What is Yoga – Why Practice Yoga

picture of benefits of yoga flower

What is Yoga ?silouette yoga pose with collored leaves

This is like Yoga 101 for beginners and those just starting out in the practice of yoga wanting to know just – what is yoga and why practice it?

Before explaining to you exactly why we should practice yoga let me simply define the art itself.  Simply stated, yoga is a set of poses (asanas) and together with certain breathing techniques help the body to be stronger and more flexible while helping to balance our mind and thought processes. There are many different types of yoga.

Unlike other physical forms of exercises like aerobics, by practicing yoga, we not only gain better physical health, but also mental and spiritual well-being.

Why practice Yoga ?

Each of us needs to develop our link with our true self to bring reason to do yogatogether our body, mind, and spirit. Yoga is one of the best methods I know of to do this. It is all about healing the self through self-awareness and self-acceptance.

It’s a practice that transforms and adds strength to our inner life force. We learn to overcome both the inner and outer obstructions that are a part of our daily life.

Yoga is part of the bountiful source that supports all our body’s processes. These processes help us find our balance. Living a healthy lifestyle is not always about avoidance & deniability. Purposely choosing to engage in correct choices, and being grateful for all the benefits from these choices significantly help to bring about a life of joyful health. Yoga is one of these choices because the Yoga philosophy is a great source of inspiration.

Some powerful lessons Yoga can teach us:

      1.Let Go!

In each Yoga posture that we practice, a limit to what we can control exists. We cannot control everything around us. Yoga teaches us to let go and that it’s of no use forcing ourselves beyond our abilities.

     2.Listen to our Body!

It’s critical in today’s world where we sometimes attempt to push ourselves/our lives too hard. This also rings true in Yoga (ex. stretching in practice). As a result, we may feel the pain later on. Forcing our bodies into a position we are not ready for can be detrimental causing muscle aches, rips, and/ or injuries that keep us from continuing for a long while. This is why Yoga teaches us to listen to our body and respect its’ limits.

     3.Be Kind to ourselves!

In Yoga we learn to treat ourselves kindly. We learn to leave any picture yoga pose asking for inner peacenegative, self-critical remarks out of our yoga session and bring an open mind and self-love with us, which then equates to a feeling of positiveness and knowing when to stop and when to continue.

     4.Negativity is Pointless!

Concentrating on our failures will not help our present or future outcomes. We learn this in Yoga. Even if you may struggle with a pose, it doesn’t indicate you had a “bad” session. Each session illuminates a different part of you, and it is important to see this side of you emerging. Focus on this and see what lesson is to be learned.

     5.Recognize and Appreciate your Strengths!

We tend to ignore and even fail to notice our own body’s power and strength. We need to give ourselves proper credit. When practicing Yoga you do challenging poses daily. You eventually see, realize and become impressed with how flexible your body really is and that you are enjoying this. So appreciate all this.

Who can and should practice Yoga?yoga is for everyone msg

Yoga is universal, it is not restricted by caste, creed, belief, origin, color or size. Everyone and anyone is eligible to practice Yoga. For the number of people with any cellulite (no matter how great or small) on their posterior Yoga can be for you.

Yoga Tips for Success :

     1.Don’t be fearful!

Your size (no matter how large) doesn’t prevent you from practicing Yoga. Even if there are scars on your body that may be revealed as a pose may show as your tea shirt rises up – Don’t panic or be concerned of what people will look at or say. Get over it! Who cares? Even if you think your too fat or too thin, have scars, or any embarrassing spots – everyone has an issue or two. But you still may think your unique. Perceived or real weight issues are the most common barrier cited by people participating in Yoga. The thought that you need be thin, nubile, or very flexible to participate in yoga is still of a concern today. No matter how flexible, what your age or gender, how much you weigh, anyone can do this.

It offers a variety of health benefits (stress reduction, weight loss, becoming more flexible, increasing strength, building up confidence, and more).

Being as healthy as you can also helps. There is no such thing as a “Yoga Body” So you need not worry about your age or your flexibility level or how much or how little you weigh. Yoga is an overall approach to fitness, happiness and a good health. Everyone can do some level of Yoga. Yoga is an ongoing learning experience.

Those who participate in yoga, are usually reaching for higher enlightenment. It is far more than perfecting a series of poses. Yoga is meant to evolve as time goes on. You will continue to learn different poses and accept the challenge presented by new exercises. There is no one size way to practice yoga. Yoga has various modifications (bolsters, straps, and blocks) to make it attainable for everybody no matter your gender, age, physical condition, past injury, or weight.

