Muscle flexibility is an important aspect of being healthy.  Being able to bend, twist, and reach without strain will make your life much easier.  Yoga is one of the best ways to attain the limberness your body needs.  There are quite a few types of yoga, though, so how do you know which one would fit your needs and fitness level best?  Here are a few of the types to choose from:

  • Hatha yoga. Hatha yoga is great for beginners.  The pace is slow and poses are held for several breaths, giving you a chance to get comfortable with each pose and time enough to get a good stretch.
  • Ashtanga yoga. For people who love when things are orderly, this might be the yoga for you.  Several series of poses are flowed into and out of with the breath, helping to build up heat in the body.
  • Bikram yoga. Bikram is more challenging than Ashtanga and will get your heart pumping.  You do a series of 26 poses in a room heated to 105 degrees.  This yoga is best suited to people who are already relatively fit and flexible.  It’s great for people new to yoga because of the predictability of poses.
  • Vinyasa yoga. A combination of yoga and dance-like moves, Vinyasa is a fast paced yoga where you flow in and out of poses with the breath.  Be prepared for your heartrate to rise as you do this form of yoga.  Great for people who want a challenging workout.
  • Kundalini yoga. Kundalini adds an element of spirituality to your practice.  While moving through repetitive exercises with breath work, you will also sing, chant, and meditate.  If you’re looking for both mental and physical benefits, Kundalini yoga might be what you are looking for.
  • Iyengar yoga. Iyengar is the yoga for perfectionists.  Proper form is stressed in an Iyengar class, with the teacher making sure your body is in the perfect alignment for each pose.  Props including yoga blocks and blankets will be used to help perfect form while working within your range of motion.
  • Restorative yoga. Great for stress relief, though you may feel as though you aren’t really doing anything.  That’s the magic of Restorative yoga, however.  Poses are held longer, giving your body a chance to really feel the pose and soothe your parasympathic nervous system.  Props are also used with this form of yoga.

Yoga has many benefits outside it’s enhancement of flexibility.  Here are 5 additional reasons to do yoga:

  1. Mental benefits. One of the most useful benefits of a yoga practice is the stress relief and mental boost it provides.  The deep stretching and meditative aspects of certain types of yoga make you happier, less stressed and help with mental clarity.
  2. Builds muscle strength. Many of the poses in yoga will require some muscle strength to move into and maintain.  As you develop your practice, those muscles will naturally get stronger.
  3. Strengthen bones. Weight bearing exercise has been shown to strengthen bones and help to ward off osteoporosis.  Everyone, but older people in particular, can really benefit from this aspect of yoga.
  4. Improves your posture. Perfecting the form of your poses in a yoga class can help make you more aware of your posture outside class and refine it.  Better posture helps to prevent neck and back pain.
  5. Better blood flow. Different types of yoga poses can help improve blood flow in different body parts.  Twisting poses help “wring out” your internal organs, while inverted poses help blood flow back to your heart from your legs.

As you can see, there are a lot of good reasons to begin a yoga practice.  It may take testing out a few different types to find which one fits your body and your needs best.  You may also need to work with more than one teacher to find one whose style suits your own.  Regardless of what type speaks to you, they all have health benefits, both mental and physical, so consider beginning a practice today!

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