What is Yoga
What is Yoga?
Yoga is quickly becoming one of the most popular, if not the most popular, workout regime among those who are looking to gain flexibility, strength and even lose weight. It can be done from the privacy of your home or in a classroom. Yoga is great for reducing stress and allowing for greater relaxation. Once you get into Yoga though, you learn that it is so much more than just a way to workout and keep in shape. It is a philosophy, a passion and a way of life for many of those involved in Yoga. While you may be getting into yoga for the exercise, you may soon find yourself wrapped in the philosophy and spirituality that Yoga brings a long with it.
Where Did Yoga Come From?
Yoga is said to have originated in India during the Golden Age, nearly 26,000 years ago. The actual Sanskrit word, when broken down, means “to control”, “to yoke” or “to unite”. The word has also been translated to mean “joining”, “uniting” and “union”. The union is made between the self and the spirit. Yoga is a major part of the Hindu religion as it embodies their natural state of being and spiritual enlightenment. As a part of Hinduism, Yoga belongs to one of the six Hindu schools of philosophy. If you dig deeper, you can read about how yoga is used in conjunction with meditation. Yoga is also a major part of Buddhism as a part of their meditation practices. It has even been linked to Islam and early Christianity.Yoga today has become increasingly popular, not so much for the spiritual benefits as for the physical advantages. You can take a yoga class at your local gym, a yoga studio or from the privacy of your own home through a personal instructor or yoga dvd. From popular musicians embracing Yoga to magazines filled with yoga ads, you simply cannot get away from Yoga and the influence it has had physically and mentally for a lot of people.
Yoga can do a lot for the human body, although it won’t cure every ailment. Yoga can be worked into virtually any lifestyle or schedule. Yoga has been proven to increase health and body awareness allowing yoga participants to better control their bodies. From flexibility increases to better body alignment, Yoga can help with a variety of ailments.
Physical Benefits of Yoga
- Increased Flexibility
- Increased Strength
- Improved Balance
- Increased Stamina
- Improved Body Alignment (reduces joint pain)
Mental Benefits of Yoga
- Stress Reduction
- Body Awareness
- Better Sleep
- Improve self-confidence
There are many more physical and mental benefits, but these are the major ones. Those who suffer from certain conditions can also benefit from yoga. Women who are pregnant or who are planning on becoming pregnant can benefit greatly from yoga.
What You Need to Get Started
In order to get started, you need to first find a place to practice. You have a few decisions to make first: 1). Do you want to practice in Private or Public and 2). What is your yoga budget. Both of these questions will determine where you should practice yoga.
Places Your Can Go
- Yoga Studio or Class
- Local gym if you have a membership already
- Private Instruction in your home or other location
- Outdoors location such as the beach, local park, etc
Costs & Things to Consider
- Yoga Studios cost money, but you will save on supplies if the instructor provides them
- Does your gym offer classes? If they do you may be able to do yoga for free
- To practice at home, you will need to purchase all the equipment necessary
- Private instructors change hourly but may offer discounted rates if you buy in bulk or pay in advance
- Outdoors locations will require equipment and prior planning
Yoga Clothing & Yoga Gear
There are a few basic things you will need for yoga and depending on where you practice, you may not need all of these things. This will seem foreign to you at first, but after awhile, you will start to gain a preference for certain mats, clothing and gear just like you do for other daily activities.
Picking a yoga mat can be very simple, you just have to narrow down your choices. If you are not over 6 feet, then a standard 68″ mat will work find. They range in thickness, so if you have joint problems or feel that you need extra cushioning, pick up a thick yoga mat. Starting out, you don’t need anything super fancy or expensive. The gym of class you workout in may provide mats for you, but it is recommended that you pick up your own for sanitary reasons.
Yoga towels are important to have because you will get sweaty and perspire while doing yoga. Your towel can be used to wipe the sweat from your body as well as the sweat on your mat. If your mat gets wet, it can be very slippery so keeping a towel handy is a good idea. wiping your mat down after yoga is also important for sanitary purposes.
Yoga Props are fantastic for beginners and are highly recommended. Props can help a beginning yoga student who is not flexible enough yet or to ensure that you have proper body alignment. Some styles of yoga also require the use of props so if you are starting out, it doesn’t hurt to ask. The following is a list of common yoga props that you may see or need:
- Straps – are great for reaching parts of your body you might not be flexible enough to reach or to hold harder positions. Straps are specifically designed for beginners because it can be very difficult to do yoga when you are not flexible.
- Blocks & Bricks – designed for doing extensions when you can’t reach the floor. Again, this goes back to flexibility. The blocks and bricks act as an extension of your limbs while ensuring proper body alignment and increasing stability while holding yoga positions.
