Add a Little Yoga

You may already have a well developed training schedule that includes weight training, cardio/aerobic exercise and resistance training, but have you thought of adding some yoga. Because of its perceived gentle nature, yoga is often overlooked as an extremely effective complement to a regular exercise routine. Adding a little bit of yoga to your training/workout routine will offer many benefits. Ultimately, it will help you strengthen and tone your muscles evenly as you work out. The poses and meditation also enhance your flexibility, balance, and contribute to a happier training routine.

The postures of yoga target all the joints of your body even though you rarely use some. The exercises also strengthen joints you regularly work out such as hips, knees and ankles. It straightens and strengthens the spinal cord as well as tightens the core. These will in turn lower chronic pain on your lower back. It also lubricates your joints, which means they will hurt less while you are working out.

Adding some Yoga to your workouts can have several benefits:

  1. Core Strength – Yoga’s slow, focused movements demand a strong midsection, which creates a perfect foundation for strength training and bodybuilding. The isometric contractions that are part of many of the yoga positions tap into a new level of resistance training that cannot be accomplished with exercise equipment alone.
  2. Range of Motion and Flexibility – Yoga training will help improve performance and prevent injuries during workouts and athletics by gently increasing your range of motion and flexibility.
  3. Balance – Athletic training and weight training effectively develop certain specified muscle groups while some other may get ignored causing an imbalance in the mechanics and muscular system. Yoga training can help improve your body’s balance by addressing some of these underdeveloped areas.
  4. Effective Breathing – Breathing supplies your body and muscles with essential oxygen. During athletic events and workout routines, it is easy to forget to take in full breaths and deliver the proper oxygen levels to all required areas. Yoga helps to train your body how to effectively take deep full breaths.
  5. Downtime Exercise – Too much of something is not a good thing. It is important to take downtime when working out. Use your downtime days to stay active and by doing yoga. There are many yoga styles that are relaxed and less intense to offer the ability to exercise during off days (or even injured, with physicians approval).

Doing a few yoga moves before your workout will minimize or prevent injuries during the workout. Doing yoga after a workout will help your muscles recover and get ready for the next day. Yoga is also beneficial for your internal organs since it stimulates them and prevents various diseases. Get your trainer to help you out by adding some moves into your regular routine or in addition to your workout sessions, add some yoga on the off days. Adding yoga to your workout routine will add a whole new dimension to your total fitness that will serve you well for a lifetime. There are many styles and intensities that you can find one that is perfect for you and your fitness goals.

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New Trends in Fitness

A new year, may mean a new workout, something to freshen up your drive to get out and get exercising. Hot fitness trends for 2014 include high-intensity interval training like CrossFit and P90X and body-weight training such as push-ups, pull-ups and planks. Also, yoga is expected to get even more popular. A more detailed list of the top 10 predicted fitness trends is listed below.

The Top 10 Fitness Trends Predicted for 2014

  1. High-intensity interval training, which involves working out as hard as you can for a short burst of time, followed by a short, less-intense period, jumps to the top of this year’s list. These exercise programs are usually performed in less than 30 minutes.
  2. Body weight training uses minimal equipment making it more affordable. Not limited to just push-ups and pull-ups, this trend allows people to get “back to the basics” with fitness.
  3. Kettlebell workouts are definitely one of the hottest fitness trends on the rise right now. Developed in Russia in the 1700s, kettlebells are just starting to gain real momentum in Western gym culture. Kettlebell training can reduce pain in the neck, shoulders and low back by improving their strength, can help you burn additional calories than a workout without them, and can increase your aerobic workout.
  4. Strength training remains a central emphasis for many health clubs. Incorporating strength training is an essential part of a complete physical activity for all physical activity levels and genders. (The other essential components are aerobic exercise and flexibility).
  5. Exercise and weight loss. In addition to nutrition, exercise is a key component of a proper weight loss program. Health and fitness professionals who provide weight loss programs are increasingly incorporating regular exercise and caloric restriction for better weight control in their clients.
  6. Personal training. More and more students are majoring in kinesiology, which indicates that they are preparing themselves for careers in allied health fields such as personal training. Education, training and proper credentialing for personal trainers have become increasingly important to the health and fitness facilities that employ them.
  7. Fitness Programs for Older Adults. As the baby boom generation ages into retirement, some of these people have more discretionary money than their younger counterparts. Therefore, many health and fitness professionals are taking the time to create age-appropriate fitness programs to keep older adults healthy and active.
  8. Functional Fitness. This trend toward using strength training to improve balance and ease of daily living. Functional fitness and special fitness programs for older adults are closely related.
  9. Group Personal Training. In challenging economic times, many personal trainers are offering more group training options. Training two or three people at a time makes economic sense for the trainer and the clients.
  10. Yoga. Based on ancient tradition, yoga utilizes a series of specific bodily postures practiced for health and relaxation. Includes Power Yoga, Yogalates, Bikram, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Kripalu, Anurara, Kundalini, Sivananda and others.

