Fitness Tip of the Day
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Crazy for Yoga? If not you’re losing the war against your own overall wellness. Lifting weights to stay strong and cardio training are just part of the equation of staying strong, face-it Yoga has now become a go-to activity for increased athletic performance, stress relief, physical therapy, and just plain feeling good.
Yoga originated in India, approximately 5,000 years ago. It’s associated with Hinduism and Buddhism, and, yes, it can have a strong spiritual aspect. That said, as yoga becomes Westernized, many of the resulting forms heavily downplay that component. You’re just not going to reach divine enlightenment sweating through a Bikram yoga class or session of ChaLEAN Extreme® Dynamic Flow Yoga.
Most forms of yoga that Westerners are familiar with derive from Hatha yoga, which was developed in India in the 15th century. Essentially, it’s a series of asanas combined with pranayama, the specialized form of breathing that brings a good yoga session together. “Hatha yoga is a practice in which you’re giving your mind and body an opportunity to work synergistically,” says Tony, who includes yoga workouts in P90X® as well as his One on One with Tony Horton series. “It gives flexibility, strength, and balance—all through the physically difficult asanas.”
Founded by John Friend in 1997, Anusara yoga is one of the bases for Yoga Booty Ballet. It challenges physically while allowing for positive self-reflection, or “flowing with Grace” as they call it. “Anusara’s alignment system is just so sophisticated,” says Yoga Booty Ballet cocreator Gillian Marloth Clark. “I love it because it’s so biomechanically advanced, and it interweaves the spiritual practice. But that’s just an undercurrent; it’s not right out in front of you. So if you’re solely searching for a physical workout, it’s got the whole thing covered.” Gillian adds that it’s also a great workout for rehab. “It’s got strength and flexibility,” she says, “but the biomechanics and the alignment really do rehabilitate injury and prevent injury, which is so important.”
If you’re looking for rehabilitative work, Iyengar is excellent as well. Developed by B.K.S. Iyengar in India, it’s a very prop-heavy practice, requiring an array of belts, blocks, blankets, and pillows. The point of Iyengar is to bring the body into alignment, the idea being that this will speed recovery of injuries and address chronic pain.
Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga
A vinyasa is a dynamic flowing posture that connects asanas. It literally means “breathing synchronized movement.” These movements figure prominently through the practice, making this a more physically demanding form. Although Ashtanga features sets of specific sequences, the vinyasa technique is used in a looser form known as flow yoga, which ChaLEAN Extreme creator Chalene Johnson uses in her yoga-based workouts.
This is one of the most spiritual forms, as well as another basis for Yoga Booty Ballet. Kundalini yoga focuses on tapping energy, or prana, from the base of the spine. While it includes asanas, chanting and meditation also play a big role. But before you hit the hippie alert alarm, keep in mind that getting into this space can empty your brain of the day’s issues so you can focus on exercise. “I choose it because it’s a great way to give into a meditative state at the beginning of a workout,” says YBB’s Teigh McDonough. “It helps people to warm up physically, mentally and spiritually—and very quickly, too. It helps people get out of their busy minds.”
On the other end of the scale, there’s what Tony Horton describes as “the gym class of yoga.” Derived from Ashtanga yoga, the spirituality is downplayed in power yoga. Instead, focus is put on the physical aspect and really pushing those postures hard. “It’s more of a workout and less of a mind-body-spirit thing,” says Tony. “I find nothing wrong with power yoga if that’s going to get you off the couch, but there are plenty of other kinds of exercises that are going to do that. So why not take the opportunity to do something that is the antithesis of what you’re doing?”
Another “extreme” practice, Bikram yoga is also known as hot yoga. Classes take place in a 105-degree, 40-percent humidity room. The idea behind this blistering heat is that it deepens stretching and relieves injuries, stress, and tension. “The system is great,” says Gillian. “It’s an excellent workout, if taught properly. It’s a great physical workout, and it’s an excellent way to get long and flexible.” Unfortunately, the unique environment means that you can only really do it at a Bikram yoga studio, and only after plunking down $20.00.
A physically challenging practice founded by Ana Forrest, Forrest yoga incorporates Native American elements and often focuses on everyone’s favorite muscle group, the abs. This vinyasa-heavy practice is intended to promote emotional healing and the release of toxins.
As Tony Horton notes, “Different types of yoga have converged, just like with rock and roll.” in P90X and P90X2 Tony uses a combination of Yoga to create one of the most frustrating DVD’s for most P90’s users. I was one of them. Honestly, I gave up P90X in 2006 because I couldn’t do Yoga, just to find out in 2011 that if I did my best each time I would improve each week. Now it is my favorite workouts of P90X, P90X2 and P90X3. So don’t give up, you can do it.
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