Why Muscles Get Sore

As people age, they begin to complain more of pains in their muscles and joints. They seem to stiffen up with age, and such commonplace activities as bending over for the morning paper can make them wince.

Such pain can grip so fiercely that they are sure it begins deep in their bones. But the real cause of stiffness and soreness lies not in the joints or bones, according to research at the Johns Hopkins Medical School, but in the muscles and connective tissues that move the joints.

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The frictional resistance generated by the two rubbing surfaces of bones in the joints is negligible, even in joints damaged by arthritis.

Flexibility is the medical term used to describe the range of a joint’s motion from full movement in one direction to full movement in the other. The greater the range of movement, the more flexible the joint.

If you bend forward at the hips and touch your toes with your fingertips, you have good flexibility, or range of motion of the hip joints. But can you bend over easily with a minimal expenditure of energy and force? The exertion required to flex a joint is just as important as its range of possible motion.

Different factors limit the flexibility and ease of movement in different joints and muscles. In the elbow and knee, the bony structure itself sets a definite limit. In other joints, such as the ankle, hip, and back, the soft tissue—muscle and connective tissue—limit the motion range.

The problem of inflexible joints and muscles is similar to the difficulty of opening and closing a gate because of a rarely used and rusty hinge that has become balky.

Hence, if people do not regularly move their muscles and joints through their full ranges of motion, they lose some of their potential. That is why when these people will try to move a joint after a long period of inactivity, they feel pain, and that discourages further use

What happens next is that the muscles become shortened with prolonged disuse and produces spasms and cramps that can be irritating and extremely painful. The immobilization of muscles, as researchers have demonstrated with laboratory animals, brings about biochemical changes in the tissue.

However, other factors trigger sore muscles. Here are some of them:

1. Too much exercise

Have you always believed on the saying, “No pain, no gain?” If you do, then, it is not so surprising if you have already experienced sore muscles.

The problem with most people is that they exercise too much thinking that it is the fastest and the surest way to lose weight. Until they ache, they tend to ignore their muscles and connective tissue, even though they are what quite literally holds the body together.

2. Aging and inactivity

Connective tissue binds muscle to bone by tendons, binds bone to bone by ligaments, and covers and unites muscles with sheaths called fasciae. With age, the tendons, ligaments, and fasciae become less extensible. The tendons, with their densely packed fibers, are the most difficult to stretch. The easiest are the fasciae. But if they are not stretched to improve joint mobility, the fasciae shorten, placing undue pressure on the nerve pathways in the muscle fasciae. Many aches and pains are the result of nerve impulses traveling along these pressured pathways.

3. Immobility

Sore muscles or muscle pain can be excruciating, owing to the body’s reaction to a cramp or ache. In this reaction, called the splinting reflex, the body automatically immobilizes a sore muscle by making it contract. Thus, a sore muscle can set off a vicious cycle pain.

First, an unused muscle becomes sore from exercise or being held in an unusual position. The body then responds with the splinting reflex, shortening the connective tissue around the muscle. This cause more pain, and eventually the whole area is aching. One of the most common sites for this problem is the lower back.

4. Spasm theory

In the physiology laboratory at the University of Southern California, some people have set out to learn more about this cycle of pain.

Using some device, they measured electrical activity in the muscles. The researchers knew that normal, well-relaxed muscles produce no electrical activity, whereas, muscles that are not fully relaxed show considerable activity.

In one experiment, the researchers measured these electrical signals in the muscles of persons with athletic injuries, first with the muscle immobilized, and then, after the muscle had been stretched.

In almost every case, exercises that stretched or lengthened the muscle diminished electrical activity and relieved pain, either totally or partially.

These experiments led to the “spasm theory,” an explanation of the development and persistence of muscle pain in the absence of any obvious cause, such as traumatic injury.

According to this theory, a muscle that is overworked or used in a strange position becomes fatigued and as a result, sore muscles.

Hence, it is extremely important to know the limitations and capacity of the muscles in order to avoid sore muscles. This goes to show that there is no truth in the saying, “No pain, no gain.” What matters most is on how people stay fit by exercising regularly at a normal range than once rarely but on a rigid routine.

