Yoga & Pilates Essentials
Yoga & Pilates 101
If you're searching for a low-impact workout option that will challenge every part of your body, look no further than yoga and/or Pilates. The disciplines are quite different, but either one will help you improve strength, flexibility and balance. Both also feature a wide range of convenient mat exercises and can be practiced at home or at the gym. And from a cost-benefit standpoint, both also use much of the same equipment. No matter what your age or ability level, yoga and Pilates can help you improve your health and reach your fitness goals.
Types of Equipment
Pilates offers a range of low-impact, resistance exercises that will help you strengthen your muscles without bulking up. Many Pilates routines focus on the core muscles, but there are exercises for every part of the body; and compared to yoga, Pilates exercises are much more intense. It's easy to do Pilates at home in your basement gym or even in your living room. You can concentrate on floor-mat exercises or expand your workout options by purchasing a Pilates machine such as a reformer.
If you take up yoga or Pilates, a yoga mat is a must-have piece of equipment. The great thing about yoga mats is they're light and easy to carry, allowing you to bring your workout with you wherever you go. When doing stretches and floor exercises, a mat is important for stability and safety, not to mention comfort. A proper mat has a nonslip surface that helps keep your hands and feet stable. Your mat also helps define your space, physically and mentally, which can help you stay focused in a busy workout environment.
For core workouts and relaxing stretches, there's nothing like an exercise ball. Versatile and easy to use, it allows you to zero in on the muscles of your midsection, including your back. Yoga or Pilates both feature exercise-ball routines aimed at strengthening your core and improving posture and balance. In fact, just sitting on an exercise ball while watching television or working on a computer can give your core a good workout.
Resistance Bands & Resistance Straps
Resistance bands and resistance straps are a simple way to add variety to your yoga and Pilates workout. You can use them while standing, sitting or lying down, and their versatility allows you to create resistance in every direction. Resistance bands and resistance straps are also compact and easy to carry, so you can take your workout with you on business trips and vacations. Some models have handles for extra support.
The only thing better than working out is getting a relaxing massage afterwards. With a foam roller, you use your body weight to give yourself a sports massage. After a bit of practice, you'll find it's easy to focus in on knots and other areas of stiffness. Foam rollers are inexpensive, and you’ll save money every time you don't pay for a massage.
Basic body alignment is important in yoga, and yoga blocks help you position your body properly so you get the most out of your workout. If you're a beginner or have reduced mobility, you can use yoga blocks to perform advanced poses safely and for longer periods of time. Yoga blocks come in different materials, including foam, bamboo, wood and cork. The most common size is about nine inches long and six inches wide, with a depth of three or four inches. Choose the size and material that suits you best.
They’re called yoga bags because you use it to carry your yoga mat and gear, but it can easily sub for your Pilates workout as well. A yoga bag should be lightweight, durable and comfortable to carry. Choose your bag wisely because it will hold all of your essential gear, including your towel, blocks, resistance bands and water bottle, plus personal items like your cell phone and a change of clothes.
Music can make or break a workout. When it comes to yoga and Pilates, you may find that calm melodies help you relax and stay centered during poses and stretches. Yoga music and Pilates music features soothing musical arrangements and nature sounds that will put you in serene frame of mind.
You'll feel more relaxed and comfortable performing your yoga and Pilates workouts if you wear the right clothing. With a bit of research, you can find stylish women's active wear or men's active wear that meets your needs. Tops and pants should be made of stretchy, moisture-wicking material to let you move freely. Avoid pants with drawstrings, as they can be uncomfortable when you’re lying down. Hoodies and layering shirts are great for commuting to class or to help raise your core temperature when you first begin your workout. Yoga gloves are great for extra gripping power on the mat.
Yoga Versus Pilates
Yoga and Pilates are both great exercise methods for toning, strengthening and stretching, but there are key differences between them. Yoga, which has ancient Indian philosophical and spiritual roots, is a holistic practice combining exercise and meditation. It aims to improve not only your physical fitness but also your emotional health. Pilates, which was created in North America in the 1920s, is more of a traditional workout. It focuses on strengthening the body’s core and improving muscle control, posture and flexibility. Both incorporate breathing techniques, but yoga's breathing techniques are geared towards relieving stress, while Pilates' breathing techniques are about exercising more effectively.
Types of Yoga
If you're a yoga beginner, it can be tough figuring out which type is right for you. There are many different styles, each with a particular emphasis. Bikram yoga is performed in a heated studio. Hatha is slow and gentle, ideal for the end of the day. Vinyasa involves lots of movement from one pose to the next. Kundalini works the lower spine. Ashtanga is fast paced and physically demanding. Lyengar uses blocks, bands and cushions and is good for physical therapy. Newer forms of yoga include anusara, restorative, yin, laya and prenatal yoga. To get the most out of yoga, you should choose a style that matches your current fitness level and fitness goals.
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