What did the Buddhist say to the hot dog vender?

Make me one with everything.

I love that joke! I heard it from my yoga teacher, Al Oschner.

Yoga comes from a Sanskrit word meaning to join, unite, or attach. It is a relatively safe, non-aerobic form of exercise that’s been practiced for more than 5,000 years.  Nearly 11 million Americans currently practice yoga. Most Westernized classes focus on physical poses, breathing techniques, and meditation. Some also include a spiritual aspect, but this is seen more often in private yoga centers than public gyms and health clubs.

There are several styles of yoga with varying degrees of intensity. I attend a class at the health club that is quite gentle. Al reminds us that if a pose hurts, we shouldn’t do it. We are to modify as needed for a comfortable stretch. One thing I know for sure is that I always feel better afterwards.

Yoga improves flexibility, range of motion, and posture. It also decreases stress, reduces joint pain, lowers inflammation, and promotes relaxation and better sleep. Nearly all poses build core strength and deep abdominal muscles. Al says that one series of exercises that we practice is even believed to reduce the aging process.

Some caution should be taken with all forms of exercise. Consult your physician before practicing yoga if you have severe osteoporosis, high or low blood pressure, ear or spine problems, or are pregnant. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the most common yoga injuries involve over-stretching and strain from repetition to the neck, shoulders, spine, legs, and knees.

If a style of yoga or particular instructor is too intense for you, check out other classes. I tried a few different ones before settling on Al’s.

Namaste.

©2012, Mary K. Doyle

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