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Self Massage

Are you aware of having a personal massage therapist, actually two of them, available to you and ready to serve and fulfill your wishes twenty four hours a day and seven days a week all year round and charge you not a dime? And would you believe me when I tell you that these massage therapists are perfectly happy to provide you with therapeutic sessions anywhere you please (your bedroom or living room, your office or car, in a public park or at the library), as frequently as you summons them and for the duration of your choosing? I am talking about your own two hands. Yes, your own two hands are perfect capable of massaging away your stress, your tension, your stiffness and your pains while bring forth an increase of blood circulation to invigorate and rejuvenate you with a fresh supply of oxygen into every cell in your body. Research shows that massage therapy, whether it is performed by a paid professional massage therapist or by your own built-in and securely affix hands, also boosts your immune systems as the production of white blood cells is stimulated in the process as is your mental capacity.

Chances are that you probably perform self massage therapy on a regular basis without ever calling it that. Stroking your forehead in a spontaneous reaction to a headache, grabbing the back of your neck to squeeze aware aches and stiffness, scrubbing yourself down with a loofah sponge in the shower or bath, rubbing your sore feet after a long day or hard work are all forms of self applied massage therapy. Congratulations! You are an experienced self massage therapist and you did not require formal training, a certification or a license.

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The following is a list of techniques you can safely apply to your own body and promote overall wellness from the tip of your toes up to the crown of your head:

  • Upon awaking and upon going to sleep. Twice a day, morning and evening, treat yourself to a session of gentle punches. Always moving in an upward motion from bottom to top, begin with the legs, proceed to the arms, then the torso, the back, the head and the face. This will beat out your tension, stress, kinks in your muscles, will improve your blood circulation and will strengthen your body.

  • A treat after dessert. Whether you have had a large meal or a small one, help your digestive process by rubbing your tummy in the same direction as your food travels through the systems; clockwise. Therefore, use the palms of both your hands in a clockwise circular motion.

  • A therapeutic exercise before and after the more athletic type. Punch yourself before stretching, cardiovascular or strength exercises to get more blood flowing into your muscles. After exercising, rubbing your muscles in the direction of your heart will promote the elimination of metabolic waste as well as expedite the relaxation and recovery of your muscles.

  • Massage your appended massage therapists. You may do this with or without lotion buy you should do it daily. Intertwine the fingers of both hands and rub the heels against each other in a circular motion. With on thumb, rub the entire palm of the other hand and then switch. Untwine your fingers and thoroughly kneading each hand, gently pull on each finger and finish by pinching the webbing between the thumb and the index finger of each hand.

  • Play tennis without a racquet. To exorcise tension and stress, massage your feet by stepping on a tennis ball. Actually, a gulf ball will work just as well. From a standing position press one foot on top of the ball, apply as much weight as you can and slowly more your foot around.

Enjoy yourself massage and stay well.

 

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7 Tips for Fitness Women

Would you like to be a fitness woman? Or are you a fitness woman but would like to be effective? Here are 7 great tips on how to become an effective fitness woman:

 

  1. Get a program that will best suit you. Every fitness woman is different. You may have surgical history where a program may not be suited for you. Always consult a qualified trainer to make sure that the fitness program will not hurt you. If the fitness program is not for you, it will only be a cause of frustration and injuries.

 

  1. Set realistic targets. Wouldn’t you be frustrated if you set your mind into reshaping your body in month? Make sure that the body you prefer in a period of time is achievable and realistic. The program should also be practical and will not give you false hopes. It is important to be aware of the blocks you encounter in your daily living. This will help you know what program is satisfactory. And once a program has been reached, then you can set goals and timelines that are realistic.

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  1. Exercises should work on the parts of your body where muscles are. The reason mainly is, when you develop muscles, you burn more calories and then you lessen the fats in your body. Multi-joint exercises and weight lifting are recommended. Learn what exercises work on certain parts of your body. Multi-joint exercises are also said to be effective but time saving.

