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How to Find a Yoga Style That is Right for You

download (1)Everyone can benefit from adding a mind-body activity — such as yoga — to their fitness routine. You can substitute yoga for your regular workouts once or twice a week. For example, instead of lifting weights or doing your regular stretching routine, do a session of yoga. Some mind-body classes are intensely demanding, so make sure that you don’t overload your workout schedule.

Yoga, defined
Developed in India more than 5,000 years ago, yoga consists of a series of poses (known as asanas) that you hold from a few seconds to several minutes. The moves — a blend of strength, flexibility, and body-awareness exercises — are intended to promote the union of the mind, body, and spirit. Most forms of yoga focus on relaxation and deep breathing as you perform and hold the poses.

Yoga styles
There are many forms of yoga. Most include the same fundamental poses but differ in terms of how quickly you move, how long you hold each pose, how much breathing is emphasized, and how much of a spiritual aspect there is.

Some styles offer more modifications to the really bendy and

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Understanding the 5 Basic Approaches to Yoga

imagesYoga as fitness training

The first approach, fitness training, is the most popular way that Westerners practice Yoga. It’s also the most radical revamping of traditional Yoga. Yoga as fitness training is obviously targeted at the physical body — its flexibility, resilience, and strength. This is how most people start Yoga training. Fitness training is certainly a useful gateway into Yoga, but later on, some people discover that Yoga also includes moral and spiritual practices that they want to explore.

Yoga as a sport
This approach to Yoga is especially prominent in some Latin American countries. It is also widely controversial. Its practitioners, many of whom are excellent athletes, master hundreds of extremely difficult Yoga postures to perfection and demonstrate their skills and beautiful physiques in international competitions. But this new sport, which also can be regarded as an art form, has drawn much criticism from the ranks of more traditional Yoga practitioners. They feel that competition has no place in Yoga. Still, there is nothing wrong with good-natured Yoga competitions as long as self-centered competitiveness is held in check.

Yoga as therapy
Yoga as therapy attempts to restore health or full physical and mental functioning.

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Ten Secrets for Mastering Power Yoga

downloadTo really excel in your Power Yoga practice, you must be humble, have a positive attitude, and discover your connection with the energy you call life. Anyone can practice Power Yoga, have a great time in the process, and enjoy the many benefits of a regular practice. But if you want to gain the most from Power Yoga and savor the true essence of this ancient and magical system, you need to keep a few key words of wisdom in mind. Read and become wiser, grasshopper.

Be humble
Don’t fight your Yoga practice: Don’t try to control it, overcome it, or conquer it. You have to relax to find the connecting energy that runs through life. Humble yourself in the face of this powerful system and work with your Power Yoga, not against it. Take it slow and easy. Don’t be competitive (with yourself or anyone else), and approach your practice with an open mind. Let your mind flow through your practice, and your body will follow. Respect the energy your body generates during practice and think of it as part of the energy of all

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Tips for Using Weight Machines

Weight machines may seem complicated at first, but they are easy to use and help you to safely and quickly advance through a strength-training workout. The weight machines designed for home use — called multi-gyms — generally aren’t as sophisticated as health-club machines, but in many cases, your muscles won’t know the difference.

Using a typical weight machine involves two relatively simple acts: You adjust your seat and then you either push or pull a bar or a set of handles. These handles are connected to a cable, chain, or lever, which, in turn, is attached to a stack of rectangular weight plates. Each plate in the stack weighs between 5 and 20 pounds, depending on the make and model, and has a hole drilled in the center. If you want to lift 30 pounds, you stick a metal peg, called a pin, into the hole on the plate marked “30.” When you pull the machine’s handles, the cable picks up 30 pounds.

