Yoga is one of the fastest growing sports in America among all age groups. It's easy to learn the basics, requires little or no equipment, and can be practiced almost anywhere. Yoga, which means "to yoke or join the mind, spirit, and the body," originated in India over 2000 years ago. Practiced correctly, it is a combination of mental, physical and spiritual disciplines, and perfectly compliments other types of workouts, leading to an inward-and outward-transformation.
Personal trainers, wellness coaches and other health and fitness professionals find that incorporating yoga stretches and poses into their clients workouts can give their clients a profound physical, mental, and spiritual awareness. However, it's imperative that the certified professional learn the basics and understand the deeper intricacies of Yoga before teaching the poses, in order to prevent injury. A certified professional needs to be able to instruct the pose, observe the client, and adjust the pose when necessary-doing so without proper knowledge can lead to injury.
Different asanas, or poses, are practiced for different reasons; but basic poses can be taught to clients to stretch the muscles after each workout session. The client will also learn more about basic muscle groups, and how each exercise and posture benefits each particular group.
Breath control is another important component of Yoga. Yoga breathing, a conscious breath through the nose only, calms the mind, reduces blood pressure and reduces stress. Breathing is a vital component of each asana as it teaches the client to be still and calm. Learning proper breathing techniques not only helps in Yoga postures but in daily life as well, leading to relaxation in stressful situations.
Many Yoga postures also incorporate core strength. Abdominal crunches can be replaced by Yoga poses to help prevent boredom in a client's workout. The plank, triangle, and boat pose are great abdominal strengtheners, while the cobra, side twists, and sphinx pose are all abdominal stretches that are safe when practiced appropriately.
As with any exercise, proper execution of the poses helps to reduce a client's physical aches and pains, and incorporating appropriate beneficial poses can help the client with particular ailments. Yoga education can help the ACSM certified professional work with a larger group of clients and provide variety for their clients. A wonderful reference book by Meta Chaya Hirschl is Vital Yoga. It has a historical perspective and includes photographs of many yoga poses along with instructions for executing each pose properly. A certified professional who wants to deepen his or her knowledge further should contact the Yoga Alliance or other certifying organizations, who can provide additional educational information.
Yoga is a practice that can take years to learn, so it is important to stress to the client that perfection is not part of a yoga practice. The client should eliminate judgment and practice at a level that is comfortable yet challenging, and realize that it is a continuous practice. Each pose is deepened by breath and alignment and can be an integral part of a complete exercise program and practice for life.
Yoga can be safely incorporated into training sessions as long as the certified professional is knowledgeable about the basics of a Yoga practice. Care should be taken not to train clients beyond the certified professional's scope of practice. Practiced correctly, yoga can enhance the well-being of the client and provide a variety of strength and flexibility exercises that emphasize patience and calmness.
Mindy Caplan is an ACSM Certified Health Fitness Specialist, Certified Advanced Yoga Instructor, Certified ACE Fitness Personal Trainer, Advanced Health & Fitness Specialist, and Group Fitness Instructor, and has been in the fitness industry for almost 30 years. She currently serves on the ACSM Certified Personal Trainers Committee for Certification and Registry Board.
Her passion is teaching yoga in groups and individually, and when she isn't teaching she loves interior design, the outdoors, and planning her next yoga adventure.