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Yoga for the Rest of Us
"You don't need to be thin, young, and a contortionist to do this program," says instructor Peggy Cappy.

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Yoga

You could say that yoga started this whole mind-body fitness craze - a mere 5000 years ago. Developed in India, "yoga" comes from an ancient Sanskrit word meaning "yoke" or "union", which relates to its philosophical belief in the integration of mind, body and spirit. It is a complex psycho-physical lifestyle that borders on religion, but in the Western sense most people associate the discipline with a form of mindful exercise involving postures (called "asanas"), controlled breathing (called "pranayama") and meditation (often with a repetitive "mantra").

The postures strengthen the body, the breathing calms the mind and the meditation hones one's focus. When the three work in harmony the result is improved fitness, mental clarity, stress control, vitality and general well-being. Western science has been studying yoga for over 50 years and has found it to be beneficial for a myriad of medical conditions including asthma, epilepsy, anxiety, arteriosclerosis, multiple sclerosis, sleep disorders, hypertension and migraines.

Classes are usually performed barefoot in comfortable, form-fitting exercise clothing. All you need is a non-slip yoga mat (most likely provided by the facility) and an open mind. Start out slowly and listen to your body. You shouldn't push yourself beyond your current flexibility level. Trust that with time and practice, you'll progress to the point where you can do postures like sun salutation, mountain pose and downward dog with grace and ease.

There are many styles of yoga - so many that it can seem rather confusing to a novice. Here's a short description of some of the forms of yoga you might find on the schedule of your local health club, yoga studio or ashram.
Ananda yoga: this form uses is a gentle, inward approach to control the bodies energies, especially the "chakras".
Ashtanga yoga: a more physically challenging workout, it flows from posture to posture at a fast pace, building strength, flexibility and stamina.
Bikram yoga: Think of this as a hot and sweaty form of yoga, as they crank the thermostat up to a toasty temperature to give the muscles, ligaments and tendons a good stretch.
Hatha yoga: This is the basic form of the classic postures, the foundation for the other styles of yoga.
Iyengar yoga: This form pays great attention to proper form and precise alignment, often using props such as blocks and belts.
Kripalu yoga: This is a slower workout where poses are held for an extended period of time, with an emphasis on coordinated breathing patterns.
Viniyoga: A gentle style of yoga where postures are synchronized with the breath in prescribed sequences tailored to the student's needs.
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