You see everyone walking to the gym in yoga outfits and carrying around yoga mats, but what is yoga really all about? Yoga is an ancient practice of meditation and stretching that strengthens the body and relaxes the mind. You don’t have to be New Age-y to practice or enjoy yoga.
Remember our post Top 5 Yoga Poses? Here we’ll go much more in-depth into what yoga is and how you can integrate it into your weekly routine.
Definition of Yoga
To put it simply, modern, mainstream yoga is a form of exercise combining stretching, meditation and balance. You don’t have to be in the best shape of your life to practice yoga. There are many beginner poses and modified poses you can do on a regular basis to begin with.
For those of you who are interested, the more complicated answer is that yoga is a discipline that unifies the body and the mind. Yoga has its roots in Hinduism and Buddhism; the word derives from the Sanskrit yuj, which refers to grouping cattle. The practice of yoga involves a series of body postures that align the body and allow for the flow of energy.
Basic Yoga Poses
The following are a few yoga poses that can be done at the beginner level. We recommend trying some of these poses. The best way to start yoga is to sign up for a class in your area. Be mindful while doing yoga of your neck and your back to avoid injury.
Downward Dog – Push your hands into the mat and engage your shoulders as you raise your body into the air. Hold this pose for thirty seconds. Don’t push yourself too hard; you don’t want to injure yourself. Feet stay on the ground and your back stays straight. This pose stretches the spine, shoulders, legs, heels and calves.
Cobra – Lay down with your stomach on the mat. Place your hands under your shoulders, make sure your toes are not tucked and hold your elbows to your body. Inhale as you lift your head and chest into the air. Make sure the shoulders are away from the ears. Your thighs should press down into the mat. Hold this pose for thirty seconds before exhaling and lowering down.
Mountain Pose – Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your weight distributed amongst your feet. Your tailbone will lengthen to the mat. Breathe deeply as you reach your hands towards the ceiling. Hold for thirty seconds.
Warrior I – Lunge forward until one foot is at the top of the mat. Move your hips forward and keep the knees bent. The foot at the back of the mat should be angled. Breathe deeply and inhale as you reach towards the ceiling, keeping the chest open.
Warrior II – after Warrior I, you can move into Warrior II, while in Warrior I, exhale and twist back foot into a ninety degree angle, twist body and stretch arms out, hands are parallel to the mat and palms face the floor, bend front knee over the foot and look in front of you, hold for sixty seconds and repeat with the other foot at the top of the mat
Cat-Cow Pose – These two poses are alternated. Kneel on your knees and put your weight on your hands in front of you. Your back lowers down into the cow pose. Look up as your back arches. Exhale and move into cat pose. In cat pose, the back arches up and your head points down towards the mat. Inhale and move back into cow pose. Continue alternating poses.
Child’s Pose – Child’s pose is a resting position in yoga. Kneel on the ground. Your knees should be hip-width apart. Bend the body over the knees, and place your forehead at the top of the mat. Toes are pointing towards the back of the room as arms lie alongside the body. Relax and continue to breathe.
As you get stronger, you can start doing more advanced versions of poses, and you’ll feel your core becoming stronger.
Benefits of Yoga
There are many health benefits to enjoy from practicing yoga, including:
-Treatment of stress
-May decrease heart disease
-Increased muscle strength
-Decrease chronic pain
-Improve cardiovascular health
-Reduce symptoms of arthritis, headaches, high blood pressure and insomnia
Additionally, yoga is a great option for a low impact workout on the body and allows oneself to spend time meditating, which his beneficial to mental and emotional health.
Tips for Integrating Yoga into Your Life
-You don’t have to do 90 minutes of practice every day. Break your practice into small amounts of time. Even five minutes a day is better than nothing. Try practicing in sets of five to thirty minutes to start with.
-Do Sun Salutations when you wake up in the morning. This is a series of yoga poses that will help you wake up in the morning.
-Find online videos like the one above that walk you through a yoga routine. You can find different routines that fit the amount of time you have to carve out for your practice.
-Make a yoga workout and schedule time to practice. Make exercise and health a priority in your life and you’ll see how many benefits you can enjoy from your yoga practice.
-Do five to fifteen minutes of yoga during your lunch break at work.
-Make yoga a routine that you don’t even have to think about. Do a thirty minute yoga session before you hop in the shower, before work or after work at least twice a week.
-Do yoga in bed or at your desk. Look up poses that don’t require movement online.
-Do simple yoga in the shower. Be careful not to slip and fall.
-If you decide you would like to take a yoga class each week, try out different classes until you find the right fit.
All you really need to get started with yoga is a yoga mat and the appropriate clothing.
Mat – You need a yoga mat while doing the poses to make sure you don’t slip on the floor or hurt yourself on the hard floor. You can purchase a yoga mat at most fitness stores and big chain stores like Target.
Clothes – The best clothes for yoga are those that are comfortable and breathe while you’re wearing them. Wear a top that won’t fall down as you bend into the different poses. Do not wear socks or shoes while doing yoga.
Once you get started, you may find you’ll benefit from the use of the following items:
Blocks – Yoga blocks are handy for when you are in a pose and your hand doesn’t reach the floor. Set the block on the floor and stretch in the pose until your hand reaches the block. As your form improves, you may be able to remove the block later on.
Straps – Use yoga straps during a pose in which you cannot reach your other hand and/or your foot.
Blankets – You don’t have to purchase a special yoga blanket; you can use any blanket from around your home. Roll the blanket or fold it up and use it to help you achieve poses you’re having trouble with until you perfect the pose enough to do it on your own.
Websites for Yoga
These websites contain multiple resources for those starting out in yoga and who want to continue to practice long term:
-ABC of yoga
Books About Yoga
These are some of the most highly recommended and best-selling books on yoga that are out on the market right now:
-Light on Yoga – B.K.S. Iyengar
-Yoga as Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing – Timothy McCall
-The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice – T.K.V. Desikachar
We hope you enjoy yoga and find it helpful throughout your daily life.