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Taking the plunge into aqua yoga while keeping your hair dry

AQUA yoga is a workout for body and mind. It tones the muscles, trims the body line and tranquilizes the spirit. Fei Lai takes the plunge and keeps her hair dry. Come on in, the water's fine, especially for summer fitness with aqua yoga. And you don't even have to know how to swim, just keep your head above water.

And ladies, you can keep your hair dry while improving your body line. And you're bathed in water, not drenched in sweat.

"Aqua yoga is a completely different experience from doing it on the ground," says Duan Jing, an aqua yoga instructor at Wider-Tera Gym International. "No swimming skills are needed. It is safer, easier (than on land) and makes one feel more flexible than ever."

Just as many fitness facilities with pools now offer aqua aerobics, some are also offering aqua yoga and classes are open to everybody.

Classes are usually held for 30 to 45 minutes in a depth of 1.2-1.4 meters, waist or chest-high. Classes are structured much like the land-yoga equivalents: breathing, warm-up exercises, a series of poses and a relaxation period.

"You don't have to know how to swim to participate," says Duan. In most poses the head is kept above water.

"Women don't have to worry about getting their hair wet, or even their eyelashes," she claims. That's definitely a stretch.

The exercise is based on classic yoga poses and stretches. Movements in water help lengthen and strengthen muscles, support weak joints and improve balance and coordination.

"The water helps support the body, making poses easier and easing the strain on the joints," Duan says. "At the same time, it adds resistance. The muscles must push against the water to achieve different poses, which helps in building strength."

Regular practice, like regular yoga, is healing. It's also ideal for older people who wouldn't even consider yoga as they believe (often incorrectly) that it's too demanding on general health and flexibility. Seniors whose joints are not what they used to be find the water can reduce stress on the joints, Duan says.

Among the many benefits of practicing yoga in the water, body shaping is the most obvious. Although one hardly feels the calories and fat being burned, this does happen in aqua yoga and the body shape improves.

After regular practice, there is often a clear improvement in body line, especially a woman's belly, hips, breasts, shoulders and back.

Standing asanas such as the tree pose, the pose of a dancer and the eagle pose are a few that are easily adapted to water yoga.

Poses that require considerable balance skills can often be achieved in water by people who have difficulty assuming them on dry ground. They still need to maintain balance in the water that is moving.

Breath work is extremely important in every facet of yoga. Water pressure combined with abdominal breathing massages the muscles and is good for the bones, skin and liver. It helps reduce fatigue.

"I like the feeling when I can hear my own breath and be fully conscious of my every move," says Duan. "It's a physical experience, yet gives me more mental inspiration.

"People can release themselves and find comfort in the water. Aqua yoga is a novel way to get a body and mind workout," she says.


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