Each posture, or asana, is held for a period of time and linked with breathing. Generally, a yoga session begins with gentle asanas and works up to the more vigorous or challenging postures. A full yoga session should exercise every part of the body and should include pranayama (breath control practices), relaxation and meditation. The different postures or asanas include:
- Lying postures
- Sitting postures
- Standing postures
- Inverted, or upside down postures.
The physical building blocks of yoga are the posture (asana) and the breath. A series of poses held in time with breathing.
- Cardiovascular system (heart and arteries) – asanas are isometric, which means they rely on holding muscle tension for a short period of time.This improves cardiovascular fitness and circulation.
- Studies show that regular yoga practice may help normalise blood pressure.
- Digestive system – improved blood circulation and the massaging effect of surrounding muscles speeds up a sluggish digestion.
- Musculo-skeletal – joints are moved through their full range of motion,which encourages mobility and eases pressure. The gentle stretching releases muscle tension and increases flexibility. Maintaining many of the asanas encourages strength and endurance. Weight-bearing asanas may help prevent osteoporosis, and may also help those already diagnosed with osteoporosis, practiced with care, under the supervision of a qualified yoga teacher. Long-term benefits include reduced back pain and improved posture.
- Nervous system – improved blood circulation, easing of muscle tension and the act of focusing the mind on the breath all combine to soothe the nervous system. Long-term benefits include reduced stress and anxiety levels, and increased feelings of calm and wellbeing.
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