Yoga and the Fitness Trend

Maybe you’re an accomplished athlete, or maybe you’re a couch potato. Exercise to you may mean breezing through a five-mile run in the morning and a requisite visit to the gym three times a week, or it may mean getting up to look for the remote control. Either way, yoga is perfect for you!

Because yoga combines so many different fitness elements and is so easily tailored to the individual, it can be practiced with great benefit at the beginner level as well as at the most advanced level. Whether you’re a beginning or advanced practitioner, yoga will slowly, gently, and easily open up your body. You’ll feel taller, breathe easier, and move about more comfortably.

Nonathletes also might be attracted to the idea that yoga isn’t competitive. In fact, a sense of competitiveness is in direct opposition to the yoga frame of mind. Your yoga practice is personal and has nothing to do with anybody else. Plus, yoga will give you so much energy and such an improved self-image that you may find exercise isn’t as bad as you thought.

Yoga is designed to work all your muscles, not just a few isolated major muscle groups. Many of the postures, such as the twists and inversions, stimulate particular internal organs or release energy from stress-prone areas such as the lower back or neck. Yoga’s fine-tuning exercises are the ultimate full-body workout. Other exercise programs tend to develop only one part of you—cardiovascular fitness, leg strength, or fat burning, for example. Yoga does it all.

Although many types of yoga exist, Hatha Yoga is the branch of yoga that concentrates on the body and is the form of yoga most emphasized in this book and practiced by Westerners. Hatha Yoga is an excellent fitness program, but it’s also more. Hatha Yoga is based on the idea that gaining supreme control over your body is the key to control of your mind and freedom of your spirit. Through postures (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama), and meditation, Hatha Yoga exercises, tones, and strengthens the whole person—body, mind, and spirit. Even if you start with the physical exercises alone, however, Hatha Yoga will quickly begin to work its magic.

Fitness today means more than a healthy body. Our culture is experiencing a growing trend toward things spiritual. With a growing passion for holistic health alternatives, we are a society looking for balance in a world that is out of balance. Holistic fitness is quickly becoming a mainstream concept, and yoga fits comfortably into this trend. Yoga is the answer to the spiritual seeker’s and the athlete’s search for physical excellence, because it’s the best all-purpose, all-person, whole-self, individualized fitness program—time-tested over centuries.