Monday, July 13, 2009

Basic Equipment

Clothing: Comfortable, breathable clothes are recommended for yoga. You probably want to wear a shirt that is a little bit form-fitting, since in many yoga poses, your head comes below your hips and your shirt can slide down. Any exercise pants or shorts will do, although it’s best not to have super slick lycra-type pants since this may cause you to slip in some poses.

Shoes: Yoga is most often done barefoot, which is great news for those of us tired of packing a bulky pair of athletic shoes for after work trips to the gym. Yoga studios will often request that you leave your shoes near the entrance.

Mats: In gyms and yoga studios, it’s commonplace to use a yoga mat, also called a sticky mat. The mat helps define your personal space, but more importantly, it creates traction for your hands and feet so you don’t slip, especially as you get a little sweaty. The mat also provides a bit of cushioning on a hard floor. Most studios have mats for rent, usually for a dollar or two per class. The disadvantage to these mats is that lots of people use them and you can't be sure how often they are being washed. Yoga mats can be purchased for as little as $20, and many studios will allow you to store your mat with them if you become a regular.

Optional Equipment

The following yoga props come out of the Iyengar tradition. Iyengar style yoga teaches that having the proper alignment in the poses is the most important thing. Until the body becomes open enough, students should use props to bring the body into alignment to achieve maximum benefit and avoid injury. Iyengar’s use of props has been adopted by many other styles of yoga. The props are usually provided for students to use during class and there is no need to buy your own unless you are beginning a home practice.

Blankets: Yoga studios often have stacks of blankets available for students to use during class. Grab yourself one or two blankets at the beginning of class. The folded blankets are props to sit and lie on during class. For instance, sit cross-legged and put a blanket under your sit bones to elevate the hips above the knees. They come in handy for all sorts of things during class, and if it’s chilly you can use them to cover yourself during final relaxation at the end of class.

Blocks: Like blankets, blocks are props to make yourself more comfortable and improve your alignment. Blocks are great for standing poses in which your hands don't reach the floor.

Straps: Straps are particularly useful for bound poses if your hands do not reach each other, and for poses where you need to hold onto your feet but cannot reach them.

How Many Calories Does Yoga Burned?

So just how many calories do you burn in Yoga? Can Yoga really burn enough calories to supplement my cardio workout? If you've asked yourself the same questions, see below for types of Yoga and the average calories burned during an hour long session.

Yoga burns on average about 200 calories per hour, but it really depends on the type of yoga you practice. Also, learning how to intensify your practice and challenging yourself personally during class can really add to the total calories burned.


A gentle form a Yoga, the most common form that focuses on basic postures that flow in and out with emphasis on breathing techniques. Hatha Yoga is what most people in the West associate with the word "Yoga" and is practiced for mental and physical health.

Calories burned in Hatha Yoga: 175 per hour

Same as: a slow walk


The eight limbs connoted by the word 'Ashtanga' refer specifically to the eight spiritual practices outlined by the Yoga Sutra, the original Yoga text which is just as relevant today as when first composed. 'Ashtanga' can be composed of 6 set series, each increasing with more difficulty. It is usually combined or referred to as Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga (see below).

Calories burned in Ashtanga Yoga: 300 per hour

Same as: a brisk walk


An Americanized version of Ashtanga Vinyasa that intensifies poses by moving more rapidly between one pose to the other. Power Yoga can also refer to a shortened version of a Yoga class. i.e. a 45 minute class versus a 60 or 90 minute class but the benefits are seemingly the same because the pace of class is quickened.

Calories burned in Power Yoga: 300 per hour

Same as: a brisk walk


A dynamic form of yoga that connects postures and creates a flow between traditional yoga postures. The 'Vinyasa flow' is used especially during the Sun Salutation series.

Calories burned in Vinyasa Yoga: 445 per hour

Same as: moderate bike riding for one hour


Bikram Yoga is ideally practiced in a room heated to 105°F (40.5°C) with a humidity of 40%. Classes include 26 postures, guided by specific dialogue and breathing techniques.

Calories burned in Bikram or Hot Yoga: 630 per hour

Same as: jogging for one hour


Playing Nds Can make You Healthy

The arrival of exer-games presents a conundrum to the typical videogame reviewer. Konami's Let's Yoga and Let's Pilates are useful pieces of software for your Nintendo DS, but they're really not games. Instead of posing the player with problems to be solved or objectives to be completed, these tools are more like interactive workout DVDs. They walk the player through a series of exercises and provide background information along the way, but there is no reward system, and no conflict. Still, as interactive exercise programs, these titles are presented well and can be effective -- as long as the user actually performs the intended exercises.

Of the two titles, Let's Pilates is a little more thought out than Yoga. Yoga jumps right into its lessons without showing the user what poses they will be performing. This makes the program more useful to experienced yogaists who can follow along with the instructor (voiced by a calm, soothing female actor). Pilates, however, shows the user exactly what they will be doing before jumping into an exercise. If, like me, you've never done Pilates, these demonstrations make the software much more user-friendly.

