The practice of yoga goes back to 3000 B.C.
You knew that it had gone mainstream, however, when Jane Fonda's Yoga Exercise Workout hits #1 on Billboard's Health and Exercise Video Chart in 1982. By some estimates, more than 36 million people practice yoga in the United States alone. As the baby boom generation ages, it's likely that these numbers will increase dramatically.
While yoga exercises can be quite vigorous, among the more than many 1,000 different poses, there is something for everyone.
Dancers can practice yoga to increase their energy and to improve their stamina. Business executives can use it to stay calm and balanced in a hectic environment. Athletes can use it to improve performance or recover more quickly from an injury.
The idea of yoga is to awaken the mind, feed the body, and rekindle the spirit. You may have visions of people practicing yoga for hours on end (in weird body configurations). Yet, the masters tell us, the 10 to 15 minutes a day of basic yoga exercises can work wonders.
People who practice yoga for at least 1 hour a week report that they are able to feel more relaxed at work, concentrate better, have a healthy appetite, have better sex, and sleep more soundly.
Yoga's health benefits are well documented. Some hospitals now use it as an integral part of their program for heart attack survivors.
In one study, people with serious heart disease had significant reductions in chest pains in less than two weeks. In less than twelve months, some members of the test group were able to reduce the amount of arterial blockage.
As with many stress reducing techniques, one starts a yoga exercise with a strategic pause. You sit back, take slow deep breaths, and become relaxed. The variety of poses, postures, and stresses help to keep the body limber. The slowly controlled moves in combination with breathing help to keep the mind calm.
The kind of yoga that you might attend at a fitness club or health center is typically 60 or 90 minutes in length. The first 10 or 15 minutes take you through a series of breathing exercises with the primary goal of having you forget about your surroundings.
Thereafter, you might engage in 25 or 30 minutes of various sitting poses, each of which stretch and strengthen muscles. This might include the spinal twist, or the upward facing dog. This is like doing a push up except you hold the "up" position for 30 seconds while looking up and then slowly come down, and then repeat the process. This helps to lengthen your spine, and build your back and arm muscles.
In the next 25 or 30 minute section, the typical class would move onto standing postures, such as the mountain pose or the warrior pose, where you place your left foot four feet in front of your right foot, turn your right foot out, and put all your weight on it. With your right foot now straight out, you bend your left knee and lunge forward, making sure that your left knee stays directly over your left ankle. You raise your arms slowly over your head and stay that way until your palms sweat. You repeat the movement with your right foot forward.
As you get started, be encouraged that yoga has reduced stress for thousands of years. And remember that yoga is not a quick fix; you have to practice it for a period of time before you can reap its benefits.
Jeff Davidson is "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" and the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com