     2.Everyone Needs Rest and Recovery.

When yoga is a something new for your body it may (and most probably will) cause some muscle pain because of all the stretching and time you stay in a pose. Feeling discomfort in your limbs and other parts of your body the following day is common. This pain means that your body is adjusting to the changes and improvements going on inside. You’ve worked your muscles during your yoga session so you need to respect this and let the muscles heal (muscles build during rest) so you don’t have an injury or burn out from over doing it.

     3.Yoga Concentrates on Feeling Well.

Practicing Yoga is about you, not about the person to your left who just lost the pose, nor the person to your right. Yoga is personal for each one of us. We all get on the mat for a variety of reasons. All our bodies are unique, and so are our ways of doing Yoga postures, and exercises. Don’t try to copy the person next to you or anyone else while doing Yoga. Just focus on you, after all it’s about you not anyone else!

     4.Chose your Style of Yoga.

There are various styles so find one that meets your goals and unique abilities. You can modify and customize any pose, exercise or Yoga form to accommodate your physical form and body design as no one knows you better than you. Here is a list of 11 different styles / types of yoga.

 

10 Benefits of practicing Yoga.

1. Scientific research shows that only 8 weeks of yoga can improve concentration and motivation.

2. Improves blood circulation to the brain improving focus and memory skills.

3. Greatly reduces stress and anxiety and helps alleviate depression.

4. Regular practice helps control the secretion of hormones in the body that helps to balance and improve overall physical and emotional health.

5. Yoga poses support the building of a strong lymphatic system that boosts immunity and eliminates toxins from the body.

6. Reduces risk for heart disease.

7. Diminishes symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, allergies, arthritis, asthma, cancer, migraines and multiple sclerosis, offers cardio, flexibility, strength training, muscle toning, bone strengthening, balance training and improved posture.

8. Dominates the sub cortex part of the brain that is associated with well-being.

9. The controlled breathing provides practitioners with more energy following workouts and less fatigue than other forms of exercise.

10. Promotes Healthy Blood Circulation And Boosts Blood Flow That Results In Healthier Organs, Brain And Skin.

Fear can be a strong reason not to begin or begin again to practice Yoga. It could be a feeling of being rejected because of your weight or any number of various other reasons. But Yoga will not prevent you from gaining your wanted state of peace and overall

senior man and woman in yoga pose

well-being that you are striving for. Here are some resources for gentle Yoga for anyone even seniors: Gentle Chair Yoga for Neck and Shoulders Yoga for seniors. The following shows how to do Kundalini also known as Yoga for Beginners 

For a list of 11 types of yoga click here 

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Best 11 Different Yoga Types List

There are many yoga types – some more physically challenging than others – some better suited to beginners than others. This can be a bit confusing when starting out. Here is a list of what I consider the best 11 yoga types. I briefly explain these yoga types in the following list in an attempt to give you an  introduction to each and links for more info and classes for each: 

Kundalini yoga

derives from kundalini, defined in Hindu lore as energy that lies yoga points kundalinidormant at the base of the spine until it is activated (as by the practice of yoga) and channeled upward through the chakras in the process of spiritual perfection. Kundalini is believed to be power associated with the divine feminine. Kundalini yoga as a school of yoga is influenced by Shaktism and Tantra schools of Hinduism. It derives its name through a focus on awakening kundalini energy through regular practice of mantra, tantra, yantra, yoga or meditation. Kundalini yoga is often identified as the most dangerous form of yoga because of the involvement of subtle energies. ( fromWikipedia)

Kundalini Yoga for Everyone: Emotional Balance with Guru Jagat 

 

Vinyasa Yoga

Vinyasa Yoga is great for beginners. Experienced students will also benefit by learning to slow down their pace.

Vinyasa is explained as breath-synchronized movement. This type of yoga keeps you moving from asana to asana. Each pose includes inhaling and exhaling one or more times in a timely and synchronized manner.

Vinyasa yoga although similar to ashtanga is a lot more flexible than ashtanga.

Vinyasa strings postures together so that the movement from one to another is breathlessly seamless. It is also called “flow yoga” and ofttimes mixed up with “power yoga”. Each class of Vinyasa is different.

