Yoga has been practiced for more than 5,000 years, and currently, close to 11 million Americans are enjoying its health benefits. Yoga can hardly be called a trend.
Most Westernized yoga classes focus on learning physical poses, which are called asanas. They also usually include some form of breathing technique and possibly a meditation technique as well. Some yoga classes are designed purely for relaxation. But there are styles of yoga that teach you how to move your body in new ways. Choosing one of these styles offers the greatest health benefits by enabling you to develop your flexibility, strength, and balance.
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Before You Start: Staying Safe While Practicing Yoga
Even though for most healthy people yoga is a safe non-aerobic form of exercise, it is not without its risks. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the yoga injuries most commonly treated in emergency rooms involve overstretching and strain from repetition to the:
Also, certain poses can increase your risk of injury if you have conditions such as:
high or low blood pressure
problems with your spine
pregnancy (including risks to your unborn child)
Here are some tips to help you reduce your risk of injury from yoga:
If you are pregnant or have a pre-existing health condition: Consult your health care provider before starting a yoga program. Your health care provider can help you know how to judge what type and level of yoga exercise is safe for you.
Don't try learning yoga on your own. Work with an experienced and credentialed instructor to learn the proper way to perform the exercises and avoid injury.
Yoga is not a substitute for medical care. Yoga offers many health benefits and may even be included as part of some treatment plans. But it's still important to work closely with your regular health care providers and get proper treatment when you need it.
Know your limits and stay within them. Before beginning any new type of yoga, ask about its physical demands. Find out how strenuous it is. Talk with the instructor and others who do that type of yoga to be sure it's suitable for you.
Go slow. You're not in competition with anyone else in the class. Learn the basics, such as proper breathing and how to maintain balance, before you attempt the more ambitious stretches.
Warm up properly before every session. Cold muscles increase your chance of injury.
Wear proper clothing. Wear clothes that allow you to move freely.
Ask questions. If you don't understand an exercise, ask to see it again before you attempt it yourself,
Stay hydrated. That's especially important if you are practicing what's called "hot" yoga, which is done in a very warm and humid room.
Pay attention to what your body is telling you. Yoga isn't supposed to hurt. If you feel pain, stop. If the pain persists, see your health care provider. Stop immediately if you have chest pain, feel faint or overheated, or become dizzy. Get immediate medical help if the sensation continues after you stop.