Yoga Exercise & Workout for Relaxation
Oh no, for me yoga was strictly a relaxation exercise, one designed to help
stretch my muscles and soothe my busy mind. Little did I realize, I was getting
an excellent workout with yoga, combined with all the benefits of a serious
cardio workout, as was apparent upon waking up the next day to an invariably
sore rump and tummy.
But it didn't always "feel" like I was working out when I did yoga, especially
the better I got at it. I wondered why this could be. Then I figured it out,
with a little help from a yoga instructor. She said that as you begin to learn
to use your breath through the practice of yoga breathing techniques, your
muscles actually get more oxygen.
Lack of oxygen to the muscles builds up lactic acid within the muscles, which
leads to our sore muscles after a serious workout. Oxygen also plays a vital
role in managing stress. It has been found in numerous studies that one who is
under stress has low blood oxygen levels, and this is due to the fact that they
are not breathing properly through the stressful or anxiety inducing event.
This is why you will often find that you feel short of breath when you are going
through a stressful situation, and this is also why asthmatics often have asthma
attacks during highly stressful episodes, or when their emotions are on "high".
This made perfect sense. Not only did yoga help to streamline my body, but it
helped me learn to manage my breathing, and condition my body and mind to manage
stress and anxiety through breathing with my body, not against it. You see, yoga
is much more than a meditational or contortionist exercise. It actually
transcends what we think of as exercise.
Yoga is a tool that we can use to manage stress, condition our mind and body to
be more in touch with one another, and to also gain a sense of tranquility and
Yoga practice ranges from a more active, moving practice called Ashtanga yoga or
power yoga, to a more methodical, slower moving practice called Hatha yoga,
which concentrates more on a slower, fluid movement and is geared toward those
that may not have exercised in a while or who have back issues.
There is also another type, which I had the pleasure of participating in on my
recent trip to northern California, called Bikram yoga, where you practice yoga
poses ranging form beginner to advanced in a room heated to almost 100 degrees
This type of yoga can be strenuous on the beginner, and is usually only
recommended for those who are very fit or very well versed in the practice of
yoga. I found the Bikram yoga to be challenging, but after I emerged from the
room after the two hours of posing, I felt a sense of empowerment and clarity
that continued on for the rest of the evening.
It is said that Bikram yoga may actually help rid the body of toxins through the
sweat that is produced during the practice. And believe me, sweat you will.
There was not a person in the room that had anything less than soaking wet
Since I've started regularly practicing yoga about three times a week, I find my
stress levels are down, my back hurts me less while I am working at my desk, and
my muscles have taken on a longer, leaner look.
I feel that I am more intuned with my breathing, and I use my breath now to get
me through stressful situations that usually would leave me breathless and
anxious. I have found yoga to be a true blessing to my life, and will be a
lifetime devotee of this empowering and enriching practice.