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Assume the position
Yoga basics
Reap the benefits

Don’t get bent out of shape
Don’t get bent out of shape

Yoga isn’t without risk. You can strain your muscles and ligaments or experience other injuries if you don’t do it right. Try these tips to avoid injury:

  • Ask your doctor before starting a program, especially if you have a medical condition or prior injuries.
  • Choose a yoga style that suits you (see “What’s in a name?”).
  • Pick a registered teacher. Find a registered teacher on the Yoga Alliance Web site ( Registration by this organization requires teachers to have at least 200 hours of training.
  • Warm up before you begin.
  • Wear appropriate clothing, such as snug-fitting shorts or tights, paired with a T-shirt or tank top, to allow for proper movement.
  • Start slowly and know your limits. Don’t try to stretch too far.
  • Listen to your body. Stop if you feel pain. If it persists, see your doctor.

What’s in a name?
What’s in a name?

Hatha yoga comes in many forms. Here are just a few:

  • Ashtanga yoga: A vigorous, fast-paced version that focuses on a set of poses done quickly and synchronized with breathing.
  • Gentle yoga: A slower-paced practice that focuses on gentle stretches and deep breathing.
  • Kundalini yoga: This practice uses poses, various breathing techniques, chanting and meditation.
  • Iyengar yoga: Devotees do precise poses and use benches, ropes, mats, blocks, chairs and other equipment.

Tension got you tied in knots? Try yoga. Taking time to relax and practice the ancient technique may even help ease your stress-related headaches, sleep problems, back pain and irritability.

Yoga basics

Anybody can do yoga. The goal is to get your mind and body into a peaceful state. Many different types are out there, but hatha yoga, which focuses on a calm mind and better flexibility, is a good choice to help manage stress. Hatha has two main components:

  • Poses. Some poses are super-easy, requiring only that you lie down on the floor and relax, while other, more complicated moves may take years to master.
  • Breathing. When you control your breathing, you control your body and mind. By focusing on each inhale and exhale, you can halt those thoughts that cause you distress.

Reap the benefits

Yoga isn’t a substitute for traditional medical care and treatments, but in addition to easing anxiety, it may:

  • increase flexibility
  • help manage chronic health problems such as asthma, carpal tunnel syndrome, back pain, depression, multiple sclerosis, high blood pressure and heart disease
  • aid weight-loss efforts
  • better your balance
  • improve your quality of life, especially for caregivers and people who have cancer

If you want to try this ancient practice, stop by a local YMCA, fitness center or private yoga studio. Observe the class you’re interested in to make sure it’s right for you. Or, if you don’t like group settings, pick up a yoga video designed for beginners.