All Entries For yoga

You Asked: Can Yoga Help Me Lose Weight?


Over the past decade alone, yoga has exploded into a multi-million dollar industry.  Nearly 21 million Americans actively participate in yoga, spending more than $10 billion a year on classes and products (including equipment, clothing, retreats and videos), with the majority of novice practitioners citing general wellness, stress management or weight loss as one of their primary motivations for taking up the practice.
 
However, the roots of yoga are spiritual, not physical, which is the way we think of yoga today. Body-focused yoga styles (that focus on toning, weight loss and physical transformations) are a modern, Western phenomenon. There's no doubt that the benefits yoga offers for the physical body appeals to Americans, even though yoga can be so much more than a physical fitness regimen.
 
So can yoga really help you lose weight? Is there any truth or science to claims that any set of yoga postures can boost your metabolism, help you slim down, or give you that coveted "yoga body"?
Posted 2/21/2014  5:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 30 comments   111,513 views
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Which Type of Yoga is Right for You?


These days, yoga classes are more popular than ever. The practice is popping up in gyms, schools, and even some stores, not to mention actual yoga studios! With so many varieties offered, how do you know which practice is right for you? Even for a veteran yogini such as myself, it can be difficult to keep them all straight, and my own students and friends often ask me to compare the different styles.
 
There's no time like the present to begin a yoga practice, which I firmly believe can benefit every single person regardless of age, fitness level, or physical ability. That which we know as yoga is but one limb of the practice--asana. The benefits are bountiful and deep and do not require you to be physically fit or flexible.

As part of National Yoga Month, studios across the country are offering a free week of yoga this September, and most allow you to take your first class for free any time of year. You can also find donation-based or community classes at most studios, and if you live near a Lululemon, those stores offer free yoga classes, too. (Coach Nicole and Melinda are regulars at the Cincinnati stores!)
 
In honor of National Yoga Month, I compiled a list of 12 of the most common varieties of yoga. I offer a short description of each branch, along with guidance on who might like such classes--and who might not. If you hate to sweat, for example, Bikram and other hot classes aren't for you. And if you want to move and get strong fast, you might not feel satisfied in a Yin class.

And, since many of the branches overlap, I include a list of other forms of yoga you might like.
Posted 9/19/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Stepfanie Romine : 37 comments   57,474 views
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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Yoga


September is National Yoga Month! Time to unroll our mats, loosen up and chill out.

If you've never tried yoga, this is a great time to check out a class. Throughout the month, studios across the country are offering even more free classes than usual. (Many studios also offer at least one free or donation-based class a week on a regular basis.)


In honor of National Yoga Month, we've put together a list of Everything* You'll Ever Need to Know about Yoga. From easy at-home workouts for all levels to your most-asked questions about yoga and what to know before you step foot in your first class, this roundup of our best blogs, articles, and exercises is, well, everything you'll ever need to know about yoga!

Before You Begin: Answers to Your Most-Asked Questions about Yoga

10 Tips to Stay Safe and Comfortable in a Hot Yoga Class
 
11 Tips to Help You Feel at Ease at Your First Yoga Class
 
Does Yoga Count as Cardio?
 
''I Tried Hot Yoga''
 
I'm Changing the Image of Yoga, One Pose and One Student at a Time
 
What's the Difference Between Yoga and Pilates?
 
Which Type of Yoga is Right for You?
 
You Asked: How Do I Breathe in Yoga?
 
Posted 9/12/2013  12:00:00 AM By: Stepfanie Romine : 59 comments   31,379 views
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10 Tips to Stay Safe and Comfortable in a Hot Yoga Class


Last month I subbed a couple of hot yoga classes. Confession: I am not a fan of hot yoga, as a teacher or a student. In addition to being hard on the environment (think of how much energy we use to artificially heat a room--thanks to one of my favorite teachers, Wendy Green, for instilling that in me!), hot yoga can be downright dangerous if you're not prepared. Some studios crank the heat above 100 degrees--and increase the humidity, too. (You want hot yoga, just come to Cincinnati!)