Obviously, Let's Yoga is a solo experience that lacks the camaraderie of fellow human beings.
Both programs are controlled entirely with the stylus. In Yoga, users can work through the Master's Lesson of 25 exercises ranging from the basics to advanced poses. Along the way Master Yogi tells of the history of yoga, its purpose, and even throws in a joke here and there. All of the yoga information is great for novices, but again, we aren't given a visual demonstration of an exercise before it's time to perform it. I think the people that will get the most enjoyment out of Let's Yoga are those that are already involved with the workout and want a portable instructor that can walk them through a few exercises while they're on the road in a hotel room or something.

Outside of the Master Lesson, players can create their own combination of poses for a personalized routine. There is also a pose list where the player can view a demonstration of each move and even rotate the camera with the stylus while the model is showing what needs to be done. But it's really a shame the user has to go find these demonstrations on their own instead of getting to see them before each exercise.

I had never taken a yoga class before Let's Yoga, so I enlisted the help of a friend who has been doing yoga for years. After we went through many of the game's exercises, she told me the lessons, explanations, and poses are all very much like a real yoga class. It's not a substitute for the real thing, but the $30 game is cheaper and it's portable.

Pilates is structured the same way: there is a Challenge mode where you work through all the game's exercises and build a "Pila-tree," and a free mode for building your own routines. Growing your Pila-tree is a way of graphically representing your progress and engages the user a little more than Yoga does.

When you decide on a challenge, you can view a demonstration divided into several "chapters," so you're prepared to perform the exercise when it begins.

There is also a trivia mode where you are tested on the fundamentals of Pilates and can earn items. All in all, Pilates is more fleshed-out than Yoga. It's also the more difficult program, as it is strenuous right from the beginning, whereas Yoga takes a while to become challenging.

Both programs track how much total time you spend working out, but they aren't tied to the DS' internal calendar. It would be useful to track your daily progress and provide incentive to the player to keep at it several times a week. Unfortunately, neither game capitalizes on this opportunity.

Closing Comments
Let's Yoga and Let's Pilates are perfectly respectable exercise tools. What keeps them from being truly great pieces of software is their disinterest in embracing any sort of game mechanics. Wii Fit is a perfect example of an exercise tool that works a lot of traditional gameplay into its program. If Yoga and Pilates figured out how to make a game out of their routines, they could increase their audience beyond people who are already into yoga and pilates. But as they are, I think on-the-go types who like to stay in shape will find both of these pretty useful. If you have to decide between the two, there is more value to be found in Pilates.


Simple Yoga

Yoga offers many poses but when practiced regularly together, the combination offers full body benefits. So even if you don't have time to do an entire yoga class, view suggestions below for the top 10 yoga poses that can be completed in as little as 20 minutes. These have been selected in an effort to touch on all the major muscle groups and effectively massage the digestive and respiratory systems. It's important to note that the order of the following poses isn't important. Poses 1-4 can be practiced before or after the Sun Salutation. A Sun Salutation, however, typically follows the same basic sequence and is used to evoke our energy centers and warm the body. ~Namaste

Take up to 20 minutes for poses 1-4, build up energy "highs", attempt to close eyes and focus on the warmth you are creating in your body.

1.) Spinal Flex Pose - sit with legs crossed, legs apart or soles together in an easy seated pose. Gently relax arms onto lap and touch shins or feet with hands. Inhale, lift chest forward and up. Then begin to round shoulders and drop chin forward on the exhale. Start slowly and begin to increase pace and breath.

Easy Seated Pose

2.) Moving Cat Cow - begin on all four's with a neutral spine; shoulders stacked over wrists, hips stacked over knees. Inhale and create space in the spine and look gently forward, keep shoulders down and away from ear lobes. Exhale and gently round the middle of the spine tucking the chin gently. Begin slowly and then create a rhythm to gently flow by matching movement to the breath.

Cat Pose

Cow Pose

3.) Chair Flow - begin in Mountain pose, standing with feet hip width apart. Inhale bringing arms overhead and exhale as you sit down, as if onto a chair. Repeat and match the inhale to the upward movement and exhale to the sitting movement. Create a flow between body and breath.

Chair Pose Chair Pose

4.) Downward Facing Dog - Relax in Childs pose and extend arms overhead creating space from tailbone to fingertips. Gentaly plant your fingers and toes into mat, lift hips high to the sky and gently bow the head between the arms. A critical shift occurs as you bow so that eyes are looking towards the big toes. Take any pressure off the neck by relaxing head down. Breath deeply for 3-4 breaths and bend knees to rest in Childs pose once more. Repeat. Build stamina in order to hold Downward facing dog for several deep breaths. Hold for up to 1 minute at a time.

Childs Pose

Downward Facing Dog Pose

5-10.) How to do a Sun Salutation

Practice poses 5-10, five times daily. Attempt in the morning and notice increased energy to "face the day!" If there is one series of poses you can do during the day, a Sun Salutation series is it.

Begin in Mountain Pose

1-2: Upward Salute (backbend optional) - inhale

3: Forward Bend - exhale

4-5: Lunge to Plank - inhale

6-7: Upward Facing Dog - exhale

8: Downward Facing Dog - inhale

9-10: Forward Lunge into Forward Bend - exhale

11-1: Upward Salute (backbend optional) - inhale

Repeat on opposite side

How to do a Sun Salutation

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