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Q & A

Got a question about some aspect of mind-body-spirit fitness? Ask! It can be as earthly as "Can a heart monitor really enhance my workout?" (the short answer to that is yes) or as heady as, "Don't I need to sell all my worldly goods and go live on a mountain top to find enlightenment?" (the short answer here is no). Needless to say, we can't answer every question we receive, but we will take one every month and answer it here. If you've got a burning need to know about something, email us, and you may find your query featured next time around.

I've never done Yoga before and I'd like to start. Is it okay to begin with Power Yoga? I've heard it burns more calories than regular Yoga.

The answer to that depends on your current fitness level. If you're young, strong and relatively flexible - for example, you can touch your toes without straining - then Power Yoga may be a good fit for you. If you're pushing 50, haven't exercised regularly in years (if ever) and have a lot of muscle stiffness, it's likely you won't make it all the way through your first Power Yoga session - and you probably won't go back. Even if you think that you'll do well with Power Yoga, however, there are a few things you should consider before heading off to your first class.

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First off, Yoga is not like any other form of exercise. Even if you stretch regularly, your body will be surprised at what's required of it in a Yoga session. Muscles are worked and stretched in ways they're not accustomed to. It's not uncommon for a newbie to be sore the day after practicing Yoga of any type. In addition, Yoga relies on precise form and alignment to be most effective. Without proper alignment, you won't get the benefits Yoga is known for - increased flexibility, better posture - and, in fact, you could be risking injury.

For the above reasons, Power Yoga is challenging, and possibly even dangerous, for those who are completely unfamiliar with Yoga. Because very little time is spent in each pose, there is almost no time to check your form, much less learn it thoroughly. And if you are not used to Yoga's flexibility demands, it will be difficult to keep up without constantly feeling uncomfortable and off-balance. Most beginning Power Yoga classes offer lots of modifications, and the heat you build up during the session will help stretch out your muscles, but you won't gain an intimate knowledge of how each muscle reacts to the stretches. And that knowledge is one of the things that, ultimately, makes Yoga so valuable.

Yes, Power Yoga burns more calories than regular, Hatha-based Yoga, but you may be compromising your Yoga experience by choosing it as a starting point. If your focus is burning calories, there are many activities that burn as many, or more, calories than Power Yoga and require less skill. But if you really want the benefits of Power Yoga - added flexibility, strength and a fairly decent level of calorie burn - then you should start off with a few basic Yoga classes first. Learn the proper form and allow your body to adapt to the Asanas, or poses. If you're already a fit individual and aware of your body's workings, you will probably be able to quickly advance to Power Yoga. If you're a returnee to the world of fitness, you may want to stick to basic Yoga for a few months and gradually ease into a more flowing style of Yoga as you feel more secure. In the meantime, choose an alternate activity to burn those calories.

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