Yoga Classes Can Provide Surprising Health Benefits
For many people the thought of yoga is a vision of someone contorted in uncomfortable and unrealistic pretzel-like shapes. People who study yoga diligently for years may be able to do extremely difficult postures but even the gentlest yoga class can provide surprising health benefits. Yoga is now an accepted alternative therapy designed to help promote fitness and well-being, relieve stress and aid in prevention and treatment of many types of chronic illnesses.
The practice of yoga originated in India and is about 5000 years old. There are many types of yoga — typical Western Yoga classes are based on a combination of physical postures, breathing exercises and meditation.
What are Postures?
Postures are different types of stretches held for varying periods of time (a few seconds to several minutes) or put together in a flowing movement. Stationary postures strengthen muscles while flowing postures are more aerobic. By adding proper breathing techniques to the postures yoga becomes a “meditation in motion.”
The goal of yoga is not to see how much you can do or how strong you are but to tap into the process that occurs during the postures. Yoga is noncompetitive — you work at your own individual pace finding the place between effort and ease in the postures and breathing. This process involves focusing awareness on your body and how it feels in the moment. On a deeper level, the word yoga means union of the true self — which today we may refer to as the mind-body connection. Yoga teaches us how to relax on a physical and mental level — something most of us have forgotten how to do in a busy, stressful world.
Why should I try yoga?
The yoga process of stretching and breathing reaps many benefits — both physical and psychological.
By practicing yoga you can decrease the heart rate, relax and strengthen muscles, and increase the flow of oxygen and nutrients to cells of the body.
Psychologically yoga is an effective stress management technique promoting relaxation that can help relieve symptoms and decrease the risk of stress related conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, stress headaches, muscle pain, anxiety and even heart disease. It also increases alertness, concentration and an overall feeling of well-being.
Yoga works best when practiced daily and even as little as 10-15 minutes each day is beneficial and a great way to round out your workouts.
Kitty Finklea, R.D.
Ms. Finklea is a registered dietitian and Nutrio.com’s Personal Counseling Manager with more than 15 years of experience as a weight loss counselor, sports nutritionist and avid exerciser. She is a consultant for a fitness facility and works with all levels of people who exercise. Ms. Finklea’s clients range from athletes training for marathons, to people who are beginning exercise again after bypass surgery, to women who exercise despite a hectic schedule. Additionally, she works with clients with eating disorders and has taught a weight management program for many years. She is a regular guest on an ABC affiliate, News Channel 15 in Florence, SC, providing information on nutrition and other health-related issues. Ms. Finklea received her Bachelor of Science degree in Dietetics from Winthrop College.