People approach me frequently with questions regarding what Yoga really is. There are many different ideas and misconceptions related to it, where it comes from, what it is all about, how to practice a range of techniques, etc. such as:
“Yoga is just sitting down in meditation”
“I’m not flexible! I can’t do yoga”
“Yoga is not for me, it’s too boring just sitting there”
“Yoga is for the weak, and it doesn’t improve your body shape at all”
The list goes on. I want to shed light on what Yoga truly is and how beneficial it is, not just for your body, but for your whole wellbeing.
Historically, it is recognized as an ancient system of philosophies, principles and practices derived from the Vedic tradition of India and the Himalayas, more than 2500 years ago. The word Yoga in Sanskrit means “union” – union of the mind, body and soul. The system and various aspects of it cultivate the experience of that union, leading to greater integration of being, internal peacefulness, and clarity of the mind. This is achieved through your regular practice that includes a range of different techniques, such as asanas (Sanskrit for postures), pranayama (breathing techniques) and meditation.
People tend to feel intimidated by a Yoga class, not knowing what to expect and having the fear of the unknown. Of course, classes vary, depending on the particular style of the teacher. Participants remove their shoes and socks outside of the studio, and practice on yoga mats.
A typical yoga class will generally include:
- Few moments of meditation, some breathing exercises and intention setting. Sometimes accompanied with some chanting.
- A good physical warm-up of the body
- A dynamic Yoga flow which consists of movement through different yoga postures
- Some stretches to relax and bring down the heart rate
- Savasana – which is the final relaxation posture where you lie down to relax
- Closing the class in meditative posture
The duration of the class is generally 60 to 90 minutes. You should definitely bring along a towel for you will be surprised by the amount of sweat and toxins that will leave your body!
After guiding you through a typical class, let us explore the beneficial reasons of attending one and building up a regular practice. Remember it is more than just burning calories and strengthening muscles, it is a flow which involves body, mind and soul. Some of the benefits promised are:
We tend to abuse our spine by working for hours on a desk, driving long distances, over exercising, etc. By the end of the day you feel drained with maybe even some neck and lower back pain. Practicing Yoga will improve your posture, strengthen your core muscles surrounding your spine and prevent back pain.
The key word here is “improves” flexibility, which does not mean at all that you need to be flexible to practice. Not only will practicing Yoga make your more flexible, but it will also increase your range of motion, improve your mobility and protect your joints against injuries. This is especially beneficial for weightlifters and Cross-fitters.
Muscle Strengthening and Stronger Endurance
Do not underestimate the power of Yoga. Not only will you build up muscles, but you will also raise your cardiovascular endurance (strong heart).
Boosts your Immune System
Yoga helps in destroying various viruses that develop during season change, and boosts your immunity to fight off diseases.
Improves Quality of Sleep
Yoga aids in reducing stress. By developing a regular practice you begin to create a routine which in turn leads to a proper sleeping pattern. A relaxed body gets a deeper and more peaceful sleep.
The list is endless, and your experience will never be the same as anyone else’s is. Yoga teaches you not to go after a certain posture, but to learn as you make your way to the posture. A very famous quote and lesson us yogis live by is:
"Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self."- The Bhagavad Gita