Yoga is actually a Sanskrit word that means “to yoke” or “unite.” According to The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, “Yoga is a state of oneness realized once one has stopped the fluctuations of the mind.” While yoga can help you boost strength and flexibility, the true intention of this practice is to unify body and mind.
Yoga offers a host of health benefits, which include:
Yoga is also a healing practice that is said to:
Yoga for beginners can be intimidating, but with a little preparation you’ll be ready for your first class—and your enlightened journey.
Through the practice of yoga asana (or physical postures), you are given the opportunity to drop your attention into your body and focus fully on the present moment. When your mind has been racing throughout the day, yoga offers a much-needed break. It also helps you cultivate compassion and bring more peace into your life.
Classes typically end with savasana, a final relaxation pose, and/or meditation that allows the student to integrate the physical practice and calm the nervous system.
Once you’re familiar with the postures, you can practice anywhere. Whether it’s five minutes of stretching at the office or an hour of asana at home, you’ll develop the tools you need to be your own teacher.
There are many styles of yoga that derive from various lineages. Before you sign up for a class, learn about each offering. Here are a few you’ll find:
Vinyasa is a type of class that links breath to movement. Postures flow from one to the next with an emphasis on breath control. These classes will vary from beginner to advanced.
Ashtanga is a progressive practice that allows the student to build upon his/her skills through a series of poses that increase in difficulty. An Ashtanga studio will likely require you to learn each sequence before transitioning to the next. At the gym, it will probably indicate a more advanced class.
Hot Yoga is held in a hot and humid room. This increases sweat production and is known to detoxify the body, focus the mind and balance the metabolism.
Restorative Yoga is a relaxing and healing practice. Students are guided through just a few poses, which are held for about 3-5 minutes each. The body is supported by props to maximize comfort and relieve tension.
If you’re a beginner or have an injury, it’s best to start with vinyasa yoga for beginners or a restorative class. These slower-moving classes will help you learn proper alignment at a mindful pace.
Be sure to let the teacher know if you are new or pregnant, or if you have an injury so s/he can offer modifications.
Clothing: Since you’re moving and flowing (and sometimes turning upside down), it’s important that your clothes are snug. Opt for a form-fitting tank top and leggings. You are encouraged to practice barefoot, but if you prefer to have something on your feet, buy a pair of non-slip toe socks.
Water: It’s essential that you drink plenty of water before and after the class. Water during the class isn’t always necessary, unless you are taking a hot or strenuous yoga class, but do bring a bottle with you and sip slowly if you feel thirsty or dizzy.
Mat and towel: It’s nice to have your own yoga mat, but the studio may provide one for you. Call ahead to find out what is offered and what you may need to bring. A small towel is also good to have on hand to wipe your sweat.
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