I once fell into the category of someone who was interested in yoga but really had no idea where to start. It was a bit overwhelming, looking at class schedules and seeing descriptions that sort of made sense, but not entirely sure if one class was better for me than another.
I know I am not alone in that feeling. I have had many people approach me to ask the simplest question: what is yoga exactly and what are the true benefits of doing it?
Quite plainly, yoga is a combination of breath and movement. It literally means to yoke or to unite. So you are uniting mind and body.
What does that mean? We are often times unaware of what our bodies are doing. Maybe you absentmindedly shake your knee up and down while you’re at your desk, or you fiddle with your fingernails. When you practice yoga, you are fully aware of what your body is doing.
That awareness leads to a calming of the mind. Because the mind is so focused on what the body is doing, it starts to quiet or calm; releasing that endless loop of thoughts that just play over and over.
Now a lot of people have preconceptions about yoga: that only women do it, that it is where you twist your body into impossible positions. But truly yoga is for everyone and there is a class out there for everyone.
So here are a few of the different types of classes you may see listed on a schedule:
Mixed Level: This class is just what it sounds like. It is one that can be done by beginners and more advanced yoga students. But I would recommend taking a few gentle yoga or beginner yoga classes prior to try out this style of class.
Gentle Yoga: A style that virtually anyone can do. It will use props, like blocks, straps, chairs, even the wall to assist participants getting into and out of the postures
Chair yoga: A style where the majority of the practice is done seated in the chair; any standing poses will be supported by the chair. This is also a style that can be done by anyone.
Hot yoga: Usually a challenging, power style yoga where the room is extremely hot--over 85 degrees. Use caution when starting a hot yoga class. One of the benefits of this style class--the loosening of muscles for a deepened stretch--can also lead to injury if you over-stretch.
Areal: That style has a hammock you can use for support as well as to deepen in the stretch. Your instructor will usually qualify you for this class. Call ahead and ask questions to find out if the class is right for you. It's a great way to practice yoga.
Vinyasa Flow: This is a popular style of yoga where you move from one posture to the next unifying breath and movement. This class should only be taken when you have practiced yoga at least a few times, so you are familiar with the postures and how you should position yourself into them.
My yoga teacher told me that you can do yoga anywhere. For instance, you can do yoga while standing in line at the grocery store. Bring your heels beneath your knees, knees beneath hips, shoulders over hips, and breathe evenly. So when the kids in front of you are ripping magazines off the rack or the person ahead of you at checkout has a handful of coupons, you can block it all out.
So what are the real benefits of yoga?
· increased flexibility
· better bone health
· lowered stress levels and increases happiness
· increased focus
· improved balance
· better sleep
· improved immune system function
· eased pain
Truly yoga is for everyone and there is a class for every body type. All you have to do is take that first step; you won't regret it.
If you have any questions on how to get started with you own yoga practice or about what class is right for you, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.