So, how can yoga help reshape your waist.
In simple terms, by requiring you to move – and hold – your torso muscles as a unit. Rather than isolating your abdominal muscles as you do in crunches, yoga poses help to lengthen your overall torso, creating a feeling that is both centered and strong.
Think of your torso as a long vessel through which numerous muscles interact to keep you looking lean. Your transversus abdominis, the deepest abdominal muscle, works with the others to hold in your lower belly. Your erector spinae, the muscles that attach on your spine, straighten your posture and can make you feel (and appear) taller, while your rectus abdominis and obliques are the strong and flexible muscles that allow your limbs to move freely.
Yoga began in India 3,000 to 4,000 years ago. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit language and means, to join or integrate, or simply union. Yoga started, as far as we know, as part of India’s philosophical system, but not everyone practiced yoga, and it has never been a religion.
About 5 million people in the United States do some yoga. Dance and stretching exercise classes usually have parts and pieces that come directly from yoga. If you ever go to a physical therapist, he or she may give you therapeutic exercises that are yoga postures.
There are several types of yoga. The yoga you may have seen on TV or taught at your local Y or an adult education class is called hatha yoga, or physical yoga. Sometimes it’s known as the yoga for health. You may also find yoga being taught in a hospital or medical setting. Many health professionals today feel yoga can be part of a treatment plan.
Hatha yoga has three parts: a series of exercises or movements called asana (poses or postures in English), breathing techniques of all kinds, and relaxation.
When Trace Bonner launched Holy Cow in West Ashley’s South Windermere Shopping Center last summer, she didn’t know what to expect. Now she’s teaching 16 classes a week and adding another instructor. And while she credits the center’s success in part to its cute cow logo and convenient location, there’s no question that there’s a revived interest in yoga across America.
The ancient Indian practice of yoga first arrived in the US at the beginning of the 20th century, but didn’t really catch on until 1969 with chants at Woodstock. Now, after being overshadowed by the aerobics craze in the ’80s and early ’90s, yoga is once again attracting followers, with many looking for relief from ailments and injuries or from the stress of daily life.
Baby boomers, worn out from years of jogging and bouncy workouts, are back on board. But interest is growing with other age groups, too, from college students to senior citizens to celebrities.
The surge in interest is being fueled partly by doctors’ growing acceptance of yoga’s healing potential. Mainstream medicine has adopted yoga as a gentle therapeutic method for treating a number of illnesses, so more and more doctors are referring their patients to yoga. Initial trials have shown yoga can help people with arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, asthma and cardiac risk factors.
Mr. La Forge (Yoga Trainer) suspects that because the mind-body exercises typically are easier to pursue, executives have a better chance of making a lifetime habit of them. To see if his hunch is correct, he launched a five-year study of 110 middle- and upper-level executives in companies in the US. He tracks their exercise habits and see if those incorporating mind-body techniques stick with the program longer.
Devotees say the mind-body exercise regimen has a payoff in the workplace, as well.
Barry Moltz, 36, founder and CEO of CHTech International., a mail-order distributor of computer hardware and software, started doing Yoga a year ago at the to balance the pressures of growing a business with starting a family. He still works out in a gym and commutes to work on his bicycle, but he also meditates in the half-lotus position for 15 or 20 minutes at night after his two young children have gone to sleep.
He says most of his friends, also in their mid-30s, have jumped on similar mind-body fitness tracks.
”I think the toughest part about running a company is that there are so many demands on your time. When I meditate, it really allows me to relax and focus all my energies in one place,” he says. ”Now when I’m involved in a meeting, I can be immersed in that meeting instead of thinking about 15 other things. And people really respond when you’re totally focused on just them.”
The pressures of the job say you shouldn’t be satisfied where you are today. You can never feel like you’ve achieved anything because it’s very elusive. Yoga and meditation allows you to be happier and more effective in what you’re doing now.
As if to lend weight to my contention that your computer can, in theory, teach you anything, along comes a pair of CD-ROMs called Wellness Yoga and Shiatsu Relaxation.
Lithe young women demonstrate these ancient Eastern techniques while mellow-voiced narrators speak over somnambulant music, the better to relax you and make you all well.
Most of us are familiar at least with the concepts of yoga, its slow stretching exercises and its often almost unattainable physical positions. Wellness Yoga is a nicely designed program that packages 74 asanas, or positions, into several packages such as the Quick and Easy Course, the Beauty Course and the Health Course.
The program consists largely of what it calls procedure screens, in which each position is demonstrated in one window while described textually in another. A narrator reads that same text aloud. In addition to the usual tape-recorder buttons to pause, stop and restart the action, there is a graph that displays the approximate duration of each segment of the routine.
The practical difficulties of using this CD-ROM are fairly obvious. The manual, dragged kicking and screaming into English from its Japanese roots, advises the user to First practice forming the pose while watching the screen and try memorizing the whole procedure.” This, unless you have a 24-inch monitor or keep your monitor on the floor, is likely to be difficult. Clearly the actual learning of the poses could be more readily done with a videotape.
On the other hand, you can hunt around in the CD-ROM, choose from the positions you want to learn, and collect them into personal groups. And maybe you’ve got a really big monitor, and a cordless, long-distance mouse.
This is a nice program, well-made and instructive. My only complaint is that it does not emphasize clearly enough that unless you are as slender as the model executing the poses, you are not going to be able to do many of them — the Crow, the Heron and the Frog, for instance — correctly. On the other hand, we can all do the Corpse.
Shiatsu Relaxation, which teaches a massage technique clearly related to acupuncture, is another kettle of fish.
The theory is that rubbing, kneading or poking specific points on the body, called acupressure points, will make other parts of the body feel better. I am not prepared to argue that premise, but the entire procedure seems shiatsu yourself is not clear, either; the program initially suggests you find some of your own more accessible pressure points, but they are not all available to your own hands and all the demonstrations show one person ministering to another.
For Gail Stuart, who is finishing a beginner’s series, yoga is an antidote to the stress of her job at the Medical University of South Carolina, where she works with psychiatric research. You just walk through the whole process, and you feel yourself slipping away. It’s a different workout, she says, a welcome alternative to aerobics or exercise machines, which remind her of a torture chamber.
Yoga is the most prominent form of the burgeoning mind-body health movement, which includes tai chi, qigong and other meditative forms of exercise.
The practice of yoga should integrate every aspect of human existence. While many of modern Western practitioners focus on the physical asanas, for others, yoga is an all-encompassing way of life and a path to bliss.
Considering yoga’s lofty goals, it’s delightfully simple and can be done anywhere, anytime. Taken to its extreme, yoga encompasses everything from a moral code and dietary practices to deep meditation. Most commonly, though, it’s a combination of asanas, pranayama (breathing exercises) and some meditation.
Yoga would be an effective and relatively cheap substitute for many anxious and stressed patients, although they would probably also need to be motivated to become physically fit.