Yoga is an ancient art that has been refined and modified by many great teachers across the ages. It now comes in so many different styles and techniques and different people may find different versions of Yoga more suitable for them. This is because Yoga is a very personal exercise routine with strong emphasis on looking within oneself in order to achieve personal balance and wellbeing. Regardless of which individual version of Yoga you practice there are a number of things that apply to Yoga universally rather than to individual branches of the discipline. If you want to get the most from your Yoga session you will learn to understand these things and develop them into your Yoga routine.
You will find that much of your time performing Yoga is spent in a sitting or lying position, however the beginning of a Yoga session is usually a standard standing pose. The standing pose is the most natural position for a human to find themselves in, yet we spend remarkably little time practising standing correctly.
If you begin your Yoga session with a standing pose you are free from the stress of having to take on an unaccustomed position and this allows you to focus on other fundamentals of the Yoga Discipline. For instance you can concentrate on regulating your breathing and feeling the full healing benefits of each breath. The standing pose is so natural to us that we don’t need to pay it any conscious thought and can focus on our breath entering the body and flowing through us.
The standing pose is also beneficial to bringing the body into alignment and centring ourselves both physically and spiritually. Leonardo Da Vinci produced a famous diagram showing the perfect symmetry of the human body when it is in it’s natural standing pose and this position has always been the most natural for us to find our centre and balance.
The bulk of a Yoga session is spent in placing our body in positions or poses that stretch and activate the body. These poses are entered into gently and gradually so there is no risk of injury. Many poses have a number of different levels so we can get more and more benefits from them as our body becomes more used to them. This is perhaps best demonstrated by a simple forward stretch. When a gym teacher tells a pupil to touch their toes the pupil is performing the same exercise whether they can reach forward and touch the floor or whether the stretch only goes as far as their knees. The only difference is the level of incline.
The forward stretch is also a perfect example of how the natural movements of Yoga are used outside of a Yoga class or session – in this case in stretching and warming up before sports or other physical activities. Most children who’s coaches take them through a stretching routine before a game of football have no idea that many of the poses are borrowed directly from a Yoga session.
The key to enjoying and benefiting from this main phase of the Yoga session is to pace it to your level. As with the child who can only forward stretch to knee level you do not need to perform the exercise at the highest level from the first time you experience it. Find your comfort zone and then move a fraction beyond it. Then each new session try and maintain that level and push a little further if possible.
The end of a Yoga session is also an important stage. This stage usually consists of a group of restoration and restorative poses and positions that are designed to allow the energy to flow back through your body. A good Yoga session releases pent up energy in your body and allowing this energy to flow freely to all parts of the body is a critical part of gaining the maximum benefits from Yoga.
Frequently Asked Questions On Yoga
Yoga has been around for an incredibly long time and over that period different practitioners have added their own refinements and styles into the basic Yoga discipline. There are so many different styles now it is nearly impossible to count, but they all stem from the same core philosophy and methodology. Unfortunately the multiple different styles often lead newcomers to the exercise discipline to become very confused as to what they are doing and what they can hope to achieve with Yoga. In this article we answer some of the common questions.
What is Yoga?
This question is the most common from newcomers. Most people have a general idea but they are not sure where Yoga fits into the world. Is it an exercise? Is it a philosophy? Is it a form of physical therapy? Is it a spiritual process? The answer is that to different people Yoga is all of these things. At it’s core it is a group of exercises and poses which are very low impact and work by strengthening the body and increasing it’s flexibility through static exercise. This means that each pose will ‘stretch’ a certain area and the body benefits from this stretch by increased blood flow and energy release. Many of the exercises release tension from areas of the body that regular activities do not cater to. Because Yoga is performed slowly and with a strong emphasis on correct breathing patterns there is also a strong mental and spiritual element to the exercise. It is seen as a way of cleansing mind, body and spirit.
Do I Need To Be Religious To Get The Most Out Of Yoga?
As mentioned above Yoga is different things to different people. There are many people in the world who perform Yoga purely for it’s spiritual benefits. There are many others who perform Yoga purely for the physical benefits associated with it. What you get out of Yoga will depend largely on your mindset, your openness to new ideas and your ability to let yourself fall fully into a meditative state. For some people this is very difficult at first, but that is still not going to prevent them from getting the physical benefits associated with Yoga classes. You will find that even if you do not have any strong spiritual base you will still benefit from an increase in your self-confidence and personal contentment.
Where Can I Do Yoga?
Practically anywhere. Many people practice Yoga in their homes every day. Others will go to the local park and practice Yoga with a group of friends. To begin with it’s a good idea to inquire at your local gym about Yoga classes, many of them will be holding Yoga every day. Even if they aren’t they will be able to tell you where the best place to learn Yoga is. Some local councils sponsor Yoga classes in their area in recognition of the benefits to people who exercise regularly. One of the big advantages of a Yoga based exercise regime is that there is no expensive equipment to buy and then store around your house. Some poses are assisted by cushions to support the body, but in general the only thing you need is your body.
I’m Not Very Fit – Is Yoga For Me?
Yes. Very much so. One of the fantastic things about Yoga is that the exercises and poses you will learn can be adjusted to your level. Fitness isn’t usually a problem because the exercises are slow and often static, but your body will become better at performing them over time as your strength and flexibility improves. Knowing your limit and ensuring that you don’t ‘ease up’ out of habit gain the best benefit.
Hopefully you will now have a good understanding of what yoga is and why you should be doing it. Remember that Yoga is something that once learned can be practiced anywhere you like and as often as you like. Indeed, this is one of the key components of Yoga’s popularity.