Starting Out Your Yoga Practice

With so many projects and people demanding our attention, it's easy to lose track of our well-being, both physically and mentally. We might tell ourselves that we'll get to the gym soon, but that's easier said than done. But there is a workout that's both simple and effective, and it's called yoga.

Yoga is an ancient form of exercise that combines moving meditation with focused breathing. While its roots lie in devotional exercises for Indian religious traditions, yoga has become popular as a secular form of physical fitness. With its emphasis on focused movement and breathing, it tightens the muscles and improves mental and emotional clarity.

Although it's best to start yoga with a class, you can try some basic poses on your own, such as:

* Downward Dog (palms and feet pressed into the mat, facing down with body in a "V" position)

* Sun Salutation (feet pressed together, palms pressed together, arms fully stretched overhead)

* High Lunge (forward leg bent at right angle, back leg fully stretched, arms lifted overhead)

* Plank Pose (palms pressed into the mat, legs stretched fully back, head and shoulders perpendicular to the floor)

If you lead a busy lifestyle or have a nine-to-five job, then the best time to do some yoga would be early in the morning or late in the evening. When you're ready, go straight to your yoga mat. Begin by sitting on the mat with your legs crossed and your palms together in a prayer pose. Inhale and exhale slowly, letting your lungs fill up on each breath. You can use your breath as your anchor when you go through each exercise.

Begin your actual workout with Sun Salutation and proceed through a series of purposeful stretches like Plank Pose, ending with Downward Dog. The slow and focused repetition of each exercise will strengthen your muscles and reduce your inner tension. You can always supplement your exercise through attending a local yoga course or instruction from a video series.

You can learn more about yoga poses and techniques from online resources like Yoga Journal, Yoga Today, and Elephant Journal.

Image by lululemon athletica on Flickr