The big question: Why would you want to do yoga?

Yoga is a powerful antidote to the stresses of modern day living. It is a practical method of uniting the body, mind and spirit in health. Yoga helps you achieve a supple and fit body by working the muscles and joints, but it also aids in the circulation, the respiration and digestion. Medical studies have shown yoga can decrease blood pressure, lower the pulse rate, improve oxygenation of the blood, massage the internal organs and create a stronger immune system and a more efficient metabolism, thereby controlling excess body weight. Yoga is extremely beneficial to achieving perfect posture. The benefits are not merely physical, as yoga also teaches you to calm your mind, increase your concentration and memory and cope with tension as well as reduce anger and hostility and balance your mood. This can result in more energy, better sleep and improved body awareness. Some of the ancient poses are purported to aid in various specific problems such as headache, stiffness and backache.

Yoga has been practiced in India for more than 2,000 years. It is believed to be a method of speedily cleansing the body of toxins and for keeping blood circulation and all internal processes functioning optimally. As well as these physical benefits, we can add balance work, strength, flexibility, core strength and power to the list. The emotional balance, the inner peace and tranquility reached in yoga practice for many people is the most important aspect of their work. Others like the philosophy of yoga, encouraging people to turn away from violence, dishonesty and greed to live in an authentic place of balance.

The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj” meaning to yoke or join, implying the integration of the whole human being. Yoga is perhaps unique in its approach using postures, physical exercises, breathing techniques and a philosophy of life coming together to create an entire lifestyle and belief system.

Yoga can be practiced at all levels from the very beginner to advanced poses that take years to master. Each person works at their own pace and their own ability level. It is about being and doing the best you can be and do in that moment. All practice should start with basic simple poses that allow the body to warm up and stretch, continuing to the main poses of the day and finishing with relaxation poses that allow the work to be assimilated into the body. A good rule for breathing is to do upward poses with an inhalation and downward movement with an exhalation.

The breath should not be held in any of the postures, nor should you strain to do any of the exercises. The stomach should not be full when doing yoga. A good rule is to wait several hours after eating. Some yoga masters say the stomach should be a quarter empty, a quarter filled with water and half filled with food at the most.

 Traditionally it was essential to have a guru to teach the ways of yoga. Here in our culture we rely more on experienced teachers to show the form and to lead classes. There are many fine classes of various styles on Kaua‘i. Indeed the many different styles available make it interesting to find one that suits you.

I teach Ashtanga Yoga early every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 7 a.m. until 8:30 a.m. at the Kaua‘i Athletic Club in Lihu‘e on Kukui Grove Road. You can attend as a member or come in on a day pass to the club and enjoy the other amenities there too after the class. This class is ideal for beginners and those with some experience. We focus on flexibility, strength and balance and always end with a relaxation aspect. Because yoga is meant to be non competitive, we can focus on range of motion (as you are able in that moment in time) through the joints, which leads to very low risk of injury. Yoga helps you develop increased depth perception and grace and dexterity of movement.

Namaste, Jane.

• Jane Riley, B.A., C.P.T, C.N.A., can be reached at 212-1451 or www.janerileyfitness.com.

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