Yoga for All Ages
Yoga is defined as a philosophy teaching the suppression of all activity of body, mind and will inorder that the self may realize its distinction from themand attain liberation. However, it has also been definedas a system of exercises for attaining bodily or mental control and well-being. For more than 5,000 years theart of Yoga has been benefitting the body and mind ofthose choosing this positive form of exercise.
Types of Yoga
There are many different types of Yoga and with eachthere is a different benefit. While Yoga continues toevolve to meet the needs of every individual, the mostpopular form of Yoga is Hatha Yoga. This branch ofYoga focuses on the physical well-being of a personand believes that the body is the vehicle of the spirit.
A lot of different Yoga Styles are rooted from HathaYoga but they all aim to balance the mind, the bodyand the spirit through the Asanas or poses. Thedifference in the style of Yoga will determine where thefocus lies: in the balance and alignment of the body orthe coordination of breath and movement.
This classic style of Hatha Yoga uses Asanas (orposes) and Pranayama (or controlled breathing) tostimulate and begin to control the subtle energies withinoneself. The object of this style is to harmonize thebody, mind and emotions, but above all to bring oneselfto a higher level of awareness.
The unique feature of this style is the use of silentaffirmations while in the poses as a means of workingmore directly and consciously with the subtle energiesor Chakras within to achieve attunement. This Yogastyle is a gentle, inward experience as opposed toathletic or aerobic.
Sometimes called “Power Yoga” this is for those whoare seeking a more serious workout. Moving through aseries of flows and jumping from one posture toanother in order to build strength, flexibility andstamina, those participating in this form of Yoga will findit physically demanding. Ashtanga Yoga involves performing challenging flows of postures while focusing on the breathing, and uses six series of increased difficulty. This style is not for beginners and should not be attempted by anyone who is not already physically fit and exercises regularly.
Named after B. K. S. Iyengar, one of the most well-known Yoga teachers, this style focuses mostly on precision in movement and correct body alignment. When discussing Yoga the word “alignment” generally refers to the precise way in which the body should be positioned in each pose in order to obtain the maximum benefit while avoiding injury.
With this style of Yoga the poses will be held longer and repeated several times as opposed to moving quickly from one pose to the next in a flow. Iyengar is
also reputed to be one of the few Yoga styles that encourages the use of props as a means to bring the body into alignment.
Fun and Beneficial for All Ages
Yoga has seen a huge resurgence over the past few years as many have come to recognize its benefits regardless of age. Yoga classes can be found in most communities for children as young as two or three, and adult classes rarely have age restrictions.
It has been discovered that, since the basic concept behind Yoga is a pose that resembles something of nature, a child’s limitless imagination makes Yoga an adventure; one minute they can be a tree and the next a turtle. Yoga stimulates the imagination while incorporating movement and breathing without the stress and competition of most other forms of exercise promoted for children.
As the popularity of Yoga has increased so has an awareness of the benefits that far outreach typicalchildhood competitive sports. These benefits includeimproved motor skills and concentration, a sense ofcalmness and relaxation as well as better posture and breathing; making Yoga especially beneficial forchildren displaying symptoms of Asthma. Additionally,the physical benefits included: increased flexibility,strength, coordination and awareness of the body.
On the opposite end of the age spectrum the benefitsfor men and women over the age of 60 are equallycompelling. These include increased joint flexibility anda reduction in the symptoms of arthritis or bursitis.Proven health benefits include a reduction in high bloodpressure, an improvement in blood circulation,decreased body fat and an increase in lean bodytissue. Additionally, many symptoms that have beenaccepted as a natural part of growing older have beenreduced or even relieved all together, these include:
• Low back pain
• Breathing difficulties
• Vision problems
• Chronic pain
• Stress-related symptoms
• Insomnia or lack of peaceful rest
Of course, some Yoga styles are designed purely for the benefit of relaxation, but many have been designedto exercise the body while incorporating challengingposes. These styles of Yoga will have many healthbenefits including:
Flexibility– the poses work by safely stretchingyour muscles releasing built-up lactic acid thatbuilds up with muscle use and causes stiffness,tension, pain and fatigue
Strength– the more vigorous Yoga styles willquickly build muscle tone and yet, even the lessspirited styles will still increase endurance
Breathing– because of the deep and focused breathing involved in Yoga there is usually anincrease in lung capacity
Heart Benefits– Yoga has long been known tolower blood pressure and slow the heart rate; anda slower heart rate can be beneficial for thosewith hypertension, heart disease and stroke
Other Medical Conditions– Yoga has proven beneficial for those with asthma, back pain,arthritis, insomnia, multiple sclerosis and depression
At the physical level, Yoga and its practices have proven to be extremely valuable and beneficial.
A great deal of fuss has been made about the newWii Fitness and especially its Yoga “game”. While thebalance board has proven useful in measuring theaccuracy of the poses, there is no coaching for thebreathing techniques or mental focus.
Additionally, many Yoga instructors have found thatthe need to hold the controller and interrupt the flowto move on to the next Asana is highly distracting andtakes away from the experience of Yoga.
Finally, there is very little aerobic benefit as thenecessity of stopping every now and then to changethe stage of the game limits continuous exercise.
The Chiropractic Factor
As with any new exercise regimen it’s important tospeak with your Family Wellness Chiropractor first,as your ability to successfully engage in Yoga will bedetermined by your current physical fitness andstamina. Be aware that many styles of Yoga arechallenging and can lead to injury if practiced withoutproper training and supervision.
* Information from The Wellness Newsletter, Peter Pan Potential.