What is yoga?
The word yoga - from the Sanskrit word yuj - means to yoke or bind and is often interpreted to mean ‘union’. It is an ancient practice which is thought to have originated in India over 5,000 years ago. It combines practices for the mind (meditation), energy (pranayama breathwork) and the body (physical postures known as asana). Originally the postures (asana) were designed to prepare the body and mind for long periods of meditation.
Why practice yoga?
People start practicing yoga for many reasons. No matter what first draws you to it, you will notice the holistic effect that it has on your body and your mind. Yoga is brilliant because it:
- Increases strength, muscle tone and flexibility
- Improves range of motion, balance and posture
- Releases tension in the body and offers pain relief
- Lowers blood pressure
- Increases bone density
- Improves digestion, circulation and flushes toxins from the body
- Improves breathing capacity
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Brings clarity to the mind
- Changes your outlook through promoting a focus on the present rather than the past or future
- Increases self-acceptance and confidence
- Increases bodily awareness through creating a greater connection between body and mind
- Creates a sense of being present in your body and being open to physical and emotional feeling
- Improves concentration and brain function
You don’t need to be flexible to practice yoga!
Anyone can practice yoga and there will be a class to suit you, no matter your experience level. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how big or small your body is or whether you’re male or female. You don’t need to be flexible, fit or strong. That comes as a consequence of practicing yoga; it’s not a prerequisite. You wouldn’t think that you’d need to know how to play the piano to take piano lessons; it’s the same principle. Just give yourself the opportunity to step onto a mat and allow the rest to unfold. By just practicing once a week you’ll notice the difference.
What equipment do I need?
Some teachers and studios supply all the equipment you need. If they don’t, the first thing you will need is a mat, which you can easily buy online. Your teacher might also advise you to use other props such as blocks, bricks or a belt, but this is something you can discuss with them. It’s best to wear comfortable clothing and you don’t need footwear as yoga is done with bare feet. You might like to take a bottle of water and it’s also nice to take something warm to pop on for the savasana (relaxation) at the end, so you’re nice and snug.
Find your yoga
There are many different types of yoga. It’s just a question of finding the style that suits to you. Here are a few types to look out for when you’re looking for a class:
Hatha: is one of the most accessible styles of yoga for beginners due to its steady pace. It is a traditional form of yoga which combines static postures and steady movement with a focus on alignment and breathing.
Vinyasa Flow: is a dynamic flowing form of yoga which links breathing with movement.
Ashtanga: is an athletic and physically demanding style of yoga which follows a set sequence.
Iyengar: is a form of Hatha Yoga which has an emphasis on detail, precision and alignment. The classes tend to be slow and steady.
Pregnancy: is a gentle form of yoga which releases tension, alleviates prenatal ailments and keeps the body supple and toned during pregnancy.
Postnatal: is a gentle form of yoga which supports and enhances the process of postnatal recovery by restoring and strengthening the body.
Restorative: includes specific passive poses which are held, allowing the nervous system and adrenal glands to adjust. This type of yoga is perfect to allow the body and mind to rest and relax.
Ask the teacher if you are in doubt as to whether a class is suitable for you. Equally, if you have any injuries or health conditions it’s best to make the teacher aware of this before the class. Remember that every yoga teacher is different – even if they are teaching the same type of yoga – so if you are unsure after your first class, make sure you explore other classes before deciding whether yoga is for you or not.
So, what are you waiting for? There’s a yoga mat waiting with your name on it.