At the studio where I practice, the temperature frequently tops 85 degrees in summertime--that's with minimal air conditioning. If you pack a room full of people who are moving, sweating, and breathing, you'll create heat.

By the end of a practice, the windows are foggy, we're all soaked through, and our mats are dripping with sweat. That's my kind of hot yoga!

Hot yoga is a hot trend in the practice these days. Almost every studio offers a hot class of some variety, from Bikram to Moksha, vinyasa to yin. (One of the studio owners I work for confessed to me that she doesn't like or believe in hot yoga, but it's what students have requested.) And in summertime, almost every yoga practice can feel like a hot one.

Why hot yoga? Advocates say hot yoga facilitates stretching, increases range of motion, removes toxins, and promotes weight loss. It's true that it is easier to stretch warm muscles (and you should never stretch "cold" muscles), but whether hot yoga will lead to greater weight loss depends on the type of yoga you're practicing.

According to the American Council on Exercise, Hatha yoga (in the West, this has come to refer to slower-paced classes) burns about 150 calories an hour (and does not raise your heart rate enough to be considered a form of cardio), while vinyasa (faster-paced, flowing yoga) burns about twice that much. If you're losing pounds after each hot yoga class, it's likely water weight. (More on that later.)

Whether you practice naturally hot yoga as I do or practice at a studio that cranks up the heat, you'll want to be safe. (You might also want to read: "I Tried Hot Yoga" before you take a class.) Here are some tips to help:  

Posted 4/24/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Stepfanie Romine : 56 comments   170,482 views
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5 Easy Ways to Better Value Your Time


Everyone on the planet has one incredible thing in common.  Every week, we are each given 168 hours to do what we please, to create and share our worlds, to make choices that decide our future, and to fill our hearts up with what makes them beat with excitement.  What wakes us up in life and how we spend our time are one in the same. 
 
The time I have today, teaching yoga and building a new business, is completely different than when I worked a 9-to-5 gig.  My goals with practicing yoga and writing balance each day, as well as my love for CrossFit and Pilates.  I like having a full plate at the beginning of each day and slowly clearing it as the day goes along.  Except for on weekends, where I don’t do any "work" at all (only occasionally subbing for yoga classes). 
 
My goal is to end each day with the satisfaction that it was well spent.  I want to be able to sit back, enjoy a glass of red wine, and know that I contributed to something bigger than myself.  Knowing this, over the past couple of years I have developed ways to utilize my time to its fullest.  These five tips speak to me, and hopefully to you as well. 
Posted 3/30/2013  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 23 comments   24,757 views
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The 13 Best Yoga Poses for Runners


When I first started running, I thought for sure it would be a bad combination with yoga. Running is repetitive, it can be hard on the body, and it's fast.

After my first few runs, I felt sore and tight, despite my thorough stretching session afterwards. I spent all that time practicing yoga to loosen my muscles; it seemed silly to then tighten them up with one little run.

A few runs and a bit of research later, I changed my mind. Running and yoga complement each other quite well, and I don't need to end up sore and tight after my runs.

The breath control (pranayama) we practice in yoga actually helps me keep my breathing even when runs get tough, and it's especially helpful after a hard run. Plus, there is a certain peace that accompanies running (and walking). That repetitive motion allows your mind to clear, and the path that lies before allows your eyes to focus on the horizon. Add some motivating music, and you've got quite the relaxing and stress-relieving workout!

My friend Bob (BOBBYD31) SparkMailed me recently to ask about yoga. He's a runner and, like many of you, battles tight hips and hamstrings. He wanted to try yoga but wasn't sure where to start. I gave him some suggestions for DVDs and books--and did one better. I'm a certified Ashtanga yoga teacher, so I decided to create a routine for him and other runners to help them stretch out after a run and keep his muscles healthy and loose.

