Learning to balance life, with calmness and positive thinking is what yoga is all about. Yoga means “to join or yoke together” the body and mind into one experience. Practicing Yoga dates back over 5,000 years. It combines three main areas: breathing, exercise and meditation.
Breathing techniques are taught on the concept that breathing is the source of life in your body. The exercises in yoga are designed to put pressure on the glandular systems and promote total body health and well being. The meditation part is learning how to quiet your mind. This silent time is to help heal from the outside stresses of life.
There are over 100 different schools of yoga. The most common type and the one that most people associate with is Hatha Yoga. This is an easy to learn form of Yoga that combines physical movements and postures, with breathing techniques.
Another type is Bikram Yoga that includes muscular strength and endurance, cardiovascular flexibility and weight loss. This type of yoga is performed in a 95-105 degree environment. This promotes flexibility, detoxification and prevention of injuries. Warm Yoga is a similar type, but in a warm environment, not so extreme in temperature.
Power Yoga is a practice that combines stretching, strength training and meditative breathing. Many of the poses resemble basic calisthenics, such as push-ups, handstands and side bends. The pace of this type of yoga is much faster. Each move flows into the next without pausing. Although there are many more forms of yoga, these give you an idea of what is available. Many instructors will use different forms of yoga incorporated into one class.
Yoga can be practiced by most adults with varying degrees of abilities. There are some advanced classes that are not suitable for people with physical limitations from injuries or pregnant women. Always ask your doctor before engaging in an exercise program; however, there are special classes that incorporate yoga into a work-out with modifications. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and always listen to your own body.
Taking your first yoga class, you can expect to enter a low-light room with soft music. You should wear comfortable clothing. You don’t need special shoes; actually, most people are barefoot. You will have a mat, and props, such bands, blocks, and blankets. Your instructor will tell you how and when you may use these.
At the end of each yoga class most teachers bring their hands together in front of the heart, bow their head and say “Namaste” and the students bring their hands together and respond back. The definition of Namaste is “I bow to you”.
The benefits to practicing yoga are numerous. Some benefits include flexibility, strength, posture, and improved breathing. Many people will say that they are too old or unfit for yoga. The truth is, you are never too old to improve flexibility. It stretches not only your muscles but also the soft tissues of your body, including ligaments and tendons. Nearly all of the poses in yoga build core strength in the abdominal muscles. With this stronger core strength comes better posture. You also become more aware of your posture in daily activities.
Most forms of yoga concentrate on breathing. Learning to deepen or lengthen your breath will stimulate relaxation. Yoga also has mood and concentration benefits.
I’ve had people tell me that they want fun and exciting group exercise classes — not one that is quiet and serious. Is yoga serious? It really is. It’s serious in this way. Taking concentration to stretch your muscles, focus on your breath and clear your mind. It’s harder than one might think, and it does take practice.
If you are already a “yogi” then you understand all this. If you’re not, hopefully this helped answer some of the questions you may have had about yoga. Challenge yourself to try a few classes for a couple weeks and see if you don’t feel what amazing qualities you can attain from this form of exercise. Namaste!