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The basics of Yoga

Practicing yoga is a great way to tone and strengthen.
Practicing yoga is a great way to tone and strengthen.

Yoga, in addition to having spiritual and meditative qualities, also happens to be the perfect exercise to tone and strengthen muscles. It’s a great alternative to weight lifting because it tones muscles effectively without the challenge and intimidation of lifting heavy dumbbells or barbells. There is also a level and type for everyone, so you never have to feel overwhelmed.

When practicing yoga you never have to worry about muscles becoming bulky, the way they can if you are doing faster reps with heavy weights. Instead, regular devotees of Yoga usually achieve a graceful, lean look. The muscles get toned but stay long and lean since you’re only using your body weight, held for longer periods of time, with much stretching.

All types of yoga are based on the same poses, but each has a different approach. Here are some of the more popular styles to help you figure out the schedule at your gym and find which is right for you.

Hatha Yoga is a gentle, slow-paced style, providing a good introduction to the basic poses.

Vinyasa Yoga tends to be a more vigorous style. It uses sun salutations (flowing series of poses done in succession) and matches the movements with breathing.

Ashtanga is more intense. It’s a set series of poses, always in the same order, performed in a constant flow. This is what inspired Power Yoga, known for its faster, flowing style (but not always the set poses).

Bikram Yoga, or Hot Yoga, is practiced in a 95 to 100 degree room. It is thought to be cleansing because of the profuse sweating that occurs. The heat is also very effective in loosening tight muscles. The Bikram method generally has a set of 26 specific poses, but not all classes make use of these.


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