Yoga Works For Mind And Body

Yoga, a physical and mental discipline that has been around for thousands of years, is being rediscovered as a way to work out and to relax. CBS News Health Correspondent Dr. Emily Senay reports.

For many who have come to appreciate the ancient discipline, it has changed their approach toward fitness.

Before turning to yoga, Anthony Santore lifted weights for 15 years to keep in shape. After trying yoga, he became a quick convert.

"You have to use all sorts of muscle action, just like you would if you were lifting weight or running," Santore says.

Twice a week, Santore can be found doing yoga postures at Studio Yoga in Madison, N.J.

From housewives to businessmen, people who once were devoted to traditional workouts are now flocking to yoga and seeing the benefits.

"My calves seem to be gaining in muscularity, whereas they were very resistant to weight training," Santore says. "I've noticed that my chest has gotten broader across the front where it used to be contracted from weight training."

Unlike many forms of exercise, yoga is not just a workout for the body. It's a workout for the mind.

In yoga classes, deep breathing is emphasized to promote relaxation and meditation. It's the mind/body combination that seems to be attracting more and more fans.

"When I leave a yoga session or class...I feel sort of energized," Santori says. "I feel, if I come in drained, [that] I leave with a higher level of energy, and that's a good feeling."

Those who are interested in doing yoga don't have to take a class. There are simple exercises that can be practiced at home.

However, before starting any exercise routine, it is important to consult your physician to find out if the program is safe for you.

Michelle Brand, a yoga instructor at the Yoga Zone in New York City, visited CBS This Morning to demonstrate a few basic poses.

"The most important thing that you can do is proper breathing," Brand explains.

Yoga Breathing Exercise:

This exercise allows the body and the mind to relax. In general, yoga exercises require inhaling when expanding the pose, and exhaling when contracting.

Since the traditional cross-legged lotus position may be uncomfortable for most yoga beginners, Brand suggests kneeling on a plush towel, with the heels tucked under the buttocks for this exercise. A small pillow can be placed on the heels as a cushion.

Concentrate on your breathing, placing your hands on your rib cage to feel its expansion with each inhalation. Brand says that it's important to breathe through your nose. The entire rib cage should expand and the diaphragm should also extend with each breath.

The Cat Pose:

This exercise stretches the muscles of your spine and cahelp with any lower back pain that you're having by releasing tension.

The Cat Pose (exhalation).
Get down on your hands and knees. With your hands in line with your shoulders and your knees under your hips, curl your toes behind you.

Breathe in, lifting your breastbone, rolling your shoulders back, and looking up. When you breathe out, pull your belly in, round your spine, keeping your chin to your chest. The pose on exhalation resembles an angry cat arching its back.

The Down Dog Pose:

The Down Dog Pose.

Lift your hips up into the air, bend your knees, sink your spine into your body, and relax your head and your neck. Very slowly, as you exhale, begin to straighten your legs. Hold this pose for four to eight breaths, inhaling continuously during the exercise. When you're done, come on to your knees and rest.

The Stork Pose. This exercise is a meditative, standing posture. Bring your hands in front of your heart as if in a prayer. Gazing at one point on the floor, lift one foot up and rest it against the side of the knee of the opposite leg. Hold this position for four to eight breaths, then release, and do the same exercise using the other leg and knee.Brand explains that the creators of yoga looked at how animals stayed in shape and flexible. When they developed the poses, they named them after the animals that inspired the exercises.

Brand says that if a person wants to take a class, they can learn more advanced moves and get a better cardiovascular workout. She suggests that the poses be done in succession to get the heart rate going.