Try every machine in your gym at least once. Even if the machines are all the same brand, you may feel more comfortable using, say, the vertical chest press rather than the horizontal one

Use the following tips to look

17 Fitness Tips That Will Actually Make You Psyched To Work Out

1. Stop doing so much cardio.

“The most harmful misconception is that more is better, especially when it comes to cardio. Spending long periods of time doing cardio, particularly continuous, low-intensity cardio, can actually be counterproductive. It can cause the body to hold on to its energy sources … for fear that it will need them for future long, continuous exertions.”
Alternatively, short bursts of high-intensity exercises (also known as high-intensity interval training or HIIT) has been shown to burn fat, and lots of it. Thirty minutes of HIIT is much more efficient and effective than an hour of steady-state cardio.”

2. Step off the scale.

“The most harmful misconception about getting in shape is that you need to weigh less. For many people, the number on the scale shouldn’t matter. It isn’t what you weigh … The ratio of muscle to fat is far more important than the scale can reveal.”

3. Be harder on your body but easier on your self-image.

“Our bodies can handle WAY more than we usually ask of ‘em but our self-image can use a little pampering.”

4. Start doing anything. Just make sure you like it.

“There are lots of ways to achieve your health and fitness goals. Trying to

How to Do the Sun Salutation in Yoga

The sun salutation move in yoga stretches your abdominal, lower-back, front-hip, and thigh muscles. If you’re prone to lower back pain, make a special point of tightening your abdominals, and don’t arch your lower back when completing the sun salutation.

Here’s how to do the sun salutation:

Kneel on the floor and then bring your left leg forward so that your foot is flat on the floor, your knee is bent, and your thigh is parallel to the floor.

Lift your arms straight up with your palms facing in.

Pull your abdominals gently inward, and keep your shoulders down and back.

Look to the ceiling, and as you stretch upward with your upper body, push your weight slightly forward from your hips into your front thigh.

You should feel this stretch travel through your torso and upper body, including your arms. You should also feel it at the very top of your back thigh. Repeat with your right leg forward.

Keep in mind the following tips as you perform the sun salutation:

Hold onto something solid, like a sturdy chair, with one hand if you have trouble maintaining balance.

Don’t lean so far forward that your front knee moves in front of your toes.

Don’t arch your lower back.

Yoga Relaxation Techniques

In yoga, relaxation refers to the loosening of bodily and mental tension. Keeping muscles in a constant alert state expends a great amount of your energy, which then is unavailable when your muscles are called upon to really function.

Conscious relaxation trains your muscles to release their grip when you don’t use them. This relaxation keeps the muscles responsive to the signals from your brain telling them to contract so that you can perform all the countless tasks of a busy day.

Tips for a successful yoga relaxation practice
Relaxation is a conscious endeavor that lies somewhere between effort and noneffort. To truly relax, you have to understand and practice the skill.

Try the following:

Practice in a quiet environment where you are unlikely to be disturbed by others or the telephone.

Try placing a small pillow under your head and a large one under your knees for support and comfort in the supine, or lying, positions.

Ensure that your body stays warm. If necessary, heat the room first or cover yourself with a blanket. Particularly avoid lying on a cold floor, which isn’t good for your kidneys.

Don’t practice relaxation techniques on a full stomach.

Deep relaxation in yoga: The corpse posture
The simplest and yet the

Climbing Hills during Your Fitness Walks

Does the thought of climbing up a hill during your workout make you want to walk the other way? Relax. The secret to walking hills is not to let them get the upper hand. Instead of treating a hill as the enemy, look at it as an opportunity to improve your fitness level and increase your walking prowess.

Here are a few hill facts to give you extra incentive to take each climb in stride:

For every additional 5 percent of incline (a modest rise in the landscape), you burn an extra 3 to 5 calories per minute, depending on your speed and effort level. That may not sound like a lot, but put it in perspective. The average person burns about 200 calories walking on a flat surface. If about half that distance consists of hills, the total calorie burn jumps to an average of 275 calories.

Walking hills is a good way to increase the intensity of your workout without walking faster.

Climbing hills strengthens the front of your thighs (the quadriceps and hip flexors), which may not get worked as hard when you walk on flat surfaces. Increased leg strength also means greater endurance because you’ll experience less leg fatigue.

