By Dr Tan Chin Yong
Contrary to popular belief, Yoga is not only for young ladies who are so flexible they can touch their toes to the back of their heads. You don’t have to be flexible to do Yoga. You do Yoga to become flexible. Yoga mostly involves doing a series of poses devised by great ancient masters, which you hold for a short duration and moving from one pose to the next in harmony with your mind and breath. Each pose normally combines the three elements of balance, strength and flexibility, and uses your own body weight to provide the resistance. Most poses also have a series of variations from basic to advance. It is for the practitioner to do what he/she feels is comfortable while constantly challenging him/herself to do better. Holding your body in a particular position using muscles you didn’t know exist, without falling down, is surprisingly taxing on the cardiovascular system as well, judging by my sweat soaked towel after each session.
Through regular practice, our joints will loosen, especially the big ones like our hips and shoulders. Our ligaments and tendons will become more elastic and stronger giving us a larger range of motions. All our muscles from the head to the core, arms, legs, hands and feet will become stronger. Our balance, which depends to a large extent on our core strength, will improve. The net effect is that our stamina improves, we become stronger, more agile and won’t fall quite so easily. This will counter many of the major risks of aging, such as loss of muscle mass, physical injuries and decrease in heart and lung functions.
Yoga naturally forces you to pay full attention on your body as you try to hold the poses correctly and stay in balance while remembering to breathe and not fall over. This is in fact meditation in motion where you keep your attention on only one thing exclusively. You will experience a natural sense of calm when your mind is not whizzing around with a thousand thoughts. Of course, the best part is the cooling down period where you rest in Savasana (dead man) pose and feel the total relaxation and satisfaction after a challenging work out.