Yoga is all about the unification of your mind, body, and spirit. It deals with the journey involved in reaching this specific goal. The beauty of yoga practice is that you do not need to be professional to reap the benefits that come along with it. Regardless of your age, weight, stature or any other thing, yoga will help you calm your mind and strengthen your body.
Beginners often equate yoga with tough, body twisting postures and that is not even partially true. It doesn’t matter how flexible you are, how fit you are or what your age is, yoga is for everybody. This article will bust all your yoga-related myths and talk about the basics of yoga, how and where to start with yoga, yoga poses, tips and so on.
What is Yoga?
Yoga is a wide range of spiritual techniques and practices that aim solely towards integrating your mind, body, and spirit so that you achieve a state of oneness with the universe around you. Many different types of yoga emphasize different approaches and techniques. However, all these techniques and yoga poses have one goal and that is unification and enlightenment.
Origin of Yoga
Yoga is linked to ancient Indian philosophy and that is the reason why the yoga stretches and poses have Sanskrit names. Yoga has been a meditation practice for thousands of years but now has been popularized as a physical exercise.
The origin of Yoga can be dated to 5,000 years ago. The early poses of Yoga were developed by the Indus-Saraswati civilization situated back then in Northern India. The word was first mentioned in the oldest sacred book, the Rig Veda.
Yoga was introduced into the West by the world-renowned Indian monk named Swami Vivekananda. He demonstrated Yoga poses at the World Fair of the 1890s held in Chicago. This sowed the seed of interest amongst people and laid the foundation of Yoga practice in the West.
The West normally practices “Hatha Yoga”. This is one of the many different types of yoga. It tends to unite the mind, body, and spirit through the practice of yoga poses (asanas), yoga breathing (pranayama), body gestures (mudra) and internal cleansing (shatkarma). These practices purify the body and as a result, inculcate life force energy (prana) into it.
Benefits of Yoga:
The benefits of yoga are endless! Yoga will help you develop healthy virtues such as discipline, honesty, self -inquiry, mindfulness, non-attachment, and so on. Here is a small list of some of such benefits of yoga:
- It improves your muscle health along with the health and maintenance of joints and other organs.
- It improves strength, stamina, motion range, balance, and flexibility.
- It keeps your mind healthy, calm and strong.
- It reduces stress and also promotes relaxation.
- Your sleep cycle will improve considerably.
- Your immunity will strengthen
- Yoga also helps in weight loss.
- Yoga can improve conditions such as auto-immune diseases, heart diseases, and diabetes.
- Yoga heals common problems such as backache.
- It can increase happiness, well-being and reduces depression.
Where to Start?
You could opt for a one-on-one practice with an experienced and knowledgeable teacher. All of us are pretty unique in our capability to process verbal and manual instructions and interpret them. Our bodies are different and not every pose is for everybody. The wear and tear our bodies have experienced are exclusive and so, not every yoga pose is right for everybody. Hence, it is better to opt for one-on-one sessions for the first few sessions.
Later on, you can go for group classes and offer a different type of energy, but are taught in a general way and are deemed to fit every student. A yoga teacher in such a group class cannot devote the time and attention a beginner needs. If the student repeats wrong practices over and over, then that could lead to damage. Taking a handful of private classes, in the beginning, will help you develop a foundation.
How Often Should You Practice Yoga?
You can practice yoga 3 or more times a week. You will witness visible improvements in your flexibility, motion range, inner calmness, balance, and overall well-being. Shorter and more frequent sessions are recommended, somewhere between 20 to 45 minutes long and a total of 3 to 4 hours over several days. The more time you dedicate towards it, the more benefits you will receive.
Equipment you need:
Usually, the studios provide all the props you need and also have the mats. However, while practicing at home you would need your own equipment. You need a yoga mat and yoga blocks (It helps to lift the ground for you and makes it easier to touch the ground while bending forward from a standing position). If you want to invest more, then following are the list of yoga items you can use:
- Yoga Mat
- Yoga Blocks
- Yoga Blankets
Basic Yoga Poses
The following poses are the very basic yoga poses people to start with. You need to breathe as you move through every pose and pause after all those poses that impose challenges to you. The motto is to hold each pose for a few seconds and a few slow breaths and then moving on to the next one.
- Child’s Pose (Balasana): This is a kneeling forward and bending pose that would offer a nice posture to rest while practicing deep breathing.
