If, for one reason or another, you are unable to participate in traditional forms of fitness programs such as running, swimming, lifting weights and the like, you can still stay fit by considering an “alternative” form of exercise: one that veers from the norm but yet gives you the same health benefits.
There are lots of fun exercises around. If you’re rhythmically inclined, you can try Zumba or Ballroom Dancing; if you want to learn to protect yourself and keep fit, you can try karate, judo, swordsmanship or a host of other martial arts; if you want to increase your flexibility and gain strength, you can try yoga.
There are many kinds of yoga being practiced today, and here is a list of the 5 most common types:
Hatha Yoga, also called hatha vidva, is a type of slow-paced, gentle yoga that focuses on breathing and meditation. Hatha originated in India and its poses were described and compiled by Yogi Swatmarama, a Hindu Sage in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
Hatha introduces the basic poses and relaxation techniques to beginners. Hatha yoga is known to relieve stress, provide physical exercise, and help improve breathing.
Vinyasa is a Sanskrit term used to describe certain styles of yoga, and like Hatha, this type of yoga involves basic yoga poses and breath-synchronized movement. The very popular Sun Salutation, wherein the yoga practitioner does 12 different poses where each movement is matched to the breath, is associated with Vinyasa yoga.
Vinyasa, although still good for beginners, is better suited for those with a bit more yoga experience. Vinyasa helps build lean muscle mass throughout the body, helps improve strength and flexibility, and tones abdominal muscles. The exercises are said to help reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and Type 2 Diabetes.
Ashtanga Yoga was founded and popularized by K. Pattabhi Jois who began studying yoga at the age of 12. Ashtanga yoga (which is Sanskrit for eight-limbed) is named after the eight limbs of yoga as mentioned in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
Ashtanga Yoga is often times considered a form of power-yoga. It is fast-paced and quite intense with lunges and push-ups incorporated in the poses. This type of yoga is better suited for regular yoga practitioners who now want to maintain strength and stamina. as well as to be more attuned to their spiritual side. Ashtanga Yoga is known to relieve stress, improve coordination and also helps with weight loss.
Iyengar Yoga was developed by B. K. S. Iyengar, who systematized over 200 classical yoga poses, and is a form of Hatha Yoga that focuses on detail, precision and alignment in posture (asana) and breath control (pranayama). Unlike other forms of Yoga, Iyengar sometimes makes use of props such as belts, blocks, and blankets as aids when doing the asanas. These props help students perform the poses correctly and also minimizes the risk of injury or strain.
Iyengar Yoga helps improve balance, speeds up recovery from an injury and builds body strength. This type of yoga is ideal for students who want to learn how to do each pose correctly, and for individuals who have injuries, balance issues and medical conditions such as arthritis.
Bikram Yoga is the brainchild of Bikram Choudhury who synthesized traditional hatha yoga techniques. Bikram Yoga, also known as Hot Yoga, is practiced in a room heated to 105F (40.6C) with a humidity of 40%. All Bikram Yoga sessions run for 90 minutes and consists of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises.
There are many benefits to practicing hot yoga. Bikram is used to flush out toxins from the body and to stretch muscles. It is also said to help the body recover from injury and can enhance one’s flexibility.
Remember, especially if you have not been very physically active in the past, to consult with your doctor before embarking on any fitness program. Sign up with reputable institutions and always tell your trainer of any physical limitations you have. If feel any pain – STOP, and tell your trainer. Know how to listen to your body. The purpose of your exercising is to improve your health and well being – not to make it worse.