Yoga for Better Health

If you’re looking for a strength-training routine that will help you tone your muscles, relieve stress, improve your health, and burn calories, consider yoga. This form of exercise originated in India more than 2,000 years ago and it focuses on a combination of strength-training postures and deep-breathing exercises. Yoga can also supplement your interval walking and core-strengthening routine as you’re following the South Beach Diet. Don’t worry if you’re a newbie. You can find beginner yoga classes at yoga studios, gyms, health clubs, and recreational centers, or you can get started by working out with beginner yoga DVDs at home.

Types of Yoga
There are many different yoga disciplines (roughly 16 styles), but those listed below are the most popular practices. We’ve organized them from easiest to hardest:

Hatha Yoga is preferable for beginners because it is usually taught at a slow and gentle pace. It serves as a great introduction to basic yoga exercises that help improve your posture and muscle strength. Hatha yoga also helps your body develop a balance of strength and flexibility. Basic hatha yoga poses include Downward-Facing Dog, Tree, and Warrior 1 poses.

Vinyasa Yoga, also known as “flow yoga,” is one of the most popular yoga practices. The word “Vinyasa” means breath-synchronized movement. A Vinyasa yoga instructor will move from one pose to the next as you inhale and exhale. The poses run smoothly together as if they were a dance.

Power Yoga, also known as Ashtanga yoga, is now being offered at many gyms and health clubs across the country. Unlike other yoga practices, power yoga involves less meditation and instead emphasizes more fast-paced cardio yoga exercises. It is physically demanding as there is constant movement from one pose to the next, so it typically attracts advanced yoga enthusiasts. Power yoga is ideal for improving weight loss.

Bikram/Hot Yoga is practiced in a heated room that is kept at a temperature of 95-100°F. Hot yoga sessions are very rigorous, causing your body to sweat profusely. This helps your muscles loosen and become more flexible. Sweating is also thought of as a way to cleanse the body. Bikram is practiced with a series of 26 poses but not all classes follow this series. It is for more advanced yoga students and is not recommended for beginners.

Beginner Yoga Checklist
Before you head to a yoga class, you’ll want to make sure that you’re wearing the appropriate clothes and have all the necessary equipment. Check out this list before saying om:

  • A yoga mat. Using a yoga mat provides support and helps take the pressure off of your knees during some of the standing poses. A mat also adds comfort for the seated poses. Many yoga studios and fitness centers provide yoga mats, but if you prefer to bring your own, you can easily purchase one wherever athletic equipment is sold.

     

  • Comfortable workout apparel. Choose shorts, leggings, or sweatpants that allow you to stretch and move with ease through the different poses. You may want to avoid, loose shirts which may interfere with the moves. Don’t worry about footwear — yoga is taught barefoot.

     

  • Yoga blocks and straps. Some yoga sessions or workout DVDs utilize blocks or straps for stretching and strengthening. Blocks can help you balance your body when doing difficult poses while also helping to improve your alignment. Most of the time, these tools are meant as an aid and you can opt out of using them.

     

  • A yoga blanket. This is typically used as a prop for different poses. It can help keep your hips above your knees when doing a seated pose or be used as a cushion for poses that require more support.

     

A word of caution: Talk with your doctor before you make any sudden change in your level of activity, especially if you are age 50 or older, have been inactive, have difficulty keeping your balance, have periods of dizziness, or have known heart or back problems.

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