Going up

Adding Meditation to Yoga Practice

Meditation is a mental process involving focused attention, or calm awareness, which is also called mindfulness. Many forms or styles of meditation exist, but two basic approaches stand out: meditation with a specific focus and objectless meditation. The latter is pure mindfulness, without narrowing attention to any particular sensation, idea, or other phenomenon. Most yoga beginners find this kind of meditation very difficult, although some are drawn to it.

Yoga-related meditation with a specific focus
Beginners should start out with meditation on a specific object. The following categories of objects are suitable for this exercise:

A bodily sensation, such as breathing, which makes an excellent focus.

A bodily location, such as an energy center.

A process or action, such as eating, walking, or washing dishes.

An external physical object, such as the flame of a candle.

A mantra (be it a single sound, a phrase, or a chant).

A thought, such as the idea of peace, joy, love, or compassion.

Visualization — a special form of meditation involving your creative imagination to picture light, emptiness, your spiritual teacher, a saint, or one of the many deities of Hindu or Buddhist Yoga.

Following guidelines for successful yoga-related meditation
Here are some vital tips to assist with meditation:

Practice regularly: Try to

Enjoying a Safe and Sound Yoga Practice

As you move from one yogic posture to the next, pay attention to the signals taking place between your mind and your body. Do you feel removed from your problems, comfortable and confident with your strength, motion, and steadiness? Or are you painfully in tune with each passing minute, sensing physical awkwardness and strain in your movements? Listening to your own rhythms — and acknowledging their importance — can make your Yoga experience peaceful, calm, and secure. And that’s what Yoga is all about.

Making sense of the perfect posture myth
Some modern schools of Hatha Yoga claim that they teach “perfect” postures that you can slip into as easily as a tailor-made suit. But should a 15-year-old athlete perform a posture following the same guidelines that apply to a 60-year-old retiree? Surely not. Besides, these schools disagree among themselves about what constitutes a perfect posture. To spell it out, the perfect posture is perfectly mythical.

Posture has only two requirements: A posture should be steady and comfortable.

Steady posture: This is any posture that’s held stable for a period of time. The key isn’t freezing all movement, though. Your posture becomes steady when your mind is steady. As long as your thoughts

Finding the Right Running Shoes

Your chances of landing in a comfortable, quality pair of running shoes greatly increases if you shop at a running specialty shop rather than a huge, multisport center attempting to hawk everything from bowling balls to scuba gear to in-line skates. Employees of most running specialty shops typically are people who run themselves.

The best running shops also serve as the center of your local running community and can be a gold mine of information on training, upcoming races, and group fun runs. A good running specialty shop not only allows you to take the shoes for a 5-minute test run, but it encourages you to do so. If the store doesn’t let you test-run in the shoe, don’t plunk down your dollars there.

Knowledgeable running store employees will most likely ask you (nicely) the following questions before they try to fit you in a particular shoe:

How much running experience, if any, do you have?
How many miles a week do you run?
What type of surface do you run on?
Do you have any short-term goals for your running program? For example, are you training for an upcoming race? Or do you simply want to get around the block three or

Checking Out Some Important Personal Trainer Equipment

You wear many hats in your role as a personal trainer. You’re a salesperson, scientist, friend, coach, motivator, teacher, employer, bookkeeper, and business owner, to name just a few. To be successful wearing any of these hats, you need to be equipped properly — and that means you need to have the right tools to use at the right time.

Your mindset
The equipment available to help you be a successful trainer is limitless: cellphones, computers, software programs, weight-training equipment, cardiovascular equipment. . . . The list goes on.

No matter what types of toys you have (or how expensive or cutting edge they are), it won’t matter if you don’t have the most important one: the right mindset.

