Over the past 30 years, yoga has become a staple offering within most group exercise programs. Exercisers have recognized the many benefits of yoga, some of which can be gained without embracing a yogic spiritual practice, and that has led to a splintering of this discipline into many subgenres.
This week, I'll provide a little background on the most popular varieties of yoga and introduce an exercise that was born out of one of them.
"Hatha" yoga is what most exercisers are familiar with. The word "hatha" is translated into "willful" or "forceful," referring to the purposeful nature of the hatha yoga poses. Basic poses used by ashtaga, vinyasa, Iyengar and power classes all fall under the umbrella of hatha yoga.
Most hatha classes involve a calming element as well as a variety of stretching poses designed to improve flexibility, core stability and muscular endurance.
"Hot yoga" has become popular among people who want those physical benefits but aren't so much into the calming part. This form of yoga is seen in brands such as Bikram, Forrest and CorePower. Any form of yoga performed in a room where the temperature is 85 degrees to 105 degrees can be considered hot yoga. The idea is to promote perspiration, improved muscular flexibility and enhanced range of motion.
"Restorative yoga" is less fitness-building than the other primary forms, as it involves only five or six poses that may use props to encourage relaxation -- gentle backbends, seated holds and light twists. Such positions are held for five minutes or more to encourage relaxation of the mind and body.
Like boot camp, base jumping, rock climbing, football, sitting at a desk all day or any other potentially injurious activity, yoga should be practiced with self-awareness and a respect for one's limitations. Those new to yoga should work into the poses and positions very slowly over days, weeks, even years, allowing muscles and joints to adjust and remodel at a reasonable pace.
This week's exercise is a unique twist on a basic yoga position, the downward dog. The Single Arm Downward Dog requires a bit more upper body strength and core stability than the familiar version, but experienced exercisers will have no problem with the pose ... unless they do. Everybody's different.
1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
2. Place both palms on the floor in front of you with your legs fully extended and feet flat on the floor.
3. Flatten your back and extend the hamstrings so the knees are as straight as possible.
4. Place one hand behind your back.
5. Hold this stretch for a couple of seconds, then allow your hips to lower until your upper body is parallel with the floor and you're in the "up" position of a pushup, with one hand behind your back.
6. Go right back into the downward dog position by pressing the hips backward and up.
7. Continue moving between these two positions as you stretch the hamstrings and lower back while holding one hand behind the back.
- Perform 12 repetitions, then switch arms and repeat.
The Single Arm Downward Dog is a fantastic warmup or cool-down activity, because it promotes blood flow, controlled breathing and slow, deliberate postural adjustments. It will engage the core and upper body muscles while stretching the lower back and hamstrings.
Matt Parrott has a doctorate in education (sport studies) and a master's in kinesiology and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine.
ActiveStyle on 03/20/2017
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