Discover Yoga's Stress Relieving Benefits

Yoga helps you stay flexible in more ways than one. Find out how these Miami women beat stress and stay lean, and how you can too
Erin Shaw Street

Think you need to bend yourself into a pretzel while chanting to do yoga? Think again. “You don’t have to be super flexible to do yoga,” says Equinox yoga teacher Sylvia Kalicinski. “It’s about listening to the sound of your breath, clearing your mind, and recharging your body, mind, and spirit,” she says. Here are tips for getting started—regardless of your fitness level.

There are so many types of yoga. How can I tell them apart? 
True, dozens of types of yoga exist. Hatha is an easy-to-learn, gentle practice that’s perfect for beginners (increases flexibility and provides stress relief). Vinyasa combines a series of flowing postures with rhythmic breathing for an intense body-mind workout. Bikram is performed in rooms heated to 95-105 degrees to keep muscles limber. (Bring water, and rest if you need it.)

I’m nervous about going for the first time. What should I expect?
You don’t have to spend a fortune on yoga gear. Choose breathable fabrics that allow a range of movement but are also snug. Skip the baggy T-shirts, which can fly up over your head in some poses. We like Zobha’s Lizzie Tank in Iris, $66, zobha.com and lululemon Astro Pants in Poncho Stripe, $98, lululemon.com. Arrive at class 10 to 15 minutes early so you can speak to the instructor. Don’t be shy about asking questions, and make sure to tell him or her about any pre-existing medical conditions or injuries.

Class is getting ready to start. Now what? 
Your instructor will provide props, like a mat and strap (used for some stretches). Keep a bottle of water on hand. Listen to your instructor’s cues, and remember: Yoga is not a competition. Everyone has a different level of strength and flexibility, and you can hurt yourself trying to keep up with classmates. Listen to your body!

Do I need to go to a class to do yoga?
It’s great to go to a class to learn form, but you can also practice at home. Get an energy boost with Shiva Rea: A.M. Energy ($19.99, amazon.com). And check out The Gaiam Audio Yoga Mat ($29.98, gaiam.com), the first yoga mat that lets you plug in your iPod or MP3 player.