Yoga has been around for an incredibly long time and over that period different practitioners have added their own refinements and styles into the basic yoga discipline. There are so many different styles now it is nearly impossible to count, but they all stem from the same core philosophy and methodology. Unfortunately the multiple different styles often lead newcomers to the exercise discipline to become very confused as to what they are doing and what they can hope to achieve with yoga.
What is yoga?
This question is the most common from newcomers. Most people have a general idea but they are not sure where yoga fits into the world. Is it an exercise? Is it a philosophy? Is it a form of physical therapy? Is it a spiritual process? The answer is that yoga is all of these things.
At it’s core it is a group of exercises and poses which are very low impact. They work by strengthening the body and increasing it’s flexibility through static exercise. This means that each pose will ‘stretch’ a certain area and the body benefits from this stretch by increased blood flow and energy release. Many of the exercises release tension from areas of the body that regular activities do not cater to. Because yoga is performed slowly and with a strong emphasis on correct breathing patterns there is also a strong mental and spiritual element to the exercise. It is seen as a way of cleansing mind, body and spirit.
Do I need to be religious to get the most out of yoga?
As mentioned above yoga is different things to different people. There are many people in the world who perform yoga purely for it’s spiritual benefits. There are many others who perform yoga purely for the physical benefits associated with it. What you get out of yoga will depend largely on your mindset, your openness to new ideas and your ability to let yourself fall fully into a meditative state. For some people this is very difficult at first, but that is still not going to prevent them from getting the physical benefits associated with yoga classes. You will find that even if you do not have any strong spiritual base you will still benefit from an increase in your self-confidence and personal contentment.
Where can I do yoga?
The answer is practically anywhere. Many people practice yoga in their homes every day. Others will go to the local park and practice yoga with a group of friends. To begin with it’s a good idea to inquire at your local gym about yoga classes, many of them will be holding yoga every day. Even if they aren’t they will be able to tell you where the best place to learn yoga is. Some local councils sponsor yoga classes in their area in recognition of the benefits to people who exercise regularly. One of the big advantages of a yoga based exercise regime is that there is no expensive equipment to buy and then store around your house. Some poses are assisted by cushions to support the body, but in general the only thing you need is your body.
Is yoga for me if I’m not very fit?
Yes, very much so. One of the fantastic things about yoga is that the exercises and poses you will learn can be adjusted to your level. Fitness isn’t usually a problem because the exercises are slow and often static, but your body will become better at performing them over time as your strength and flexibility improves. Knowing your limit and ensuring that you don’t ‘ease up’ out of habit gain the best benefit.
Hopefully you will now have a good understanding of what yoga is and why you should be doing it. Remember that yoga is something that once learned can be practiced anywhere you like and as often as you like. Indeed, this is one of the key components of yoga’s popularity.