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Many people are reluctant to exercise because it involves discomfort or strain, special equipment, others to work out with, or leaving home to go to a gym. If is this the case with you, then yoga may be just the practice you have been waiting for. The word ¡§yoga¡¨ means ¡§yoke¡¨ in Sanskrit, and it implies a harnessing together of the body and the mind. Yoga is a form of meditation, and when done regularly, it is an excellent mind/body discipline for people who desire better health.

Yoga consists of postures done mindfully and with awareness of breath. They are easily learned and have dramatic effects if practiced regularly. The ones detailed here are extremely gentle. Regular practice will increase flexibility, strength, and balance. They will also help you enter deep states of relaxation and awareness. Many people experience a greater serenity about life in general as well.

In practicing yoga, you are advised to maintain moment to moment awareness and not strive to get anywhere. Just allow yourself to be whom you are where you are; let go of judging yourself. Move slowly and consciously. Yoga involves exploring your limits without pushing past them. Play with your boundaries; get as close to them as you can and keep breathing. Honor your body and listen to what it tells you about when to stop and when to avoid a posture that is painful.

Yoga requires no special equipment and can be done almost anywhere. You can learn it from video or audiotapes and then go on to invent your own postures. You might want to join a yoga class if you enjoy the company, or you can get new ideas from reading books about yoga.

Here are a few postures to get you started: Move slowly from one position to the next and hold each one as long as is comfortably possible.

* Corpse/ relaxation pose: lie flat on your back with your arms to your sides
* Full body stretch: stretch your arms above your head as hard as you can without causing discomfort, pressing out towards the wall. Stretch your legs out, pushing the heels of your feet towards the opposite wall.
* Pelvic tilt: press your lower back against the floor
* Pelvic tilt 2: now arch your lower back, pressing your buttocks against the floor
* Inner thigh stretch: still lying on your back, bring your knees together over your torso, then press heels together and let legs fall to the sides, getting a nice stretch for your inner thigh
* Pelvic clock: bring your knees back to starting position and clasp them with your arms. Then roll your pelvis in a clockwise circle
* Head/knee press: bring knees back to starting position and pull them toward your head while at the same time pressing your forehead toward your knees
* Wind-relieving pose: stretch out again into corpse position. Slowly bring one knee up to your chest, clasping it with both hands. Pull your head up to meet your knee and hold. Repeat on other side.
* Table: turn over onto your stomach. Slowly raise your body so that you are on your hands and knees, your back straight.
* Cat stretch: now arch your back like a cat does when it stretches
* Puppy stretch: this is a countersterch to the cat stretch. Drop your back down and raise your head like a dog howling at the moon.
* Table balance: balance again on all fours, then slowly life your right arm and stretch it out in front of you. Do the same with your left leg and balance for as long as is comfortable. Repeat with opposite arm and leg.
* Bridge: Lie on your back with knees bent. Now slowly raise your buttocks off the floor, then lower back, then upper back, until you are balancing as best you conformably can on your shoulders. Move your arms so they are underneath your body and clasp your hands. Hold as long as comfortably possible.
* Knee down twist: Lie on your back with legs stretched out, arms at side. Bring one knee up to chest; foot resting against the opposite knee. Move arms perpendicular to the body. Now twist torso so that the bent knee touches the opposite floor. Hold and repeat on other side.

* Leg lifts: Lie on back knees bent. Lift right leg straight up on the air foot pointing toward ceiling. Grab leg behind knee and pull towards head, while at the same time lifting head toward knee. Hold and repeat on other side.


* Sphinx: Lie in stomach, legs stretched out, arms at side, forehead touching the floor. Slowly bring arms so that forearms rest beside the head. Now raise head and torso so that body is resting on forearms.
* Cobra: This starts out exactly like the sphinx, but when you get to the point that your body is resting on the forearms, continue pushing your torso up so that you are supporting it with the palms of your hands.
* Belly down relaxation: Return to lying on your belly, legs stretch out behind you, arms resting comfortably at your side, head turned to the side so that your cheek is resting on the floor.
* Child: Now slowly pull your torso back so that your stomach is resting on your knees, forehead on the floor, arms stretched out behind you. Hold.
* Final relaxation: Turn over onto your back and return to the starting pose, legs stretched out and arms at your side.

Congratulations! You will probably feel relaxed and peaceful now, but be aware that you might feel sore tomorrow, since, after all, you did just exercise.