- Blankets – used primarily for hip elevation while in the seated or laying down positions. The blankets are also used for covering the body during the cool down phase of class.
- Yoga Balls – these are purely optional and are not typically used, but they might be. The come in 3 sizes depending on your height. The yoga balls can help with stability, balance and strength.
- Bolsters – if you need extra support, especially when doing restorative yoga, bolsters are a must have. They are also great for prenancy yoga.
What to Expect Your First Day
These guidelines are mostly for those who are taking a yoga class, at home practice does not require as much etiquette because you will be doing all of your yoga solo.
- Do you need to bring your own equipment or is it provided? (i.e. mats, towels)
- What time does the class start and how early should you arrive? You should also find out how long the class is to plan accordingly. Yoga should not be rushed, but they do offer classes for busy people.
- Clothing. Ask what you should wear, but typically you can pick up yoga clothes or if you are on a budget use something you have that is comfortable and you can move freely in.
Typical Class Routine
- Pre-yoga Stretching
- Breathing Exercises to get the body relaxed and focused
- Warm-up Positions
- Workout yoga positions
- Relaxation Cool-down period
For the most part, each class will be structured this way, but may vary depending on the type/style of yoga you have chosen. Keep in mind that your first few sessions may cause your body to become sore or stiff. This is normal and will subside if you continue your classes. If you feel your flexibility is not where it should be, you may consider stretching at home to loosen up before class.
- Take off your shoes before entering the workout area
- Power off all electronic devices, the last thing you want is your cell phone going off during class
- Be on time or early
- Try to do the poses, if you can’t, do one you can do and hold it
- Never leave class early, it disrupts others and you’ll miss your final relaxation
Types of Yoga
Ashtanga Yoga (Power Yoga)
Yoga for Beginners – Everything You Need to Know Before You Start.
New to yoga? This article is a comprehensive guide that seeks to answer all of your questions about yoga, including everything that you need to know before doing your first beginner yoga workout. By the end of this article, you will learn about what yoga is, how to determine whether yoga is for you, what to wear, what equipment you need, how often to do it, and what style to choose for your first class.
What do I need for my 1st Beginner Yoga Class?
Yoga is done in bare feet on a yoga mat. Even the most basic yoga stretches require clothes that can stretch or move, so wear the most comfortable outfit that allows you to move around easily. If you’re doing a gentle, slower class then dress warm (sweat pants, long sleeve shirt) and if it’s a more rigorous class wear shorts and a t-shirt or a tank top. Teachers will often suggest that you leave your ego at the door, and that includes not being self-conscious about the clothes you are wearing. Wear what makes you feel good.
Some classes use additional equipment or props, such as straps, blocks, bolsters, blankets and chairs. You don’t need to purchase any of these to begin doing yoga. If you’re going to attend a class at a studio they will provide everything that you need. However, if you’re doing a class online you will need a yoga mat and you will want to check to see whether additional equipment is needed. If it is, there are easy ways to replace common yoga props. For example, you can use a belt or rope instead of a strap. If a bolster is needed, you can check out this short video on how to make a bolster at home. The teachers on DoYogaWithMe frequently recommend alternatives for those who don’t own the prop that is required in that particular class.
If you’re going to purchase anything, you should buy a yoga mat. Most studios provide mats for free or rental, but they are often cheaper plastic mats and you will likely feel better on a mat that you chose yourself. Mats come in all sizes and materials so it’s good to educate yourself, particularly if you’re looking for something non-toxic and supportive on joints such as knees and wrists. The variety can be overwhelming so check out our article on The Best Yoga Mats of 2017, where we review a few of the most popular yoga mats that can be easily purchased online.
How do I know if yoga is for me?
Yoga is accessible for everyone, no matter what you look like, how old you are, how you dress, how much you weigh, what you do for a living, where you live or what religion you practice. Yoga is in no way exclusive. It’s possible that you have a certain condition or a recent injury that makes it challenging or dangerous to do certain types of yoga, specific poses or breathing techniques, but there will likely be safe alternatives that an experienced yoga instructor can help you with. If you are 55+, out of shape or extremely inflexible, begin with a gentle class until you feel it’s safe to move onto something more challenging. Never be ok with pain. A certain amount of discomfort is ok, but pain is your body’s way of telling you to back off.
Why Should I Do Yoga?
There are so many benefits of doing yoga. Yoga can help you:
- improve and maintain the health of muscles, joints and organs
- keep your mind healthy
- get a better night’s sleep
- improve performance and prevent injuries in sports
- speed recovery from training
- prevent conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and auto-immune disorders
- slow down the negative effects of an office job
- and increase your sense of happiness and well being.
It’s a practice that is both physical exercise, helping improve toning, stamina, posture, strength, balance and flexibility, as well as a discipline that helps you de-stress, relax, feel healthier and more energetic.
