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Yoga: Gain without pain

The descriptions of classic yoga exercises below will give you an idea of what this ancient art is all about. Routines begin with warm-up stretches and breathing exercises. These are followed by more stretches, yoga postures and, finally, relaxation techniques.

Sound like fun? It’s best for beginners to take a class or to follow a structured sequence of exercises described in a yoga book. Ask friends, your physician or the hospital to recommend a yoga program in your area.


  1. Kneel on all fours with hands and knees shoulder distance apart.
  2. Exhale and arch your back up high.
  3. Lower head to chin.
  4. Hold.
  5. Inhale and curve your back by dropping your pelvis toward the floor.
  6. Raise your head and look up.
  7. Hold.
  8. Repeat.


  1. Lie face down.
  2. Keep legs together and hands palm down under your shoulders with fingers turned inward.
  3. Slowly bring your head up and inhale.
  4. Lift, using the back muscles to raise the chest to a comfortable level.
  5. Hold and breathe deeply.
  6. Exhale and lower your body to the floor.


  1. Stand with feet three feet apart.
  2. Right foot is turned out; left foot is slightly inward.
  3. Raise arms to shoulder level.
  4. Slide left hand down leg toward ankle, bending from the waist.
  5. Right arm should be extended straight up.
  6. Look at your upraised arm.
  7. Hold.
  8. Inhale and slowly return to original position, bringing feet together.
  9. Repeat on right side.


  1. Stand with both feet together and arms at side.
  2. Focus on imaginary spot ahead.
  3. Bring your right foot up and place sole against inside of your left thigh.
  4. Raise arms with palms together over your head.
  5. Hold.
  6. Lower arms and release foot.
  7. Repeat with left foot.

If the thought of yoga conjures up images of mystics in pretzel-like positions, think again. Yoga exercises are simple and can be done at any fitness level. The ideas behind yoga date back thousands of years to ancient India, and are gaining popularity in this country thanks to yoga’s many physical and mental benefits.

The exercises are designed to unite physical, mental and spiritual well-being. In fact, literally translated, yoga means union. There are several traditional yoga types, but the most common in America is Hatha yoga. All yoga schools and teachers use yoga’s basic principles, but they differ in their approach and in the exercises they favor.

Health benefits of yoga include flexibility and toning (especially of the stomach, back and chest), and stress reduction. Yoga also stimulates the circulation, increasing the supply of oxygen to all parts of the body. Because the exercises are practiced slowly, without pushing or jerking the body, there’s little risk of strain or injury.

When combined with a balanced diet, yoga can improve your overall health. It can even help you get rid of minor aches and pains associated with stress and tension. Yoga strengthens and relaxes muscles, improving coordination and posture. Some studies have shown that yoga can help provide relief from headaches and insomnia. As with any new exercise program, check with your doctor before taking up yoga, especially if you have a serious illness.

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