing some of the poses. The best thing is to inform your instructor at the beginning so that she or he can modify some of the movements for you, if necessary.
9. You practise basic poses at home
This can help you to gain confidence more quickly. Some of the basic ones recommended are:
- Downward facing dog
- Upward facing dog
10. You know your limits
At the beginning, it is better to take a rest as you may be getting tired. Yoga is all about listening to your body and it is not a competitive sport. You can easily adopt the child’s pose if you feel too challenged by some of the more difficult poses. This will also help you to avoid overstretching or causing yourself any strain.
11. You know that yoga is not just for women
Yoga was actually designed for men and by men. It is definitely not an exclusive women’s club so if you are male, bear that in mind.
12. You bring your own mat
Buying a simple yoga mat is a great investment. Why? The mats in the studios tend to be full of germs. They also tend to be rather flat because of overuse so they are not very comfortable to sit or lie on.
13. You know how to approach a yoga lesson
Simply put, you are going to arrive in good time and relaxed. You know that you should be hydrated, not be constipated and your diet is not too toxic. Some experts say that drinking a glass of tepid water 20 minutes before your lesson is also a great way to detoxify your body.
14. You know where to sit
Entering a class for the first time can be intimidating. So, choose your place wisely. The front row is for the experts and geeks. Try the second row so that you can see what people around you are doing and try to learn from them. It can be uncomfortable to be in the front row. The back of the class can be difficult as you may not be able to see your instructor clearly.
15. You know that yoga follows a structured routine
You are aware that you want to take your body, mind and spirit for a ride. Yoga can benefit you by giving you a sense of lightness, relaxation and ease, if done right. You also know that doing yoga in a haphazard and disorganized way is unlikely to get you results.
Let us know in the comments how yoga has benefited you.
Featured photo credit: 2nd Annual Yoga/David Fulmer via flickr.com