Here are a baker's dozen poses to help runners (and cyclists and walkers). Hold each pose for 5 breaths or longer if you'd like. You'll need a mat and a yoga block (or a chair) for these poses.

Posted 3/22/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Stepfanie Romine : 214 comments   213,615 views
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Become a Morning Person: 8 Tips from a Former Night Owl


I spent most of my early and mid 20s working the second shift at newspapers. I loved working as a copy editor, and I loved the hours, too. My shifts began at 4 p.m. and ended at midnight, which meant I could stay up late, sleep until noon, and still have time to run errands and go to the gym (a rare occurrence then) before work.

Eventually I joined the 9-to-6 crowd, and it was tough. I did not like mornings.

Fast-forward to last fall, when my yoga studio announced it was adding traditional sunrise morning practice to the schedule during the week. Though I now love my morning practice and wouldn't return to evening sessions, it was not an easy transition. I am not a morning person by nature, but I have become one by necessity.
Life is more likely to interfere when I schedule yoga practices at night. I'm too tired, too stressed, too busy. I have time to formulate all kinds of excuses. But when the alarm goes off at 5:30 each morning, I have no excuse. When I don't want to get out of bed (and who does on a cold winter morning?), I ask myself: What else would you be doing at this time? The answer (aside from sleeping): Nothing. So I get up.

By 9 a.m. I have put in almost two hours on the mat, showered, spent time with my cats, and started my workday. Whereas before I had a hard time getting motivated first thing in the morning, now I dive head-first into the day. Even my work schedule has changed. I save less-intense work for afternoon and choose to work on larger projects first. I feel so much better--more energized and accomplished. I know that morning workouts are worth it!

Those first few weeks were tough. I was exhausted by 9 p.m., falling asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, and I dreaded the alarm clock each morning. I "accidentally" slept through it or hit snooze more than a few times. Within two months, my entire schedule changed.
Here's how I adjusted:
Posted 3/15/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 197 comments   495,837 views
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7 Yoga Essentials for Beginners


At its very core, yoga is about connecting the mind and body. You can "do" yoga without any equipment at all. Even sitting and breathing mindfully as you quiet the mind is a form of yoga. That said, when you do a yoga DVD or take a class, there are a few items that can help you feel more comfortable.

Today I'm rounding up some of my favorites as both a certified yoga teacher and student!

Manduka PROlite Yoga Mat: Manduka mats have a lifetime guarantee. I've had mine for almost four years and it looks brand-new. If you plan to practice regularly, invest in a high-quality mat. Cheaper "sticky" mats tend to fall apart and shed yoga mat confetti all over the place. After wearing out two yoga mats during yoga teacher training, I treated myself to a sturdier mat as my reward for earning my certification. Manduka mats are lightweight yet sturdy--you won't need to layer a second mat under it as some people prefer to do with foam mats. (Plus they come in a variety of fun colors!)

Posted 1/30/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Stepfanie Romine : 16 comments   28,408 views
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5 Minutes to Less Stress


Are you feeling tense? Do you suffer from back pain or stiffness? Whether you're an experienced yogi or a fitness newbie, whether you can touch your toes or are very inflexible, this 5-minute yoga-inspired stretching routine can help you unwind anytime of day or night.

You don't need any equipment, and, as long as you have a floor you can kneel on, you don't even need a yoga mat. Since it's just five minutes, you can even do this in your regular clothes.

If you're spending a lot of time in the car this holiday season, give this routine a try! For your convenience, I not only provide detailed instructions below, but I also created a printable, downloadable, pinnable graphic for you (scroll down!)

Child’s pose:

Starting in a kneeling position.
 
Keep your knees together but separate the feet and allow your bottom to rest on the floor. Roll your calves away from your thighs (use your hands) to help you get comfortable.

For a deeper stretch:
Sit back on your heels, shins together, tops of the feet pressing onto the mat. (Place a rolled-up towel between your heels and hips to ease this stretch.)