 

  1. Be systematic on working on your muscles. Your muscles should be working harder over time. Repeating the same sets of exercises and same weight without getting your muscles to work harder will not give satisfactory results. You can record your daily results and make the progression based on your previous data. A daily log will also motivate you since you are able to track how far you have gone. It builds confidence since there is a written proof something that was successfully accomplished.

 

  1. Perform a set of exercises in 10 repetitions. Every number that was accomplished is called a repetition. Try to make every repetition with less momentum as much as possible. The lesser the momentum, the harder your muscles work. And the harder they work, the bigger they become. To check if there is much momentum when lifting, see if the arm is floating. If the arm does float, then there is much momentum.

 

  1. Be flexible and perform a variety of exercises. Every exercise program should have a variety. You can change your exercises, goals and sets every month to keep you motivated and on the go. Doing this will help you prevent being bored and losing energy physically and mentally.

 

  1. Be Motivated! The best way to keep the energy levels of trainees is to allow a healthy competition and allow them to have a sense of control. Having control is having the sense ownership where everybody gets a part in implementing a program. To do this you also need to be consistent in demonstrating your skills.

 

Not all programs work for all types of people. There is no workout that is best for everyone. But you learn from experienced people. Learn to acknowledge blocks and demonstrate self-discipline, keep yourself motivated and work harder everyday and add variety. Doing these things, you will discover that a lot of programs will work for you.

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How To Target Your Stomach With Yoga

Yoga is a great part of any wellness routine, as it has the ability to both reduce stress and exercise the body. If you are trying to use yoga to target your midsection, well, that can be done. There are a number of yoga positions (called asanas) which exercise the stomach muscles. Bear in mind that some of these are more advanced than other. Assess your own skill and comfort level before trying certain asanas. If you are not sure you are able to do one asana, start with one that seems easier and work your way up once you have belt some strength and flexibility. As with any workout routine, be sure to consult a professional before beginning and always warm up properly to avoid injury.

 

Pavan-Muktasan

To perform this stomach-exercising asana, first lie flat on your back. Use a yoga mat of towel to cushion the spine. Bend both knees up to your chest so that your thigh touches the stomach. Hug your knees in place and lock your fingers. Now lift your head up so your nose meets your knees. Take a deep breath and hold it for thirty seconds before releasing and slowly lowering back to start. This exercise can also be done one leg at a time.

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Bhujangasan

For this stomach exercise, remain on the floor, but roll over on to your stomach. Position your hand under your shoulders. Now, using your back muscles, raise your upper torso off the ground to that your head is upright. Be careful not to push with your hands. You want the muscles in your back to be doing the work. Hold this posture for thirty seconds, then lower yourself back to start. Even though you are using your back muscles to lift your upper body, performing the asana will assist in reducing belly fat and flattening your tummy.

 

The Bow

This stomach exercise is pretty similar to the previous asana, but more involved. It starts from the same position lying on your stomach, but in this exercise you curl your legs upward in addition to lifting your upper torso. Bend your knees so that the soles of your feet come up toward your head. Grab your ankles and pull with your hands and push with your legs until only your stomach is on the floor. Your body should feel sort of like it is making a circle. Your knees should remain together throughout the exercise. Hold this position for thirty seconds before releasing and returning to starting position.

Paad-Pashchimottanasan

Now that you have read the name of this asana, try not to be intimidated– it is less complicated in practice than in pronunciation. It does, however, require a fair amount of flexibility, so you may want to start with something easier and build up to this one. Start by lying on your back with your legs straight and arms overhead. Your body should be straight from head to toe with all limbs extended. Point your palms up to the ceiling and put your hands together. Contract your stomach muscles to sit up, keeping your back straight and hands overhead. Bend forward and grab your toes with your hands, putting your head between your arms so it touches your knees. Hold the position for two minutes before releasing.

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What to Expect When Starting a Yoga Routine



Yoga. We’ve all heard the word and seen the mats everyone seems to carry around with them these days. But can yoga really help improve your health and fitness levels? The answer is yes, definitely – provided that you start safely and sensibly and know what to expect.

 

Why Yoga?

Yoga can help you get fit quickly and safely because it uses the weight of your body to tone and trim. It is low impact, and good for people of all ages and body types who want to build their strength and stay fix and flexible.