Important factors for having the right mindset are:

Honesty: You need to be honest with yourself about what you realistically can and cannot do; this flows through to your clientele as well.
Determination: Not every day is easy; you won’t always have a full book, and sometimes those slow days end up being weeks. Pushing ahead and staying on track when the going gets tough takes determination and focus.
Willingness: You need to be willing to change if your original course of action isn’t producing

Stretching the Spine

If you’ve ever watched a cat, be it a house cat or a jaguar, you may have been intrigued by the cat’s incredible agility and resilience. How does a cat jump from high places and land with little impact? How can a cat fit into spaces that seem way too small for it? How does a cat balance on the slimmest edge with the greatest of ease? Pilates might not give you the answer to these questions, but if you want to be more like a cat and gain the flexibility, grace, balance, and strength of a cat, Pilates is the way to go.

Myth has it that Joe Pilates was obsessed with the movement of animals and used them as models when developing exercises. The following exercises use the cat as a model and are meant to stretch the spine. You may notice that the word sexy comes up in this article. Face it — having a flexible spine is sexy, and certain movements of the spine are downright sexy!

These stretching exercises are not considered part of classic Pilates, but they’re great for everyone. This is where you can get a little creative. Add in these exercises at any point

Running Your Way to Fitness

Like walking, running provides a fitness workout that you can take with you anywhere. You can work up a great sweat, burn lots of calories, and your muscles feel invigorated after you finish. You don’t need a rack on your car or a suitcase full of equipment; you just open the door and go.

No single type of exercise is better than all the rest. It’s merely a question of what’s best for you. Many runners develop frequent, chronic injuries. Many people have joints that simply will not tolerate all that pounding. If you’re not built to run, don’t argue with your body. You can get in great condition in other ways. And if you’re a beginner, hold off on running until you’ve built up stamina and strength.

Running the right way
Runners have a habit of looking directly at the ground, almost as if they can’t bear to see what’s coming next. Keeping your head down throws your upper-body posture off-kilter and can lead to upper-back and neck pain. Lift your head and focus your eyes straight ahead. Relax your shoulders, keep your chest lifted, and pull your abdominal muscles in tightly. Don’t overarch your back and stick your butt out;

Mastering Gym Etiquette

Even at a health club — a place where tank tops, profuse sweating, and mild grunting are perfectly acceptable — rules of etiquette should be followed. Sure, the social graces expected in a weight room are a bit different from those expected at the symphony or the Louvre, but manners are important just the same. Here are the rituals and customs unique to gyms.

If you witness a flagrant etiquette violation, don’t be afraid to inform the club staff. You’re not being a snitch. The rules are for everyone, whether you’re the Queen of England or one of her loyal subjects.

Sharing equipment
In a gym, weight equipment is considered communal property, so don’t sit on a machine while you rest between sets. Especially don’t sit there reading a magazine, talking on your cellphone, or rehearsing an opera. Instead, stand up and let a fellow gym member work in — let the member alternate sets with you. The same rule applies if you’re using a pair of dumbbells. When you complete a set, place the weights on the floor so someone else can sneak in a set while you rest.

The only time you should retain possession of weight equipment while you rest

Breathing Your Way to Good Health

You can help alleviate stress through the simple practice of yogic breathing. Among other things, breathing loads your blood with oxygen, which maintains your health at the most desirable level. Shallow breathing doesn’t oxygenate your blood very efficiently. Consequently, toxins pile up in the cells. Before you know it, you feel sluggish and down, and eventually organs begin to malfunction. Is it any wonder that the breath is the best tool you have to profoundly affect your body and mind?

Bad breathing isn’t as easy to cure as bad breath: You must retrain your body through breath awareness.

Taking high-quality breaths
Before you jump right in and make drastic changes to your method of breathing, take a few minutes to assess your current breathing style. Ask yourself the following questions:

Is my breathing shallow?

Do I often breathe erratically?

Do I easily get out of breath?

Is my breathing labored at times?

Do I generally breathe too fast?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, try yogic breathing. Even if you didn’t answer yes, conscious breathing still benefits your mind and body.

