What is yoga?
Yoga is an ancient form of exercise that originated more than 5,000 years ago in India.
Yoga consists of sequences of physical poses, called asanas. The practice involves moving into these asanas while also focusing on relaxed breathing, to promote improved control of mind and body and to enhance well being. Yoga can be a great form of exercise and mindfulness in our busy stressful lives because, rather than focusing on competition and striving, the focus is on harmony and balance.
Through practicing yoga we can connect the movement of the body and the fluctuations of the mind to the rhythm of our breath. Connecting the mind, body, and breath in this way helps us to direct our attention inward and notice our habitual thought patterns in an accepting non-judgmental way.
What are the benefits of yoga?
Yoga differs from many forms of exercise because it focuses on physical strength and flexibility as well as breathing and mental relaxation, to achieve a state of wellness that goes beyond mere physical conditioning.
There are many benefits to starting a yoga practice including: strengthening muscles, improving posture, alleviating tension and increasing flexibility. But beyond these physical benefits yoga can help us achieve a more balanced state of being by reducing stress and anxiety, and allowing us to be in a calm meditative state.
Is yoga right for me?
Yoga is a great practice because it is suitable for everyone no matter how old or young or at what fitness level they may be. Yoga is suitable for those looking to improve fitness and flexibility and seeking a more meditative relaxed state of mind.
What do I need to start a yoga practice?
Yoga is a great exercise because it takes very little equipment. All you really need to begin practicing yoga is your body and mind, but it is also helpful to have comfortable clothing that is not too loose. No special footwear is required because you will be barefoot. You may like to take a towel to classes but mats and other equipment will usually be provided.
There are a variety of classes and online courses available to get you started. Yoga can easily be done at home, thought it is worth taking some classes to begin with to ensure you are doing the postures correctly. As your practice develops you might want to buy your own yoga mat so you can practice at home.
What type of yoga is best for me?
Yoga comes in many forms; from relaxing styles such as Yin Yoga to more dynamic forms such as Vinyasa, so there is a style suitable for everyone. All the various forms of yoga combine physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation.
Hatha is a term for any type of yoga that teaches physical postures (asanas). Hatha yoga classes usually offer a good introduction to yoga and are suitable for beginners.
Vinyasa yoga is sometimes know as ‘flow’ yoga, because of the smooth way that the poses run together and become like a dance and also because movement is synchronized to the breath. The breath acts as an anchor to the movement as you flow from one pose to the next in time with an in breath or an out breath.
Kundalini yoga incorporates asanas (postures), pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation. A class typically begins with chanting and ends with singing.
Bikram yoga is also know as ‘hot’ yoga and is held in rooms heated to temperatures of nearly 105 degrees and 40% humidity.
Iyengar pays attention to proper alignment in each pose. In Iyengar yoga, props such as blocks, blankets and chairs are often used to support the poses
Yin yoga is a quiet, meditative yoga practice, also known as ‘Taoist’ yoga. Yin poses are passive and allow the release of tension in key joints including ankles, knees, hips, the whole back, neck, and shoulders.
Yoga has so many physical and emotional benefits, and is so easy to start, that it really is the perfect all-round exercise for the mind, body and spirit.