A lot of Nigerians tend to have a negative impression of yoga; mention it, and you get dismissed. But I have found that it seems to be dismissed because people don’t have the right information, or just don’t know where to start. Well, as always, we are here to help
Contrary to popular thinking, yoga isn’t just some “sit and breathe” meditative activity. There are so many different forms of yoga, but the emphasis is on both meditation and loosening the tightness in your muscles. One of the forms of yoga that has gained the most popularity because people have seen tremendous improvement in their strength and flexibility is Power or Vinyasa yoga. It focuses a lot more on the physical aspect of yoga.
I know men are probably reading this and thinking this is for the ladies, but it’s not just a feminine thing. In fact, yoga started as a male practice because the strength required to hold some of the poses was quite significant. However, now, I believe both sexes should try it because we all could use the strength we derive from yoga in our daily lives.
So what are the benefits? If you spend a lot of time doing cardio exercises (like running), usually, you put a lot of pressure on your joints. If you spend a lot of time doing strength training, you usually put a lot of stress on your muscles since strength training is pretty mush breaking down and repairing the muscular tissue. You need to improve strength all over your body, especially your core, and improve flexibility in your joints and muscles so you can continue to exercise safely and rigorously. That’s where yoga comes in. Also, it usually calms you and allows you to focus.
In the short time I have been practicing yoga, I have seen such an increase in my upper body strength (you do a lot of pushups with yoga!), an increase in my core strength (this works better than doing 100 sit-ups a day), and an increase in my overall flexibility (and all the boys said ‘Amen’).
For now, let’s walk through the five most basic yoga poses that you can start to practice on your own. Note that each stretch should be held for about 30 seconds with deep breaths.
Chair pose: With your arms above or in front of you, sit back with your bum like you are about to sit in a chair. Make sure your knees do not go beyond your ankles, and your upper body is as straight as possible. This is a great stretch for the butt, the hips, and the core as you need that ab strength to hold your upper body up.
Upward facing dog: Lie on your stomach with your toes outstretched, and place your palms on the floor right underneath your shoulders. Lift your upper body up until your arms are straight and your elbows are right beside your waist. Your knees should be on the floor if you are a beginner. This is a great stretch for your lower back, core, and your shoulders.
Downward facing dog: Come to your hands and knees with your palms on the floor. Lift your bum in the air so your body is in an upside down V shape. Try to keep pushing your heels towards the floor as your press into the middle of your palms and lift your hips higher. This is a great stretch for the whole body really, but especially the shoulders, back, hips, and feet.
Forward fold: Stand up straight. Keeping your legs straight, bend your upper body forward so it’s like you’re trying to fold yourself. Stretch your palms towards the floor (they don’t have to touch) or cross your elbows under your head. Try to relax the neck so the whole motion is coming from your waist, not forcing from your head. This stretch is great for the waist, the legs, the shoulders, and the lower back.
High lunge: Kneel with one knee in front of the other like you’re trying to propose. Lift your upper body, and lift the back knee off of the floor so that leg is now almost in a straight line. Keep the forward knee bent at about 90 degrees. Lift your arms. This stretch is really for the inner thigh, but it is not the most comfortable stretch. You want that flexibility? You have to work for it.
Doing the poses right could be the difference between seeing progress or not seeing any. Stretching is very very very very important (how many times did I say that?), and yoga gives you an avenue to do so while also working on your strength. It will not be perfect automatically so you may find that you struggle with getting this right so keep practicing.
So now, you may be thinking that you want to find out more, but don’t know where to start. All November, I will be hosting a “New to Yoga” challenge on Instagram and Twitter, where I will post pictures of the basic yoga poses, and guide you through how to get started. All you need to do is follow me (@eightsnweights) and stay tuned!
Suzanne Brume is a fitness blogger and yoga enthusiast who strives to live a healthier lifestyle and helps others do the same. She blogs consistently at Eights and Weights (www.eightsandweights.com), and gives tips and demonstrations on Twitter (@eightsnweights) and Instagram (@eightsnweights). She is always open for fitness questions!