 

You’re Never too Old for Yoga

Yoga is ideal even for seniors because it can improve range of motion, balance and stability. It also relieves stiffness. The long lean muscle built through yoga can protect bones and aging joints in order to keep you mobile and injury-free. Those muscles can also help boost your metabolism so you will burn more calories, which is ideal if you wish to lose weight.

 

Thousands of Years of Proof That It Works

Yoga has been used for thousands of years for health, healing and fitness. It may seem weird or “New Age” to us in the West, but the truth is that Hatha yoga has been practiced for thousands of years in the Far East.

The health benefits of a regular yoga practice include increased:

* Concentration
* Strength
* Flexibility
* Long, lean muscle
* Stamina

Yoga will decrease:

* Anxiety
* Stress
* Tension
* Blood pressure
* Stiffness

 

Safety First

Before you start to twist yourself into a pretzel, it is important to put safety first. If you have any underlying health issues, check with your doctor before starting yoga. Choose a yoga that is low impact, such as Hatha, Kundalini or Vinyasa, compared to the more demanding forms such as Bikram (hot yoga) or Ashtanga.

Be aware of any old or recent injuries and protect your back and knees. Start with yoga poses that can work your core muscles, such as Mountain, Tree, and the Warrior series of poses, and Plank pose. A good set of abdominal and back muscles will give your practice stability and help keep you safe.

Don’t believe the myth of “no pain, no gain” in reference to yoga. That is the surest way to sideline yourself with a potentially serious injury. After a workout, it is natural to feel a little sore the next day, but if this persists, rest those muscles until the strain in healed.

Practice on a level surface and use a non-skid mat so you do not slip. It will cushion your joints as well when doing your poses. Warm up before and cool down after with some gentle stretching. Stay warm but not too hot. Cold muscles will tense can be injured more easily.

If you are using a DVD, work at your own pace. Pause it as needed. If you are confused, look up the poses online at a reliable site like Yoga Journal.

Enjoy your meditations. Think of them as a mini-break from your daily life even if some of them seem weird. Chanting mantras such as OM might also seem a bit odd, but you will soon notice your body, mind and spirit all becoming in tune with each other.

Don’t skip deep relaxation at the end. This is usually done lying down in Corpse pose and is a great way to de-stress.

Now that you know what to expect, start a daily yoga practice and see what a difference it can make to your health.

 

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Vinyasa Yoga 101



Yoga means union, the union of mind, body and spirit. There are a number of yogas to choose from. The best yogas will combine all three. However, many modern yogas focus mainly on the poses, or asanas, and tend to not focus as much on the meditation and breath work which are an essential part of Hatha yoga, the oldest form of yoga.

 

What Is Vinyasa Yoga?

Vinyasa is also known as flow yoga. The word vinyasa means to place in a special way. It uses the same asanas as Hatha yoga. However, rather than each asana being done individually with a pause in between, the poses are organized into sequences whereby the body is in constant motion as it moves smoothly from one pose to the next.

The word vinyasa can also mean “breath-synchronized movement,” with the asanas being performed, held, and changed in conjunction with inhale and exhale patterns and a number of breaths being counted.

The most prominent teacher of vinyasa was K. Pattabhi Jois, who founded his own yoga institute in India in 1948 and helped popularize yoga throughout the world.

 

The Eight Limbs of Yoga

Vinyasa flow yoga belongs to the ancient practice of Ashtanga yoga. It is also known as Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga. Ashtanga is a Sanskrit term which means “eight-limbed,” referring to a 2,000-year-old book about yoga which stated that the practice of yoga, or union, involves eight limbs, or arms and legs, to support it.

Two of the eight limbs are asana and pranayama, that is, poses and breathing. Pranayama is a combination of two words, prana (life-force energy) and ayama (to move or regulate). Through controlling our breathing, therefore, we can regulate our energy and use it to achieve our goals in life. We can also use it for health and healing. Yoga is part of Ayurvedic, that is, traditional Indian medicine that has been used for centuries to bring the body back into balance.

