What is the best yoga routine?

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Yogi Cameron Alborzian
Alternative & Complementary Medicine

Here in the West, we commonly associate yoga with posture practice. While postures are certainly one component of a person's yoga practice, there are numerous other components to be explored. These include the components of the Eightfold Path outlined by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras (abstentions, self-observations, postures, breathing, sense-control, concentration, meditation, oneness), which features posture as the third step.

Yoga's intended purpose is to help people alleviate fluctuations of their minds. To craft a routine that helps to accomplish this goal, begin the day with a light yoga posture practice that opens the front and back of the body and then begin a breathing routine taken in an easy seat. This routine should take only 20-30 minutes at first, and then increased to upwards of 45-60 minutes over time. Once you are grounded in this aspect of the practice, begin a concentration routine after the breathing techniques.

Yoga encompasses a wide variety of exercises and poses that emphasize a wide variety of physical, emotional and spiritual areas depending on the form of yoga performed. If you want to start doing yoga start by consulting your primary medical care provider to make sure you're ready to engage in regular physical activity and then decide which type of yoga is best for you. Certain types like Hatha have a heavier emphasis on deep breathing and holding of mild positions, while Ashtanga yoga more heavily emphasizes deep bending poses and requires a high degree of upper and lower body endurance and strength to perform well. If light flexibility and balance are your goal a gentler form like Hatha might be more effective, if developing high levels of balance, core strength, and totally body strength are your goal a more strenuous form like Ashtanga might be more beneficial. 

As with any fitness program you must first identify your goals and current physical readiness. If you are seeking to implement yoga for the purpose of increasing flexibility, consider taking a class from a certifed yoga teacher at either a local studio or a gym. Be sure to let them know you are a beginner so as to avoid injury. Styles of yoga vary as much as people themselves, so try on a few different styles and/or instructors to see how they fit. A couple of great websites to start answering yoga related questions are www.yogaalliance.com and www.yogajournal.com.

You can always start a yoga program by incorporating a flowing sequence of yoga postures/stretches at the end of an already established workout. Beginner yoga DVD's are ok, but make sure that the instruction is clear and precise to avoid injury.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.