Vinyasa yoga helps to relieve anxiety and stress. It impacts our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual selves while connecting our mind and body. Vinyasa Yoga helps us to unclutter our mind.

more info: Life Force Project – Gentle Vinyasa Flow

Hatha Yoga

The Sanscrit word हठ haṭha literally means “force” and therefore refers to a system of physical techniques. In the 20th century haṭha yoga began focusing particularly on asanas ( body postures).  Hatha originally was and still is a general term for a sitting meditation pose. It was later extended to hatha yoga and modern yoga as exercise, to any type of pose or position – reclining, standing, inverted, twisting, and balancing ). It became popular throughout the world as a form of physical exercise. This modern form of yoga is now widely known simply as “yoga“.

Gentle Hatha: Free Yourself – Online yoga class with Jackie Casal Mahrou

 

Ashtanga Yoga

I would not recommend this for beginners.

A type of yoga introduced to the western culture by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. This type of yoga synchronizes our breathing with a series of postures which cause severe body heat and an intense, purifying sweat to detoxify our muscles and internal organs. This produces better circulation, a stronger body, as well as a calming of our mind..

Align & Flow: Ashtanga Inspiration yoga class with Jack Cuneo

 

 

Yin Yoga picture of colorful person in yoga pose

Yin Yoga is a slow-paced style of yoga as exercise, incorporating principles of traditional Chinese medicine, with asanas (postures) that are held for longer periods of time than in other styles. For beginners, asanas may be held from 45 seconds to two minutes; more advanced practitioners may stay in one asana for five minutes or more. The sequences of postures are meant to stimulate the channels of the subtle body known as meridians in Chinese medicine and as nadis in Hatha yoga. Yin Yoga poses apply moderate stress to the connective tissues of the body—the tendons, fasciae, and ligaments—with the aim of increasing circulation in the joints and improving flexibility. A more meditative approach to yoga, its goals are awareness of inner silence, and bringing to light a universal, interconnecting quality.  (fromWikipedia)

here are a variety of  Yin Yoga videos

Restorative Yoga

Restorative yoga was originally created to help those of us who are not well, or who are injured. Yin and restorative yoga use different sets of postures.

Restorative yoga uses basically five or six poses using props that enable us to completely relax.  They are held = > 5 minutes. The poses are composed of gentle twists,  forward sitting bends, and very gentle back bends.

At home online classes

Iyengar Yoga

Iyengar yoga is ideal for beginners. It focuses on detail and the pace is slow. You can use items such as pillow like props to assist you to be in correct alignment in a pose.

Beginner Iyengar class

 

Bikram Yoga

Bikram Yoga is a system of hot yoga, a type of yoga as exercise, devised by Bikram Choudhury, that became popular in the early 1970s. Classes consist of a fixed sequence of 26 postures, practiced in a room heated to 105 °F (41 °C) with a humidity of 40%, intended to replicate the climate of India. The room is fitted with carpets and the walls are covered in mirrors; the instructor does not adjust the students, who are expected to adjust themselves. (Wikipedia)

Power Yoga

Power yoga is more energetic than the traditional type of yoga. It is practiced at a faster more intense pace. It is more about the physical and less about the spiritual. Power yoga is good for lowering stress, increasing our stamina and helping us to be more flexible. Where traditional yoga has a fixed set of asanas, Power yoga has more flexibility in arranging postures.beginner power yoga class picture

Sivananda Yoga

picture of cover for yoga mind and body

Sivananda Yoga is a spiritual yoga system founded by Swami Vishnudevananda. It includes the use of asanas (yoga postures) but is not limited to them as in systems of yoga as exercise. He named this system after his guru, Swami Sivananda with the mission ‘to spread the teachings of yoga and the message of world peace which has since been refined to ‘practice and teach the ancient yogic knowledge for health, peace, unity in diversity and self-realization. (Wikipedia)

Prenatal Yoga

Much like other types of childbirth-preparation classes, prenatal yoga is a multifaceted approach to exercise that encourages stretching, mental centering and focused breathing. Research suggests that prenatal yoga is safe and can have many benefits for pregnant women and their babies.

Prenatal yoga benefits:

  • Improve sleep
  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Increase the strength, flexibility and endurance of muscles needed for childbirth
  • Decrease lower back pain, nausea, headaches and shortness of breath  (from Mayoclinic)


For Additional info on pregnancy: Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy 2nd Edition

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