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What is Yoga

Ricky Martin, J-Lo and Jennifer Aniston do it. Madonna and Sting swear by it. Beauties like Christy Turlington, Gwyneth Paltrow and Naomi Watts do it to help them achieve their radiant glows. Stars in the NFL, NBA, PGA and MLB do it to gain power and focus before hitting the field. Fifteen-million Americans do it regularly—so maybe you should do it too…YOGA!

What is Yoga?

The Sanskrit word Yoga means “Union.” Yoga is a practice which combines physical exercises for strength, balance and flexibility, with controlled breathing and concentration exercises to increase your mental focus. Yoga helps you feel better in mind and body—it helps you relax, channel energy and develop inner peace and satisfaction with life. As a student, what does this mean for you? Yoga will relieve stress and give you the mental edge that high achieving students and athletes need to succeed. (Plus it gets you into killer swimsuit shape—what Christy Turlington called the “yoga butt”).

Is it just exercise? Yoga is more than just physical exercise. It’s a philosophy of uniting the mind, body and spirit to achieve contentment and good health. You can get a great workout with yoga, but if you pay attention to your body while you practice—known as cultivating awareness—you’ll get a lot more than just exercise.

What about religion? While yoga did originally come from the Hindu traditions in India, yoga is NOT a religion and it won’t interfere with your religious beliefs. The breathing and meditation practices may actually help you quiet your mind to prepare for prayer and worship. Although some yoga classes include Hindu chants and rituals, there are numerous others who teach a more Western-style of yoga which respects or supports other religions.

How Do I Start? It’s best to practice yoga under the supervision of a yoga instructor, especially when you’re new. The instructor will help you reach your personal fitness goals, and make sure you’re doing it safely. You can also supplement yoga classes with personal practice, guided by books and videos.

Classtime. Check your campus fitness center first, since many schools offer yoga. If they don’t have it, ask them to add it to their next round of courses. To find a yoga teacher in your area, go to Yoga Alliance (YA), the national registry of yoga teachers. All of the YA teachers have at least 200 hours of training, a sure bet that they’ll know what they’re doing to get you fit and keep you safe.

Homework. When you’re in your room, you can head to Yoga Journal. Yoga Journal is the most trusted and established magazine in the yoga world, and their website offers tons of information for a new yogi (what yoga practitioners are called). Check out the New to Yoga section, where you can type in body parts that you’d like to strengthen or mental issues that need attention, and get pictures and instructions for asanas (yoga poses). Yoga Journal also offers streaming video to help you practice in between classes.

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