The best way to know if yoga is for you is to give it a try. Do your due diligence first – visit a few different studios or, if you plan to do a class online, contact us with your questions. We will let you know what classes would suit you best and give you any advice you need before practicing. If you are someone recovering from an injury or are of poor health we recommended to see a physician before practicing. Especially if you think there may be risks associated with practising yoga.
What do I need to know before doing my first class?
Many of the expectations of a yoga studio are similar to any class – arrive early, don’t wear perfume, and don’t interrupt the teacher. Questions are always welcome, but you may want to ask at the beginning or end of the class, depending on how many students are present. If you’re doing a class with DoYogaWithMe, you’ll be in your own home so do what you want!
Every instructor has a different overall approach to teaching. Some focus more on physical postures, some on meditation. Some do mantra and some don’t. Some do adjustments to their students and others don’t. Your experience from one class to another can be radically different, even within the same yoga style. So don’t give up if you didn’t enjoy your first class. For example, although they both teach Power Yoga, our two DoYogaWithMe instructors Fiji McAlpine and Tracey Noseworthy have very different styles and there are many who prefer one over the other, and many also who enjoy taking classes with them both.
A yoga class is meant to be a place where you feel comfortable and cared for – a space without judgment. Don’t worry if you are unable to keep up with everyone. It’s more important to go at your own pace to ensure that you do everything safely. You don’t need to know the names of poses to participate. Most instructors provide clear instruction throughout and tips for alignment and positioning.
What About Yoga and Weight Loss?
Yoga is not a good cardio workout, so it is generally not an effective way to lose weight. However, it is a whole body workout that can make you work very hard, sweat and, in some cases, exhaust yourself. Its strength is in toning the body through challenging physical exercise and improving overall health through increased flexibility, body awareness and relaxation.
How do I know which style of yoga to do first?
If you have never done yoga before, the best place to begin for most people is with a beginner hatha yoga class. Hatha yoga generally spends more time on physical postures, as opposed to mantra, pranayama and meditation, and moves slow enough for anyone to keep up while focussing more on safe alignment. As I said earlier, though, all of the above depends on the teacher.
If you are looking on DoYogaWithMe for a good place to begin, we have a great selection of yoga videos for beginners. For instance, you can try Melissa’s Hatha Yoga for Beginners: Foundation or David’s Hatha Yoga Therapy for the Lower Back. You may also want to try our 6-week program Yoga For Absolute Beginners, which has two classes and one tutorial each week, or our 1-month program, Beginner Yoga for Strength and Flexibility, which has 3 classes and one mediation each week. You can find both on our Yoga Programs page. The first you can download as a PDF and is pay-what-you-can (which means you can download them for free, if you like). The second is available free on our site.
If you are 55 or older, you may want to take a class that is either gentle or specifically for seniors. You can find our collection of seniors’ classes by choosing ‘Yoga for Seniors’ under ‘Style’ on our ‘Yoga Classes’ page. We also have plenty of gentle hatha yoga classes that many seniors can benefit from. For example, David’s Hatha Yoga for the Hands, Arms and Shoulders or Satiya’s Settling Into Relaxation.
If you consider yourself to be very inflexible, don’t feel discouraged! You will benefit just as much as anyone else but you may need to give it a little more time to realize the effects. You may want to consider trying yin yoga, which holds poses much longer and has a more meditative feel to the classes. Try Yin Yoga for the Hamstrings with Sarah-Jane or Yin Yoga: Sinking Into Stillness with Anastasia to begin with. One is 30 minutes and the other is 60 minutes long and they both will give you a good introduction to yin yoga. If you like it, check out our Yin Yoga library by choosing ‘Yin Yoga’ under ‘Style’ on our ‘Yoga Classes’ page.
If you are quite fit already and enjoy a really challenging yoga workout, power yoga may be for you. Fiji McAlpine created two online classes that are great starting points, helping you establish the foundations of the practice and slowing it down enough to avoid injury, while getting the same benefits. The two classes are called Power Yoga for Beginners and Beginner Basics in Flow.
What should I expect from a studio class?
Studio classes are anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours in length and the class size can be 2 to 100 students, depending on the studio. Most studios allow anyone to drop in on a class anytime, which is great if your schedule is unpredictable, whereas some classes require that you register and pay for a specific duration beforehand.
Depending on the class size, your instructor may be able to give you individual guidance and adapt the poses to your needs, particularly if your instructor is highly qualified and experienced. If you have difficulty doing certain poses, you can be shown an alternative. In larger class sizes (20+), it’s more difficult to provide individual attention. Experienced instructors may also include the benefits of many of the poses you are doing in class.