 

Yoga for All

The beauty of Vinyasa flow yoga is that it can be practiced by people of any age and ability. The main trick is to learn the postures first, to then be able to move smoothly from one to the next.

Vinyasa is low-impact compared to Ashtanga, which is a good deal more strenuous and has seven levels (one beginner, two intermediate and four advanced). With Vinyasa, you need focus and concentration as you move from one posture to the next and then hold it for a certain number of breaths before moving on to the next asana. However, it is not high impact.

Different forms of breathing are used, though there is not as much pranayama and meditation compared with Hatha or Kundalini yoga, which are both also good for those new to yoga.

Due to its continuous movement, you have no time to get bored, plus Vinyasa has many beneficial physical effects such as improved circulation, digestion, flexibility and mental abilities such as concentration. It relieves stiffness and lowers blood pressure, while reducing stress and improving mood.

Vinyasa will give you more energy and offer relief from depression and anxiety. It can also improve your social skills as you attended classes and work with your teacher to improve your postures and flow.

If you are looking for an interesting and fun form of yoga, see if there is a Vinyasa or flow yoga studio near you, and see what a difference yoga can make to your mind, body and spirit.

 

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Hatha Yoga 101



There are a number of different kinds of yoga – some ancient, and some modern inventions which emphasize different aspect of yoga.

What Is Hatha Yoga?

Yoga means union; the union of mind, body and spirit. Hatha is the most traditional of the yogas and has been practiced for thousands of years in India and the Far East.

The name Hatha means willful or forceful. The word is also a combination of hat (sun) and ha (moon). It works with the energy centers of the body, flesh and bone. The main focus is on surrendering to and perfecting the many poses, and using yoga for health, healing and personal transformation.

Hatha yoga is part of traditional Ayurvedic, that is, Indian medicine. In traditional Eastern forms of medicine, doctors treat not just the physical body but the energy body, also called the subtle body. It is thought to be comprised of channels, loops, meridians and chakras – that is, energy centers in the body.

If a surgeon cut you open, they wouldn’t see the chakras, but Hatha posits that they are there and balance the energy for healing purposes and overall wellbeing. Chinese acupuncture and acupressure, Reiki, Shiatsu and other healing modalities also work on the theory of balance and stimulating the energy in the body.

Hatha Poses

Many modern types of yoga focus mainly on the poses, or asanas, the physical side of yoga. Hatha yoga aspires to create balance in all things. There are different levels of poses, and therefore different classes and DVDs you can try.

 

Improved Concentration

Hatha improves mental concentration through meditation, chanting mantras like OM, and to some extent, breath work. With breath work, you learn how to breathe in different patterns with different purposes, such as a cooling breath or a heating breath that increases energy.

 

At One with the Breath

The Sanskrit word for breath work is pranayama. Prana means life-force, ayama to regulate or lengthen. In other words, practicing pranayama can improve one’s health and vitality through the breath. The breath work is very useful for eliminating toxins from the body and improving the immune system.

 

A Union of Body, Mind and Spirit

Yoga is not just about the body beautiful. It is considered to be a way of connecting with our inner selves so we can open up to connecting with others. This can be achieved through meditation. Meditation can also include breath work and chanting.

 

The Benefits of Hatha

Hatha has been shown to offer increased energy, less stress, better moods and sleep, and decreased anxiety. It lowers blood pressure and can help you lose weight more easily by boosting your metabolism.

 

Who Can Practice It?

Hatha is ideal for people of all ages because it is low impact and you can work at a safe and sensible pace. Even those with health issues can benefit from Hatha yoga. When done carefully with the help of expert guidance, Hatha can help relieve back, joint and muscle pain. The pranayama can help with allergies, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, or COPD.

Meditation helps improve focus, concentration and memory, all ideal for seniors who want to maintain a busy, active lifestyle no matter what their age.

With all of these benefits, now might be the best time to check out your local yoga studios to see which of them offer Hatha. Try an introductory class and see what a difference Hatha yoga can make to your health.