From here, start to lower to the floor. Your belly will rest on or between your thighs, and your forehead will reach towards the mat. (Place a towel or a yoga block under your forehead if it won't reach the floor.

Stretch the arms alongside the body, with the fingertips facing the toes, to stretch between the shoulder blades.

TIP: Roll your forehead back and forth across the mat with your arms along your sides to help alleviate sinus congestion.
Posted 12/20/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 10 comments   30,256 views
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Does Yoga Count as Cardio?


Yoga has seen a steady rise in popularity over the past few years.  According to a 2008 report released by Yoga Journal, 15.8 million American adults were practicing yoga.  In 2010, that number grew to 21.9 million.  The majority reported that they practice yoga for a number of health benefits, stress reduction and relaxation.  Yoga is a great complement to a well-rounded exercise routine, no matter what your fitness level.   It offers a variety of modifications (as needed), styles and intensities, giving it a wide appeal among exercisers of all fitness levels and goals.
 
But one of the questions I get most about yoga isn't whether I recommend it (I do), but whether it counts as a cardio workout. Could yoga replace one or more of your weekly treadmill or elliptical dates? 
Posted 11/19/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Jen Mueller : 21 comments   32,050 views
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19 Reasons Why You Need Yoga in Your Life


When I tell people that I practice and teach yoga, I hear one of two responses from those who've never tried it:

  1. "I always wanted to try yoga."

  2. "I could never do yoga because I can't (insert physical limitation here)."

My answer is always the same: "You should do yoga!"

It doesn't matter if you can't touch your toes. (I know many a yogi who have never touched their toes). It doesn't matter if you're not flexible, if you're not strong, not patient, not able to sit still. Everyone starts somewhere. Most people who have a regular yoga practice started right where you will--from the beginning. They're not dancers, not gymnasts, and not "yogis." They're just people who wanted to give yoga a try. They wanted to control their breathing, move their bodies, and find even a few moments of peace in this crazy life.

You should try yoga. You (yes, you!) should do yoga. You (I'm still talking to you!) should practice yoga. And I'm about to tell you why.
The yoga I practice is hard, mentally and physically. Ashtanga yoga combines strength, cardio, and flexibility, and most practices last 75 to 90 minutes. By the end, I've given everything I have. My muscles are exhausted, my mind pushed to the limit, and my body drenched in sweat. "Each morning, this practice rips me to pieces and rebuilds me stronger than ever," I told a friend last week.

When I started this practice five years ago, I was anxious. I was unhappy. I was flexible but not strong. I had never run a mile and certainly never imagined I would run half-marathons. I had never turned upside down. And I certainly couldn't hold up my own body weight using my upper body. I couldn't even do a single "chaturanga" (yoga/triceps pushup). Back then, my anxiety was so severe that I often couldn't make it through an entire class. I had to excuse myself to the bathroom to catch my breath and calm down. (But wait--wasn't yoga supposed to calm me down? Not to worry--it did, but not immediately.) Today I'm stronger than ever inside and out. If I can do it, so can you.

You don't have to do yoga my way. You don't have to practice daily, and if you do, you don't have to stay on your mat for a prescribed amount of time. All you have to do is show up and breathe. That's all. Movement is optional.

No matter your age, your physical capabilities, your current weight or your fitness goals, you should be doing yoga. (Talk to your health-care provider, especially if you suffer from any medical condition. I'm just a yoga teacher not a doctor.)

One of my teachers, Lewis Rothlein, says at the end of each class that "you can't do this enough. You can't do this too much." Whether you're taking one yoga class a week, spending five minutes mindfully stretching each morning, or doing something more, your body and mind will thank you.

Let's talk about why you (yes, you!) should do yoga*--as little or as much as you want.