- Baby Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana): This asana requires you to put your spine into a little bit of extension (backbend). It is a great posture that helps students in learning how to gradually engage the abdominals while strengthening and lengthening the spinal muscles into a backbend.
- Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana): You can practice this pose on a folded stiff blanket or a pillow. This pose opens your feet, legs, ankles, and spine. This is the kind of pose where a strap would come handy if your feet are too far to reach.
- Mountain Pose (Tadasana): This pose helps the students in learning how to distribute the weight evenly through both feet/legs while standing and this helps to strengthen their entire body. After a few days of practicing, your body will become strong enough to hold itself up in a healthy alignment/ posture.
- Reclinal Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana): It is a good idea to lay on your back in a simple flat posture over good supports (like with blocks or pillows under the knees and a small rolled towel under your neck). This would help to decrease compression between the vertebrae and will lengthen out your spines. Now, twisting your spine from this reclined position will help you regain the natural range of motion and rotation in your spines.
- Opposite Arm/ Leg Reach: This pose will help you build scapular stability (stability of your shoulder blades) and across your shoulder girdle. It will also help you build your abdominal strength and arm and leg strength. This posture engages your entire body. It will also help you strengthen the deep subsurface back muscles that enclose and support your spinal column.
- Reclined Pigeon Pose (Supta Eka Pada Rajakapotasana): This is a gentle hip-opener and is a great way to stretch the outer hips, legs, and glutes. The muscles and joints in these areas tend to be tight as a result of the different day-to-day activities our bodies perform.
- Downward Facing Dog: This yoga pose would strengthen your arms, shoulders, and back. It will involve stretching your hamstrings, calves, and arches of the feet. You can also relieve back pain by practicing this yoga stretch.
- Plank Pose: This one is a very common yoga pose and helps to build your core strength. Besides, it also strengthens your shoulders, arms, and legs.
- Four-Limbed Staff Pose: This is a push-up variation of the plank pose and is known as the sun salutation. It is a great pose to work on if you plan on learning more advanced poses eventually, like arm inversions and balances.
- Tree Pose: This pose involves joining the palms of your hands and standing on one leg. There is no doubt in the fact that it will help you improve your balance. Apart from that, it will also strengthen your calves, ankles, spine, thighs, and core.
- Triangle Pose: Triangle is included in many yoga sequences. It helps to strengthen your legs and stretches the hips, chest, spine, shoulder, hamstrings, groin and calves. It will also increase your hip and neck mobility.
- Seated Half-Spinal Twist Pose: This is a twisting pose that can increase your back flexibility and stretch your shoulders, chest, and hips. It helps you to relieve tension in the middle of your back.
- Bridge Pose: This is a back-bending pose. It stretches your chest muscles along with your back and neck muscles. It can also strengthen your back and hamstring muscles.
- Corpse Pose/ Final Relaxation Pose (Savasana): This pose involves lying on your back and relaxing your entire body. It decompresses your spine and also allows your body to rest. In this way, you will be able to focus inward and let go of every external thing, just for some time. Your mind will become relaxed and calm. This is the last pose of a yoga workout.
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Essential Tips for Beginners in Yoga:
- If you have a medical concern, then inform your instructor before the commencement of the classes. This will help your teacher to customize your asanas to avoid any complications and injuries.
- You should wear comfortable clothes while attending a yoga class. You will be required to practice a lot of different yoga poses and stretches and that calls for comfortable attire. Avoid wearing excessive jewelry or belts as that could get in the way of your yoga practice.
- Practice Regularly. Practicing yoga early in the mornings is ideal. However, if you are a late riser, then don’t let that be an excuse to ditch practicing. Practicing at any hour of the day is fine until you are regular with them
- Don’t consume a heavy meal before your yoga class. Practice on an empty stomach or at least 2-3 hours after you had your last meal. It is advisable to consume at least 3 to 4 liters of water daily as that will help in flushing off the toxins released during your practices.
- Practice gentle warm-up exercises before plunging into the yoga poses. This will help in loosening the body and preparing it for the yoga asanas you are about to perform. Rotating your neck, pumping your shoulders, shaking your hands, etc. can serve as good warm-up exercises.
- After the completion of your yoga asanas or yoga workout, do not rush out or be in a hurry to complete your other chores. Always lie down in Yoga Nidra (Yoga Sleep) for a couple of minutes at the end of your practice. This will help you cool down and relax your body and mind.