Yoga is a low-impact exercise program that the family can partake in together. Programs are designed specifically for families, children and elders. The trick to getting the most out of yoga is to learn all of the poses and perfect the formations. Practicing a variety of poses helps strengthen different muscle groups and help with flexibility. Yoga is also a great form of stress relief.
Start with a Warm Up
Since yoga involves stretching muscles, it is best to start with a few warm up exercises first. This includes lunges, kickbacks, twists and even a few jumping jacks. A 5-minute warm up period is ideal.
You can also include low-impact yoga poses such as the cobra and the warrior as beginning exercises to help lubricate the muscles. The loosening of muscles helps the body relax to take on the more difficult poses.
The downward dog is often an opening exercise in a yoga workout. It is one of the simplest and easiest poses to master. This is a strengthening exercise for the arms and legs.
For this simple pose, stand with your legs squared up with your hips. Fold the body in half and extend the arms out slightly. The idea is to remain comfortable but feel a slight muscle stretch at the same time. Move the arms forward slightly, keeping your palms flat.
Increase the intensity by pressing upward on your feet to rest on the balls of the feet. Hold the position for 15 to 20 breaths and release.
Cow and Cat Poses
Cow and cat poses are often used as warm-up exercises, but are also good for relaxing the body between strenuous poses. For these, begin by placing yourself on your hands and knees with the head facing forward in an upward position. Move the body forward, backward, up and down holding each position for 5 breaths.
Extended angles combine lunges and above the head stretches. Relaxed stretches put less pressure on the thigh and calf muscles while still being effective.
Perform this pose by starting in a standing position. Slide one leg downward at an angle until you feel a slight pull. Bend the leg that remained straight and rest the matching elbow on top of the knee. Take the free arm and extend it above your head in a straight line. Hold this pose for 20 breaths and switch sides.
The locust pose requires stamina. This pose helps stretch the abdominal muscles and leg muscles. At the same time, the shoulder and neck muscles strengthen.
For this pose, lay flat on the floor. Bring your arms backwards against your sides and pull them upward. Raise your head and then raise your legs slightly. Hold this position for 15 breaths. This converts to about 30 seconds.
Sitting Bull Cool Down
Rather than ending a yoga workout and immediately going about picking up the mat and going about the rest of the day, cool down for a few minutes. This includes taking a few deep breaths and practicing the sitting bull position. Simply cross your legs, Indian style, and place your hands on top of your knees. Turn the palms upward and touch the thumb to the forefinger. Hold this position for two minutes.
This is a cleansing exercise that also removes any leftover stress from the mind.
Most yoga poses are held for breath counts. If you often lose count in silence, it may be better to use a stop watch in class to see how long each pose is held for. Your body will automatically adjust to these times with practice. Vary the poses used to stretch and relax different parts of the body frequently. The different poses also help promote healthy blood flow through the extremities.