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Sent 04:30pm, February 1, 2007


Yoga: Strengthen Your Body and Your Mind

By Stacey Mahtani, IFPA, Director of Group Fitness


"To keep a lamp burning we have to keep putting oil in it."

- Mother Teresa

Yoga is believed to have originated in India over 6,000 years ago. Yoga strengthens the body and the mind and generally more physically challenging than most people realize. Sanskrit is the earliest Indo-European language known and is the ancient language in which yoga was originally taught. In Sanskrit, yoga means “to yoke or unite”; it can also mean discipline. Yoga is a journey of self-discovery on the path to enlightenment. Yoga is really any method in which we can become balanced and united with our own higher nature (self) and obtain supreme bliss. Even Mother Teresa and Socrates may be considered yogis. Yoga is one of the best exercises for most people. People with arthritis, heart disease, back pain and pregnant women can still practice yoga with special care. As with any exercise program you would want to check with your doctor before starting any new program.

There are many ways to practice yoga however; there are primarily four types of yoga currently practiced. Karma yoga is the path of service through selfless action for the good of others. Mother Teresa served the poor as a way to connect the compassion of God with humanity. Unconditional service is a form of Karma yoga. Bhakti yoga cultivates the expression and love of the Divine through devotional rituals. Regular prayer, chanting, singing, ceremonies and celebration are a form of this path. Jnana yoga is the path of intellect and wisdom. The study of sacred texts, intellectual debates, philosophical discussion and introspection are all components of this path. Socrates, in this regard, was a Jnana yogi. Raja yoga, known as the “royal path” refers to the journey toward personal enlightenment. This path consists of a balance of the three main yoga types - Karma, Bhakti and Jnana- in an addition to the integration of the eight limbs, or stages of yoga as listed below:

Limb 1 - guidelines of ethical standards and moral conduct (non-violence, truthfulness, no stealing)

Limb 2 - observances and disciplines (cleanliness, contentment, study of spiritual scriptures)

Limb 3 - body postures

Limb 4 - special breathing techniques used to control the life force or energy in the body

Limb 5 - the practice of sensory detachment through deep relaxation techniques

Limb 6 - concentration and focus

Limb 7 - meditation

Limb 8 - the state of ecstasy, bliss, and enlightenment that transcends the self and merges with the Divine

Hatha yoga is represented as a combination of the third and fourth limbs of the royal path. Hatha is translated from Sanskrit to mean “sun and moon”. On a symbolic as well as physical level, hatha means a balancing of energies or forces. Hatha yoga focuses on the path toward wellness and enlightenment through physical, mental, and spiritual means. Hatha yoga incorporates slow stretches, breathing and relaxation techniques which result in wonderful physical and emotional benefits. The two most well known forms of Hatha yoga are Iyengar and Ashtanga. Iyengar yoga focuses primarily on the importance of precise physical alignment during the execution of poses. Iyengar yoga focuses on staying in the posture with great effort and attention to alignment. There is normally no set routine when practicing Iyengar yoga. Ashtanga yoga is a dynamic form of Hatha yoga where there is a vigorous flow as one moves from one posture to another and is a set series of postures. Sun salutations are the foundation for staying warm and flowing in this form of yoga. There are other forms of Hatha yoga such as Vinyasa and Bikram. Vinyasa yoga is the practice of linking Surya Namaskaras or similar postures between poses. Practitioners repeat each pose in sequence before going on to the next one, and after adding each new pose. Bikram yoga also known mainly as “the yoga of the stars” is better known today as “Hot Yoga” because it is taught in a room kept at approximately 106 degrees Fahrenheit.

Regular practice of Hatha yoga involves very little equipment - all you need is a quiet place, about thirty minutes a day and comfortable clothing. With a minimal investment of time, yoga can bring a variety of benefits including flexibility, increased muscle tone, and reduced stress. Yoga promotes better sleep, improves respiratory, circulatory and digestive functions, builds inner strength, increased balance, better posture, reduced PMS, fewer daily aches and pains, more inner peace and a better attitude toward life.

Some studies have also shown that Hatha yoga, practiced in conjunction with a low-fat diet and moderate exercise, can actually reverse clogged arteries and coronary diseases.

The stretching and breathing performed in Hatha yoga helps improve circulation. This, in turn, provides regular nourishment to cells throughout your body. If your cells don't receive enough nourishment, they grow sick and die. As a result, you can frequently feel sick and tired. After even a week of practicing Hatha yoga, however, you may feel rejuvenated and stronger than you have in years.

Hatha Yoga is a practice that never ceases. Your Hatha Yoga practice is personal to you and you reap its benefits and as an instructor you assist others in achieving many benefits as well to increase their quality of life.

Instructing Hatha Yoga

Kathy Lee Kappmeier & Diane M. Ambrosini

IFPA introduces the Certified Yoga Instructor Certification as one of its newest released certifications. The IFPA Certified Yoga Instructor course is an introductory level yoga course that describes the qualities and knowledge yoga instructors need in order to be competent and effective teachers. Developed in line with the standards of the Yoga Alliance and its national Yoga Teachers’ Registry, it covers all aspects of successful instruction:

• Detailed descriptions on how to teach 69 yoga asanas (postures), with more than 300 photos showing the postures

• Verbal and visual cues to use in teaching each posture

• Specific hands-on adjustments to help students achieve each posture

• Modifications for each posture and effective ways to work with students of different abilities in the same class

• Class outlines, lesson plans, and a sample syllabus

• Tips for structuring classes in a variety of school and community settings

• Charts that identify body-segment kinematics and muscles used in individual postures

• A DVD that shows how to move toward the most accurate positions for a sampling of postures and the hands-on adjustments instructors can make to assist students

With practical and detailed instruction, tips, and tools, this course provides information on how to teach yoga with strategies for working with students of varying abilities. It helps develop the attributes of registered instructors who facilitate students’ learning and awareness in the practice of yoga.


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James T. Bell, PhD is the founder and president of the International Fitness Professionals Association, IFPA.

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