If you’re bored with your usual fitness routine, spice it up. Try something new. Keep yourself excited to continue to exercise to help you boost your weight loss.

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Yoga for Pain Relief

Is your body beginning to experience aches and pains on a mild to severe degree?  Try yoga for pain relief. The ancient practice of yoga has been attributed to relieving depression and fatigue, weight loss, overall body strengthening and relieving pain. Yoga  involves a series of stretching, toning, and meditative practices. Combining specific poses with breathing exercises is an effective way to reduce pain and decrease inflammation within your body.

Yoga utilizes deep, slow breathing techniques.  Research has shown that when you slow your normal breathing patterns, you also trigger certain nerves within the sympathetic nervous system. It is here that your brain registers how much pain you are feeling and the rate at which the pain is released. Many of the techniques are the same as those used in Lamaze breathing which women in labor practice to curb contraction pain.

The fibers found in the central nervous system also regulate skin temperature and the rate of blood flow. Studies and research have shown that  by adjusting your breathing,  you are simultaneously reducing the amount of pain felt within the sympathetic nervous system; therefore, ensuring that the pain felt will be less acute.

You engage in approximately 15 to 18 breaths per minute and sometimes more when you are having a high rate of pain. As your stress levels increase (which often happens when we feel pain) your breathing becomes quicker and shallower, thereby, increasing your blood flow and triggering your nerve endings. At this point, the pain you are experiencing will also increase.

When engaging in Yoga it is recommended that you slow your breathing down to 6 to 10 breaths per minute. This will calm the sympathetic nervous system, decrease stress levels and ultimately reduce the amount of pain felt.

Yoga breathing is often referred to as pranayama.  When practicing this as a method to reduce pain, first find a comfortable and quiet place to sit or lay. Then focus on your breathing and slowing it down. Begin at the top of your head and concentrate on relaxing each part of your body until you have reached the tips of your toes.

Count your breaths quietly.  Practice inhaling deeply to the count of 5 and hold your breath for a moment or two. Then slowly exhale the breath in a slow, rhythmic pace to the count of 10. It may take several sessions but this will help you practice slower breathing.

One of the most popular yoga poses for reducing pain is called the ‘snake pose’ or ‘cobra.’ If you suffer back pain, this is a great pose. To do this pose, find a comfortable place on the floor and lie down on your stomach while extending your legs fully. The tops of your feet, stomach, thighs and groin should also be touching the floor. Extend your arms reaching forward.

As you inhale deeply, keep your arms straight and then gently begin to lift your chest off the floor and hold the position for a few moments. Lift your chest only as high as is comfortable for you. Release the position and return to the starting position. Repeat this stretch a few times while maintaining your deep breathing the entire time.

The ‘dolphin’ pose is also helpful in alleviating pain especially if you suffer from fibromyalgia. This pose will help you strengthen your core muscles. To do this pose, get into a cat-like position with your hands and knees firmly pressed to the floor. Your knees should be aligned with your hips and your hands aligned with your shoulders.

Begin your deep breathing and at the same time, gently and gradually lift your knees up off of the floor while keeping your back straight. Be sure to keep your hands flat to the floor for support. Straighten your knees as much as is comfortable. When you have reached the point to where you can’t straighten them anymore without discomfort, hold the position for a few moments. Continue to breathe deeply and upon your last exhale, release your knees and return to your starting position.

This movement should be slow and steady and may take some practice, as it requires some balance and utilizing your core muscles. Repeat the exercise a few times or for as many as you can comfortably do. This is a great exercise for reducing tension in the neck and shoulder area known to cause headaches as well as assisting in reducing the inflammation around the disks in the back.

Here are three yoga studios located in the South Bay you may want to visit to experience yoga for yourself:

In addition to yoga, the simple act of stretching can help improve flexibility. Try self myofascial release with a foam roller to ease aches and pains.

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