YOGA FOR A LONG AND HEALTHY LIFE

Do you want to live a long, healthy life, reduce your risk for disease, keep your mind sharp and prevent injury? Great!   The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion wants this too. They created the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, providing recommendations for these five areas: aerobic activity, muscular strength, bone strength, balance and flexibility. These guidelines are online, so be sure to check them out if you are in pursuit of a long and healthy life.

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SHORT YOGA PRACTICES TO TRY ANYWHERE

The holiday season inevitably brings joy, stress, and many things in between. This article offers suggestions for using yogic practices to enhance your season and everyday life in just a few moments.  Four of the eight limbs of yoga are asana (body exercises), pranayama (breathing exercises), pratyahara (restraint of senses), and dharana (direction of mind). For a rough translation, we will refer to the last two as mindfulness in this article.

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YOGA FOR A LONG AND HEALTHY LIFE

Beginner:

Perhaps the best way to learn about yoga is to attend a class taught by a qualified instructor. Consider talking with the instructor or someone familiar with the class beforehand to see if it matches well with your goals. If you are seeking to build strength, look for classes that will challenge you. During class, notice what is easy and what pushes you to go further. Give yourself permission to make any adjustments for pain or discomfort without letting yourself off the hook when your muscles begin to tire; the challenging parts are often the most valuable. After class, jot down those things that were both easy and challenging. Then, to satisfy the guidelines for your best health, schedule a time two to four days later to try those poses again or take another class. Explore lots of classes to see what is right for you. If you become comfortable enough to practice on your own, consider trying out the poses in the intermediate section. Enjoy the many benefits of yoga not detailed in the guidelines as well.


Intermediate:

Advanced yogis and beginners alike attend classes, so don’t hesitate to join them. If you feel comfortable practicing on your own, you may follow the sequence below or choose some of the poses. Be sure to exercise all the major

muscle areas. While each of the selected poses engages most if not all of these groups to some extent, the emphasized muscle groups are noted in parentheses.


  1. Bring your attention to your breath and set your intention.
  2. Warm up and align your spine with Cat/Cow, Side Bends and Twisting.
  3. Locust/Salabhasana (legs, hips, back, shoulders, abdomen, arms)
  4. Boat/Navasana (legs, hips, back, abdomen)
  5. Downward Dog/Adho Mukha Svanasana (legs, hips, abdomen, shoulders, arms)
  6. Plank/Chaturanga Dandasana (legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, arms)
  7. Chair/Utkatasana (legs, hips, back, abdomen, shoulders)
  8. Warrior I/Virabhadrasana I (legs, hips, chest, abdomen)
  9. Extended Triangle/Utthita Trikonasana (legs, hips, abdomen)
  10. Relaxation/Savasana to integrate the exercise benefits


General Tips

Be kind to your joints. If you feel any pain, move out of that position. It does not serve your joints to overstress them.


With yoga practice, you strengthen large muscle groups and important smaller muscles as well. For example, there are many small muscles that help move and protect your spine.


You can use yoga to prepare for other exercises such as weight training and running by, at the least, increasing your awareness of your body, aligning your spine and warming up your muscles and joints.


If your muscles are tired and tight, try a gentle or restorative yoga class. This will help you bounce back for next time.


If you are seeking to lose weight, remember physical activity is important for maintaining a healthy weight. Find activities that you enjoy.


Sources and Resources


LAUREN WEAVER, RYT 200

Lauren Weaver is a Yogi, Yoga Instructor, and Assistant Instructor with the Yoga Teacher Training Program at Lexington Healing Arts Academy. She can be reached via email at Lauren.mw32@ gmail.com.

more articles by Lauren Weaver

Do you want to live a long, healthy life, reduce your risk for disease, keep your mind sharp and prevent injury? Great!


The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion wants this too. They created the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, providing recommendations for these five areas: aerobic activity, muscular strength, bone strength, balance and flexibility. These guidelines are online, so be sure to check them out if you are in pursuit of a long and healthy life.


The guidelines say physical yoga practice (asana) is particularly beneficial for three of the five categories: muscular strength, balance and flexibility. Here are some suggestions for integrating yoga into your exercise routine.


Practice For Muscular Strength

Yoga inherently improves balance, flexibility and strength. Regarding muscle strengthening, the guidelines specifically recommend doing activities that work the major muscle groups of the legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders and arms at least twice a week.


If you are new to yoga, check out the beginner section that follows. If you have been practicing yoga for some time, check out the intermediate section.