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Kundalini Yoga 101



Yoga is not just a form of exercise. It is known to revitalize your body, mind and spirit as well. The word yoga means union, and the best forms of yoga are those which allow you to improve all three. Hatha yoga is the oldest of the yoga forms, dating back to 1,500 BC. Kundalini is slightly more modern than that, having been developed in India in the 5th century AD and practiced as part of Tantric Buddhism.

 

What Is Tantra?

Tantra means union, that is, union of mind, body and spirit. Instead of living in a cave and starving in order to make spiritual progress, Tantric Buddhists incorporate all aspects of life into their spiritual path to perfection. You don’t need to be a Buddhist to practice Kundalini yoga, since yoga is not a part of any religion. Yoga is however a cornerstone of traditional Indian medicine, known as Ayurvedic medicine.

 

Yoga as Healing

Kundalini yoga was brought to the West in the late 1960’s by Yogi Bhajan, a Sikh from India, who also founded the Yogi tea brand. He set up teaching centers as part of the Happy, Healthy Holy Organization (3HO).

Kundalini yoga focuses on awakening your power within through two means, physical movement and mental improvement. You can develop strength and power in all aspects of your life and use this power to achieve both your worldly goals and your higher self.

The word Kundalini means coiled. It refers to two things. The first is a form of vital life energy thought by Ayurvedic practitioners to be coiled around the base of the spine. By moving this energy through your body and harnessing whenever you wish, you can release your full potential of body, mind and spirit – the second meaning of Kundalini.

 

Why Kundalini Yoga Is Different

Kundalini uses poses and breath work in a range of ways. Rather than being done individually for their own sake, they are put into sets known as kriyas which are designed to accomplish certain goals. These goals can range from boosting your energy and strengthening your immune system, to weight loss and lowering stress. Some of the poses are special and used only in Kundalini yoga.

In addition to the poses, Kundalini uses special breath work, including one called Breath of Fire – rapid breathing in and out through the nose in the same way a dog would pant through its mouth. The pattern is supposed to awaken the energy in the spine and move it upwards so it can be used in a range of ways. It also gives the abs a great workout.

Kundalini works on the individual chakras of the body as well, to balance them. The word chakra means vortex; the energy is pictured as spinning like a plate from the front of our body to our back.

There are seven chakras, each related to a certain form of energy. For example, the heart chakra at the center of our chest is said to control our love and relationships. A blocked or imbalanced chakra can lead to disharmony and poor health. An open and balanced one can lead to happier relationships.

Kundalini is also different because of the mantras and chanting. If you love to sing, this is the right yoga for you.

This form of yoga can be done by people of all ages and physical conditions. There are no levels so you can benefit from any class you attend. If you are feeling “stuck” in certain parts of your life, see if there is a Kundalini studio near you and try it out to see what a difference it can make in your life.

 

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Iyengar Yoga 101



There are many different forms of yoga, some ancient, some modern, and often a combination of the two.

 

The Principles of Iyengar

Iyengar yoga is a form of Hatha yoga. This school of yoga was founded by B. K. S. Iyengar in the 1970s in India. It uses Hatha poses, but with an emphasis on detail, precision and perfect alignment in the performance of asanas (poses) and breath work. In this way, the student will develop strength, mobility and stability through all of the poses they work on.

 

Who Was Iyengar?

Before his death in 2014 at the age of 95, Iyengar was said to have perfected approximately 200 Hatha yoga poses. This is a small number of the many that are available in Hatha, but if you enjoy seeking perfection in all you do, this could be the right yoga for you.

Iyengar taught yoga for more than 70 years and was the author of 40 books, including Light on Yoga: Yoga Dipika. It is considered to be a definitive work on the power of yoga and its philosophy.

His impact on popularizing yoga in the West led Time magazine to name Iyengar as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2004. He was awarded three of the four top honors for civilians in India in 1991, for positively affecting so many lives through yoga. Iyengar taught many celebrities around the world yoga, including the world-renowned violinist and conductor Yehudi Menuhin, helping to make it more fashionable in the West.

 

Yoga for Healing

Iyengar did not just teach yoga as a physical exercise, but as a treatment and even cure for illness as part of a holistic practice, known in India as Ayurvedic medicine. He also taught about the spirituality of yoga, thus caring for his students in terms of body, mind and spirit.

