When touching your toes or reaching for something from a high shelf is proving to be difficult, you probably need to work on your flexibility. Being flexible doesn’t necessarily mean turning into a gymnast or a contortionist. Rather, it’s being able to move and stretch the way your body is designed to do so. This is beneficial in competitive sports or other activities that require a large range of motion.
In the fast-paced social-media-driven macrocosm we inhabit, various fitness trends are emerging from left to right. One such popular option is yoga, which promotes mind-body alignment and coordination, plus increased flexibility and stamina. Yoga, which means “to join” or “to yoke” in Sanskrit, is more than dangerously elongating and twisting the body in a strange manner, though. To some who aren’t familiar, the cobra pose may flash an extremely horrifying image in comparison to those who have practiced this discipline for years.
Yoga, however, is not a mere fad. It has been around for over 5,000 years, originating from Northern India.  Hatha yoga, from which all forms of modern yoga had been derived, was advocated to the Western civilization by the first quarter of the 20th century. From then on, it became widespread and ritualized all over the world. 
Since yoga is a low-impact workout that often includes moderate and mellow movements, it is ideal for all ages, no matter what your fitness level, height, weight or gender. Kids as young as 4 years old can become aspirants as there are centers specializing in children’s activities.  As the saying goes, better start them young, especially if they’re interested. Yoga for kids is more about interaction and group activities while educating them about the basic postures such as Warrior I and the Happy Baby.
For adults, most yoga classes cater to three levels: beginners, intermediate and advanced. Certified yoga instructors would encourage beginners to try Hatha Yoga first, which is pairing breathing with standard positions. 
After getting used to the beginner poses, one can move on to the intermediate level. You may want to try Ashtanga, which is a more athletic approach. It involves some general lifting and a longer commitment in holding the poses, which in turn can make you leaner and stronger in the long run. Another great option for this level is the more well-known Bikram, a 26-series pose workout, twice repeated, while in a room maintained at 105ºF. Created by Bikram Choudhury, this method has birthed versions of yoga that aim to make you sweat. 
When you can stand on your head and hoist yourself on your forearms whilst sustaining such position for a minute or two, then you know you’ve accelerated to the advanced level. By this time, you would have developed a working knowledge of the foundational yoga asanas and a more acute understanding of how to listen to your body, with regards to its competencies and its inadequacies.
Yoga continues to evolve, making it more accessible to both the modern man and woman. Specialized classes for pregnant women are becoming prevalent now. Pre-natal and post-natal yoga classes are offered to expecting mothers wanting to keep fit and healthy. Since breathing exercises are an essential part of this, it can help facilitate smoother labor when the time for childbirth comes. 
As most yoga classes consist of all three levels altogether, it is imperative for instructors to ask if anyone is suffering from any ailment, sprain or injury before starting the class. Yoga, of course, must always be attempted with caution. For example, should one be inflicted with glaucoma, inverted positions, such as the downward dog, may increase intraocular pressure (IOP) and risk further nerve damage to the eye.  Once the instructor is informed, then he or she could pay special attention to those who need it more, guiding them to modify the poses in accordance to their capabilities.
Prevention from injury is also key in yoga. For experienced practitioners, a contemporary variant is being introduced with claims to “make your back younger.” Coined as spinal regeneration by Petra Mitidieri, founder of Petra Yoga in London, it is a series of back bends and suspension a few feet off the floor with the aid of sturdy harnesses on a wall and would help support the back as you do the complex poses.  It would not, however, regenerate the spine itself, if you have spinal cord injury. Rather, it would stimulate the discs between your vertebrae, resulting to freer movement of your spine. You can refer to https://www.petrayoga.co.uk for more information.
It is all a matter of preferences. Some people may go for a more active, vigorous workout while some would gravitate towards the calmer flow of yoga. Apart from being an effective workout, yoga is a lifestyle. It’s a focused, holistic training that includes the mind, heart and body and induces peace and tranquility after coming from an otherwise stressful environment. Yoga classes conclude with a cool down and meditation sometimes accompanied with a Kundalini gong,  which could be soothing and healing, as your back rocks on your mat from side to side and you feel the tension is being relieved from your body.
Some people have reached such a relaxation state that they fall asleep during the meditation part of their yoga class. Then, the lights switch back on and you open your eyes, you will be feeling centered and more limber, long after the last “Namaste”  has been exchanged between the teacher and the student.
by Catherine D. Ong
Catherine is a writer whose guilty pleasure is lounging in a peaceful location
with a good book (or several) and a latte at hand.
- History of Yoga, https://www.yogabasics.com/learn/history-of-yoga/
- Basics of Yoga, https://www.yogaforbeginners.com/basics01.htm
- 10 KIDS YOGA CLASSES IN SINGAPORE, https://www.honeykidsasia.com/singapore/learn/best-kids-yoga-classes-in-singapore/
- The Ultimate Guide to Yoga Lingo, https://greatist.com/fitness/ultimate-guide-yoga-lingo
- What is Bikram Yoga? https://www.bikramyoga.com/what-is-bikram-yoga
- Great pregnancy exercise: Prenatal yoga, https://www.babycenter.com/0_great-pregnancy-exercise-prenatal-yoga_7862.bc
- Certain Yoga Positions May Impact Eye Pressure in Glaucoma Patients, https://www.newswise.com/articles/view/645675/?sc=mwhn
- It’s anti-ageing for your back! We try Spinal Regeneration, the new exercise that claims to make your back younger,
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- The Meaning of Namaste: Many Translations, One Universal Intention, https://www.wakingtimes.com/2014/11/08/meaning-namaste- many-translations-one-universal-intention/