Relaxing with a couple of deep breaths
Think about the many times you’ve heard someone say “Now just take a couple of deep breaths and

Trying a Group Fitness Class

Try not to pigeonhole yourself as the type who doesn’t like — or can’t do — fitness classes. Not all classes require coordination. Sculpting, stretching, circuit, and martial arts-based classes usually contain simple moves like you used to do in P.E. (think of jumping jacks and jogging in place). Plus, a good instructor makes everyone in the class feel comfortable, by breaking down exercises and routines so that everyone can follow, by giving good technique tips so that you feel confident about the way you’re doing a move, and by modifying moves that might not be right for everyone in the class. If you try a class and don’t have a comfortable experience, chances are the instructor is not very good. Don’t give up; try a few more classes with different teachers.

If the fear-of-humiliation factor is still putting a damper on your enthusiasm for trying a class, here are some guidelines that will help ease you in, stumble-free:

Do one component of a move at a time. For example, during an aerobic dance or kickboxing class, you might have a combination that incorporates a lower body move (a jump or a kick) with an upper body move (a biceps curl or

Determining Your Body Type

People come in all shapes, but most can be placed into a particular category of body type, mesomorph, ectomorph, or endomorph. These body types have different characteristics, and you should tailor your workout to whichever you belong. Here’s the skinny on the different types of bodies:

A mesomorph (or meso, for short) can be defined in one word: muscular. If you’re a meso, your body type is usually the envy of all gym rats because you can increase your muscle size quickly and easily. The well-developed, rectangular shapes of mesomorphs are representative of their thick bones and muscles. (Before you get too excited about this perfect form, keep in mind that being a meso may also mean you have poor flexibility.) If you are a characteristic mesomorph, you have a well-defined chest and shoulders that are both larger and broader than your waistline. Your abdomen is taut and your hips are generally the same width as your shoulders. Your buttocks, thighs, and calves are all toned and defined.

As muscularly defined, athletic-looking individuals, mesomorphs are full of energy, are physically capable of a lot of activity, and tend to be aggressive athletically. (Usually no couch potatoes in this group.) Although mesomorphs generally

Getting to Know about Yogic Sleep

Getting to Know about Yogic Sleep 

Yogic Sleep is a very powerful relaxation technique that you can do after you gain some control over the relaxation response. When practiced successfully, this technique is as restorative as sleep — except you remain fully aware throughout.

Its traditional name — yoga nidra (pronounced yoh-gah nee-drah)— makes reference to Brahma, the Hindu creator god, who “sleeps” between successive world creations. His sleep is never unconscious.

During Yogic Sleep, try to focus (in relatively quick succession) on individual parts of the body. Mentally name each part, then feel it as distinctly as possible.

In the beginning, you may find it difficult to actually “feel” certain body parts. Don’t let this dismay you, but continue to rotate your awareness fairly rapidly. Later, as you become more skilled at this technique, you can slow down the rotation and feel each part ever more distinctly. With practice, you can even include some internal organs in this circuit.

Practice Yoga Nidra before actual sleep, because it’s an excellent technique for inducing lucid dreaming and out-of-the-body experiences during sleep. Great Yoga masters remain aware even during deep sleep. Only the body and brain are fast asleep, whereas awareness is continuous.

Here is how you perform

Correct Walking Techniques

If you plan to increase the amount of walking you do on a regular basis to lose weight, it’s important that you walk correctly. You know that song “the knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone, the thigh bone’s connected to the hip bone . . .”? It’s true; your bones are all connected as well as tendons, ligaments, and even your muscles.

If you throw a bone, joint, or muscle out of whack, it causes a chain reaction to the bones and joints in the rest of your body. A poor walking technique may not only lead to an increased risk of bunions on your feet but can also increase the risk of knee pain, hip pain, back pain, and so on.

If you don’t walk correctly, these aches and pains will start to present themselves, which can make continuing with your walking routine a challenge.

Take a look at how to position yourself for the healthiest walk possible:

Start by standing with your feet exactly hipbone width apart, not wider or closer.

This stance should allow your legs to be stacked straight up and down from your feet to your hips. Your toes should point forward (every toe from the big toe to