Yoga is not just about what you do when you are on your mat, but about the eight limbs of yoga, which include physical work, breath work, and meditation. He illustrated the asanas he perfected in this works. He also went into great detail about breath work, cleanliness, times of the day to practice, what to eat and when, and so on. If you enjoy discipline and routine, you will also enjoy Iyengar.

 

A Detailed Yoga Program for Life

As with all Hatha yoga, there are different levels. Beginners start out with easy poses and then work their way up to more challenging ones. The proper technique is emphasized with each pose and the instructions given for each.

As with Hatha, there are also a number of breathing techniques to learn depending on what effects you wish to achieve in the body, such as boosting energy or getting rid of toxins from the body.

For those who wish to study on their own rather than attend class all the time, his book Light on Yoga: Yoga Dipika gives as an appendix a 300-week yoga course mapped out for the “intense practitioner,” nearly six years of guided yoga lessons.

You can also learn different poses for different health benefits. Some will relieve back pain and give you a solid set of core muscles. Others will help you lose weight, improve digestion, or lift depression.

Iyengar sought to be the definitive yoga teacher to heal body, mind and spirit through Hatha. If you like to exercise in a very structured way, look for an Iyengar studio near you or follow his guides to perfect your poses and breath work.

 

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Bikram Yoga 101



Bikram yoga was founded in the 1970s by the yoga teacher Bikram Choudhury. It is also commonly referred to as hot yoga, though there are other types of yogas also being done in hot studios these days. Bikram is also referred to as “boot camp” because it drills students in every 90-minute lesson using the same two breathing exercises and 26 Hatha yoga postures done in the same pattern.

Hot Yoga

In the studio, temperatures range from 80F to 110F, with a relative humidity of around 75%. This is thought to mimic the conditions in India, the birthplace of Hatha yoga, the most ancient form of yoga which dates back to around 1500 BC.

The second theory behind the heat is that it relaxes and lengthens muscles to give a better workout. It is also said to promote weight loss and release toxins from the body. Those who favor Bikram also say it boosts the immune system.

However, doing vigorous yoga poses in such conditions can cause severe dehydration and pose a serious health risk for anyone who has any heart health issues. Therefore, while Bikram studios are popping up everywhere these days, is not recommended for seniors or anyone with an underlying health concern.

Physical Emphasis

Yoga means union – the union of mind, body and spirit. Bikram, on the other hand, is a modern invention that emphasizes physical strength. Yoga is supposed to be non-competitive, but the founder encourages yoga pose competitions to see who can come up with the perfect pose, in order to win various awards.

Bikram Pros and Cons

Bikram came from Bengal on the Indian subcontinent and brought his version of yoga to the US through Hawaii and California. It has gained in popularity due to the novelty of the hot studios and the ease of only having to learn 26 Hatha yoga postures out of the thousands available. These poses can give a good workout in themselves, with little need for a hot studio.

In addition to the health benefits mentioned above, the heat is also supposed to help increase willpower as people struggle to carry out their practice in such difficult conditions. Willpower or not, excessive sweating can cause electrolyte imbalances and result in heart rhythm issues.

If students don’t drink plenty of water before, during and after their workout, they can experience dehydration, which can also pose a serious health risk. Dehydration can lead to an irregular heartbeat and to lower blood volume. Low blood volume can in turn lead to hypovolemic shock, which can even lead to death if not treated promptly.

Bikram Asanas

If you like the postures of Bikram, you should be able to do them anywhere to improve your body without dying of heat prostration. You can find simple posters with each of the asanas listed that you can follow along with. There is no meditation component with Bikram as there is with other forms of yoga.

Is Bikram Right for You?

In addition to the hot studios and asana drilling, Bikram is often referred to as “cult-like” rather than warm and welcoming. The founder and the teachers on his teacher training program have also recently been accused of systematic sexual misconduct with their students.

Any exercise is better than none in most cases, of course, but there are a range of yogas to choose from. Pick a style that matches your age, fitness level and interests. Compare and choose the safest and healthiest for you, with a studio to match.

 

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