Mind Over Matter - Yoga and Your Body

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

What Can I Expect To Gain From Yoga?
Yoga is one of the most popular forms of body mind exercise. Yoga is a form of exercise and meditation that has existed for thousands of years. In simple terms, yoga is a form of exercise that incorporates poses and postures with breathing and meditation techniques. Originating in India, the discipline stresses the union between the body, mind and spirit. Because of this a typical yoga session is much different from an ordinary fitness class.

What Can I Expect To Gain From Yoga?
Yoga is an ideal form of exercise if you want to boost your energy, relax and refresh your mind and spirit. Regardless of your physical health or shape, you can find a yoga class to suit your individual needs and preferences. Yoga also offers many health benefits including:
  • Improved flexibility
  • Improved strength and endurance
  • Decreased stress levels
  • Improved coordination
  • Reduce chronic pain
  • Reduce insomnia and chronic pain
  • Increase energy
  • Relieves PMS and menstrual cramps
Some forms of yoga concentrate on helping the body relax and connect with its higher self, whereas other forms stress flexibility, strength and endurance. Selecting the right form of yoga will help promote your progress toward your own health and fitness goals.

What Yoga Is Best
  • Ashtanga – This is also called power yoga, thus it is popular among athletes. This form of yoga stresses strength and endurance. Poses included in this form of yoga are often difficult to help boost strength and flexibility. If you are just starting out, you may find this a tough form of yoga to master.
  • Iyengar –This is a softer and more classic yoga. It is a good form of yoga for beginners. It features many props including use of pillows and chairs to help accommodate people that are not as flexible, or for those with back injuries.
  • Bikram –This form of yoga is done in a room that is 100 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer. This style of yoga stresses 26 distinct postures performed in a logical order. Bikram yoga is a high intensity form of yoga recommended for people with experience doing other types of yoga. It may however be helpful for people suffering from chronic back pain or other diseases.
  • Hatha Yoga –Hatha yoga is a light and simple form of yoga. This is also a good form of yoga for beginners. The focus of this form of yoga is healing the mind, soul and body through breathing, poses and meditation.
  • Sivananda –This type of yoga includes 12 poses combined with breathing, relaxation and meditation exercises. Sivananda yoga emphasizes good breath control, relaxation and form.

    Of course, there are many other types of yoga outside these. In fact there are hundreds of different styles of yoga. If you are just starting out however, you’ll likely find what you need in one of these forms.

    Dietary Recommendations for Yoga Practitioners
    If you decide to practice yoga, undoubtedly you’ll hear about the yoga diet. Yoga by nature highlights the importance of eating well to nourish your mind, body and spirit. The ‘yoga diet’ stresses eating well-balanced meals that include natural or whole, minimally processed foods. It also suggests eating only when you feel hungry, and then doing so moderately. A yoga dietary plan incorporates many fruits, vegetables and whole grains with the intent of keeping the body lean and the mind clear. The diet also helps prevent disease. It is similar to a vegetarian diet, though you don’t have to be a vegetarian to reap the benefits of cleaner eating.

    If you are interested in trying something that is new and different, you might consider giving yoga a try. After 5,000 years of refinement, one can’t argue that the discipline has a lot to offer even anyone skeptical of the mind body connection. Most gyms and recreation centers offer beginning yoga classes for those interested in trying yoga on for size. If you try one of these introductory classes, you can consult with the instructor to find out what form of yoga will best meet your personal health and wellness goals. If you are a bit shy and prefer to try yoga on your own before signing up for a class, the good news is there are a ton of videos and DVD’s available you can use from the comfort of your own home.

    Here is a list of some to try whether you are a beginner or experienced yoga practitioner:
    • Power Yoga: Total Body Workout with Rodney Yee
    • Yoga for Beginners with Patricia Walden
    • Back Care Yoga for Beginners with Rodney Yee
    • Accessible Yoga for Every Body
    • A.M. and P.M. Yoga for Beginners