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Using Yoga for Therapy

Using Yoga for Therapy

By Kevin Cleary

We all know that exercise is good for us, but not all of us may understand the benefits that yoga presents to our overall well-being as well as for its therapeutic values. For some, the idea of yoga is only for spiritual hippies but it offers everyone many valuable benefits that range from stretching to balance and strengthening of core muscles. Many people use yoga in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle to improve their quality of life and overall health. In order to utilize the benefits of yoga safely and effectively, we must first understand what yoga is and how it impacts us physically and mentally.

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What Is Yoga and Where Did It Come from?

We have all heard the term yoga, but do we fully understand what it entails? Yoga is a physical and spiritual discipline whose goal is to transform your mind and body. The term is derived from “yoking together” a team of horses or oxen, but evolved to being applied to the “yoking” of the mind and body. These practices are well known in Buddhist, Hindu, and Jaina cultures predominately in India and were introduced into the West in the late 19th and early 20th century, but it really became popular in the 1980s as a system of physical exercise. While there is more than one form of yoga, the type that became popular in the West for physical exercise is known as hatha yoga. There are different schools of thought as to what the goals of yoga are. They range anywhere from techniques for controlling the mind and body to a rising or expansion of consciousness. Yoga’s spiritual benefits, I’m sure, will be debated much like anything else, but its use as a physical exercise has been widely accepted.

What Does Yoga Entail?

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Many people can be intimidated by the idea of using yoga therapy for exercise. While there are many schools of yoga, the popular form that we have come to know is hatha yoga. It became popular in the 20th century for its use of asanas or physical poses. To make sure these poses are done in a safe manner the use of a yoga mat is strongly encouraged. There are many options to meet just about every need. Products such as the Aeromat Elite Yoga Mat, BodySport Yoga and Fitness Mat, or the EcoWise Elite Yoga Mat all provide a safe nonslip surface that provides comfort and support allowing the user to safely achieve and maintain the desired pose. Some accessories that can be used in conjunction with yoga mats are the BodySport Yoga Mat Bag with Yoga Block Pouch and Water Pouch, Aeromat Yoga Mat Carrying Harness, or even the Aeromat Yoga Mat Bag which makes carrying your yoga mat to and from class/therapy a hands-free event. A great way to work on your core strength and flexibility is through the use of this type of yoga. As webM.D.com points out, these yoga poses stretch your muscles therefore improving your flexibility and mobility and can help you feel less tired. Yoga can help improve muscle tone, strength, and endurance. Many of these poses such as downward/upward dog and the plank pose can improve upper body strength.

Yoga Benefits

Asanas or poses each have their own unique therapeutic benefits. As stated earlier, many poses improve upper body strength while others such as standing poses can build strength in your legs and abdominal muscles (especially if held for several long breaths). WebM.D.com also tells us that poses such as the upward dog and chair pose can help strengthen the lower back and when done correctly, all poses build core strength in the deep abdominal muscles. It’s this strengthening of our core muscles that helps our posture in both standing and sitting. A great way to add resistance to strengthening poses is by using the Aeromat Power Yoga or Pilates Weight Ball. It provides resistance training and comes with a durable handle that can be used as a traditional weight by removing the detachable handle. Another great way to add resistance to your yoga workout is by using the YogaHands Hand Stretcher which makes hands feel relaxed and refreshed in minutes. Along the same lines are the YogaToes Toe Stretcher and the Sport Toe Stretcher. Both are designed to spread the toes in the foot and optimize foot posture. WebM.D.com also credits yoga with relaxing us and reducing stress as well as lowering blood pressure and slowing the heart rate, which is beneficial to those with high blood pressure or heart disease as well as those who have suffered a stroke. Lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels have also been attributed to yoga as well as better immune system function, according to webM.D.com.

Additional Accessories for Yoga

In order to make your yoga experience complete you can add items such as the Yoga Paws Original and Elite Grip Set. Both provide a unique stabilizing foundation for doing yoga poses that provide support, extra cushion, and give nonslip piece of mine to the wearer. Whether you choose to do your yoga poses indoor or outdoor, the Sunprotective UPF 50 Carol Yoga Pants provide a lightweight breathable, moisture wicking fabric that provides protection from the sun that is machine washable. Yoga blocks, such as the, EcoWise Yoga Block or the Aeromat Yoga Block help to improve alignment and increase flexibility. Another way to help you improve your poses is the Aeromat Yoga Strap. It has a buckle for quick adjustments and allows for maximum comfort while preventing constricted circulation. To take the yoga experience home, the Ball Dynamics FitBall Yoga DVD allows users to create a workout that can be tailored to every fitness level. No matter what you choose, yoga can provide just about every level of work out from low impact to muscle strengthening therapy.