Beginners Guide to Yoga - What you should know
Yoga has gained a tremendous amount of popularity in the West. It's one of the biggest contributions India has shared with the world.
It's not uncommon to see a Yoga Studio popping up in various communities around the United States, but have you ever wondered what Yoga is, why it's an important practice and why it's more than just a fad or trend?
In this post we break down some important things to know before starting your practice. Even if you've already been taking part in Yoga - these tips will still be helpful and at the very least be a friendly a reminder.
Before I get to the tips here is a brief history
Yoga comes from the sanskrit word Yuj which means to bind and is often translated to simply mean union.
A few thousand years ago an Indian sage named Patanjali invented Yoga. He created a manifesto to Yoga called the Sutras (aka yoga sutras) which is a collection of 195 statements that serve as the foundation of Yoga.
1. Yoga is more than just physical
When Patanjali wrote the Yoga Sutras he described the 8 limbs of Yoga.
- Yamas - restraints
- Niyamas - observances
- Asana - postures
- Pranayama - breathing
- Pratyahara - withdrawal of senses
- Dharana - concentration
- Dhyani - meditation
- Samadhi - absorption
In the west the focus is mainly on Asana which is the physical aspect, but as you can see there is much more to the practice. By being aware of all the limbs one can focus inwardly and can better re-define the outer behavior of the world thus creating awareness and tranquility.
2. What is Om?
If you're remotely interested in Yoga then you have seen this symbol. Om doesn't carry a uniform meaning - rather it's the vibrational sound of the universe. Your foot-steps, the water running and rustling of the leaves can all be representations of Om. Before the time of modern technology, Ancient Yogi's understood what many scientists hold central today - that everything in our universe is in constant movement. The acknowledgement of hearing Om enables us to understand the ever moving, impermanent and transitory nature of the the world.
3. Isn't Yoga just stretching?
It is that and much more! Yoga opens up the mind and body during practice. With most exercise programs you have a defined goal of losing weight, gaining muscle and strengthening the limbs - but with a yoga session you are doing all these things simultaneously. At the same time you're aware of your breath, cultivating stronger patience, and are working to balance and hold postures for long periods of time. This makes for a great overall workout.
4. How many times should a beginner practice Yoga?
Most classes are about an hour. If you're just starting out try one class and see how you feel. The practice will come to you naturally. If you are consistent then you can gauge how many times a week is suitable for you.
5. Do I need to be vegetarian to practice Yoga?
One of the central themes of Yoga is called ahimsa which means not harming your self or others. Choosing not to eat meat is a personal decision, but many people that develop Yoga as a daily practice see vegetarianism or veganism as a natural progression. One's viewpoints on this matter should never be forcibly subjugated upon another because that takes away from the central theme of ahimsa.
6. Checklist before your first practice
- Yoga mat - most places will have one for rent but it's always wise to bring your own. Amazon has great deals
- Towel - you might sweat
- Comfortable clothing - You can wear what you would at the gym
- Eating - refrain from food 2-3 hours prior to your yoga session. You will be doing various challenging movements that can cause un-comfort if you have a full stomach.
- A good attitude - The practice is to help your body, mind and generally to cultivate inner-peace. Make your practice important and noteworthy because it will help make everything around your life better.
7. What type of Yoga should I start out in?
Hatha Yoga is a great start to any practice. Ha means sun and Tha means moon. It refers to the balance of masculinity and femininity in each of us. The sun is hot and active (male) and the moon is cold and calm (female). We all exhibit these traits and the practice uses this knowledge to open channels of the body through relaxing and challenging postures - often done in sequence.
We hope this post helps you in your journey through Yoga. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by making it a part of your life.
Check out our other posts on health from the East!
- 8 Benefits of Neem
- Why you need more Turmeric in your Life
- Get more Coconut in your Diet!
- 5 Quotes from the Bhagavad Gita to help your day
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