Posted 11/2/2012  12:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 41 comments   23,747 views
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5 Exercises that Sculpt, Strengthen & Soothe Back Pain


In today’s world, we all sit for too many hours each day. We drive instead of walking. We take the escalator instead of climbing the stairs. As a result, our posture suffers—and our necks get tight because we spend hours looking down at our smart phones. (What's so "smart" about that?) We forget to breathe because we are constantly multi-tasking. And as a result, we suffer from a multiplicity of ailments, especially chronic shoulder tension and back pain. We are more "connected" than we have ever been, yet we are increasingly disconnected from ourselves and what we need to do to truly live vital, healthy, and inspired lives.
 
So what can you do? The answer is MOVE. But more specifically, strengthen your core, which can help stabilize your spine, improving its fluidity and flexibility.
 
The following simple exercises are a powerful antidote to all that sitting. They are a potent time-saving combination of Pilates moves and yoga poses that will help you stop pain in its tracks, reduce stress (which can also contribute to back pain), and improve your spinal alignment. This series also stretches and strengthens the core and back.
 
So, want to feel stronger and longer, leaner and meaner, more fluid and flexible in just a few minutes? Grab your mat, and let’s get started!
Posted 10/26/2012  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 20 comments   53,249 views
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Your 12 Most Embarrassing Yoga Questions Answered


It happened one night during a quiet class, the thing I feared most in the practice. I twisted myself into Marichyasana D on the right side, and… tweet. I passed gas, and it was audible (but not smelly, thank goodness!). I was embarrassed but thankfully my teacher was on the other side of the room (not adjusting me!) and no one else seemed to notice. I kept breathing, held the pose, and quickly my embarrassment passed. We're all human, after all, and the physical body does not always cooperate when you're trying to exercise or practice yoga. Only once in almost six years of practice has that happened, and it wasn't nearly as catastrophic as I had imagined.

That moment reminded me that no one comes to yoga class to judge me, that we're all human, and that the ego is what creates embarrassment. If you do anything long enough, you're likely to uncover the unsavory elements of it. (Just ask any runner--surely they have a bathroom emergency tale to tell. My boyfriend is a cyclist, and they have so many gross and embarrassing tales to share.) Today I'm going to answer 12 of your most "embarrassing" yoga questions, and I hope I can assuage any anxiety you have so you can feel more comfortable in a yoga class.  (Remember, there's no need to be embarrassed!)
Posted 9/18/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Stepfanie Romine : 52 comments   99,287 views
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What Really Matters in Your Yoga Practice


I've been teaching yoga for a little more than three years now, and I've been practicing almost twice as long. The most difficult part of the practice for me has been not the physical poses--though there still are many that challenge me, particularly inversions--but everything else. As someone who has always had trouble sitting still and who battles anxiety, yoga is both therapy and, on certain days, torture for me.

I keep doing it because, quite simply, it's what I do. I encourage my students and friends interested in the practice to do the same. Today I want to share with you a few short lessons I've gleaned from my years on the mat. I share these both as encouragement for you and as reminders for myself, for we're all students with room to grow and learn.

Breathe. Whether you're fully in the pose or taking a modification, your primary focus should be on your breath. Keep it even and deep, with your inhales matching your exhales in length and intensity. Holding the breath is tempting, especially in balancing poses, but the breath is what gives us energy. Keep it flowing to breathe life into your poses. Yoga without breath is calisthenics.
Posted 8/29/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 24 comments   11,184 views
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What's the Difference Between Yoga and Pilates?


I have always thought of the combination of Pilates and yoga as the perfect marriage. Both are transformational, focused methods of movement that facilitate positive change in the body, mind and spirit. In my opinion, their differences complement one another in the best of ways. Pilates is known as a "workout," and yoga as a "practice"; however, the irony here is that, in order to improve at anything, we have to practice, and when we practice well both Pilates and yoga are can be exceptional workouts.  And as you will see, both are worthy of your time and attention for innumerable reasons.
 
Unless you're very familiar with both—or a trained instructor—it may be difficult to tell how these two programs are different. In truth, there is a lot of overlap and similarities between yoga and Pilates. And what better way to understand them both than with a little history lesson on each.
Posted 8/17/2012  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 27 comments   121,868 views
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