I thought I would begin my first entry by answering some of the most common Yoga questions I get. Feel free to comment, and I will try to answer your questions in my next post.
QUESTION #1: What in the world is Yoga?
I could get all technical with the Sanskrit meaning (to yoke or bind, or a union), but I won't. Yoga is a union of disciplines meant to lead you towards enlightenment. Still confused? It's no wonder. Most yoga information out there is written in lingo that intimidates the beginner who is looking for a way to strengthen their body, while relaxing and engaging their mind. In essence though this is what all that lingo is trying to say, but in terminology that alienates a lot of people from taking the first steps into their practice. Most Yoga practices today focus on the asana (poses) practice. These strengthen and stretch your body, and mind through various poses, breathing (pranyama --but that's a topic for another time) and meditation.
QUESTION #2: Is Yoga a religion?
No yoga is not a religion. It is a philosophy that is more than 5,000 years old with a physical practice that is just as old. The most important philosopher of Yoga and the man most call the father of Yoga is Patanjali who wrote the "Yoga Sutra". Most yogis and yoginis see the "Yoga Sutra" and a guideline to enlightenment.
Now....do you have to get absorbed into the yoga philosophy to enjoy a yoga practice or to "get something out of yoga". No not at all. If you want to go to a yoga class for a good stretch or to try a different sort of work out you will benefit greatly as well.
QUESTION #3: I see people twisting themselves into pretzels in yoga classes and I'm not flexible at all....how am i supposed to do yoga?
If you don't think you are flexible you are absolutely ready for yoga. This is something i say to my students all of the time. Yoga is called a "practice" for a reason. You aren't a good dancer and therefore decide to take dance classes. You take the classes to learn how to dance well. Yoga classes are there to help you improve your strength, coordination, self awareness and yes......flexibility. Before you know it you too will be a pretzel.....lol
There is a practice out there for everyone. If you're pregnant, prenatal yoga can relieve a lot of the aches, pains and anxiety of the expectant mother, and get them ready for the work out that is child birth. There are practices for Beginners, athletes, people suffering from anxiety or chronic pain. Yoga class is not necessarily one size fits all but if you're interested you should definitely check out a beginner class. If you ever need more information check out my website : www.fiveyoga.com
Yoga pose to try:
Downward Dog (Ardho Mukha Svanasana):
- Come to your hand and knees on the floor. Your knees should be directly under your hips and your hands should be slightly in front of your shoulders with your fingers spread wide and your middle finger facing directly forward.
- Take a deep inhale through your nose (all yogic breathing is in and out through the nose) and then on your exhale start to pick up your knees and lift your hips. Keep your heels off the floor at first and a little bend to the knees as you drop your tail bone and stretch your hips towards the ceiling.
- Take another deep inhale and on your exhale start to straighten your legs, stretching your heels towards the ground (it's absolutely fine if your heels don't reach the ground in the beginning. There are days when my heels don't reach the ground either). Don't lock the knees but do relax the muscles and deepen the stretch.
- Deep Inhale again and then exhale try to move the shoulder blades down your back and your shoulders away from yours ears. At first you will feel a lot of pressure on the arms and in the wrists but eventually this becomes a pose (asana) of rest. (start by holding the pose for 10 seconds, eventually work up to holding it for a minute at a time)