When you think of yoga you probably imagine sitting in one position for hours at a time. Yoga had a bad rep at one time as only being suitable for the elderly but as with anything, as time goes by, people start to appreciate the massive benefits it can bring to any age.
What is Yoga?
Yoga was developed in India around 500 BC, with additional developments and additions ever since!
Yoga is a series of physical poses(asanas) and positions combined with spiritual and mental techniques and practices…..Unfortunately in modern times lots of people forget the spiritual and mental side of yoga and focus purely on the physical poses.
The Physical Side of Yoga
A large part of Yoga is the physical aspect of it which involves putting your body into set positions and holding it there, usually for a set number of breaths.
All poses in yoga have a name and the aim is usually to flow smoothly from one pose to another.
Here is a list of yoga asana on wikipedia.
The Mental and Spiritual side of Yoga
As mentioned above, lots of people discount the spiritual side of yoga. And that’s a shame, because the benefits are enormous.
The aim of meditation in yoga is to quiet your mind. Similar to other meditation techniques, the idea is to live in that moment rather than your mind running at 200 mph with thoughts of today, yesterday and next week! The thoughts will still come, but you need to learn to not react to them.
Meditation isn’t easy. Its difficult to clear your mind of everything and concentrate on the now.
Luckily there are proven techniques that have been developed. Head over to our meditation techniques section and give it a go.
Benefits of Yoga
Yoga is a mature thing. Its been developed over thousands of years and people have had plenty of time to study it and discover the benefits. Yoga is specifically designed to offer benefits to the body and the mind and has very few downsides.
Yoga offers this load of benefits to your body:
- Better strength
- Improved flexibility
- Weight loss
- Better mobility
- Improved balance
- Improved co-ordination
- Strengthened bones
- Better posture
And then there are the benefits to your mind and soul:
- More relaxed
- Lower blood pressure
- Better understanding of your body
- More mindful
- Better sleep
- Improved focus
- Calm and quieter mind
And there’s probably much more!
How to Start Yoga
Its never to late to start yoga but you do need to be careful. People often make the mistake of thinking that yoga is easy, because of the image it had. Yoga can be as easy or as hard as you want it to be. You need to know your limits or you will get injuries.
Start with simple poses and VERY gradually work your way up. Yoga isn’t about trying to force your body into poses. It is about knowing your body and your limits, enjoying a yoga practice and feeling better at the end of it. There’s no rush to anything.
The best way to start is to attend a local yoga class…..But most people don’t want to do that so another good way is to visit Youtube and find a popular yoga channel. There are loads of them, do a search. The 30-day challenges are usually good but you may find you can’t do a practice every day, and that’s fine, just go at your own pace.
Should you practice every day?
Not if you don’t want to. Practice as often as you like. The more you practice, the better you will get. Most people however find that they can’t practice every day, just because its a lot harder on your body than you imagine.
Types of Yoga
One thing that surprises some people is that sheer variety of yoga styles, and all the strange names they have but there are only a few that are really popular in the West.
- Vinyasa Flow – An extremely popular form of yoga where you flow from one pose to the next as smoothly as possible.
- Ashtanga Yoga – Very similar to Vinyasa flow yoga, Ashtanga is a specific set of poses in set sequences. These sequences are the same wherever you practice them.
- Bikram/Hot Yoga – The name kind of gives it away. It is basically yoga in a sauna!
- Hatha Yoga – A classic form of yoga where the poses are one at a time and held for a while. The focus is on stretching and is fairly slow paced. Its a great style for the absolute beginner or for someone who isn’t quite as able as they would like to be.
Easy Yoga Poses You Can Start With
Whichever style of yoga you choose, most have the same set of poses with a few more thrown in for good measure. New poses have been added over the thousands of years that yoga has been developing, there are actually 200 or so of them now! Most people stick to only a few though as the ones below.
Downward Facing Dog
One of the most used poses in yoga is the downward dog. Its a foundation pose and almost every yoga routine will feature the downward dog somewhere. Its just such a great stretching pose. It stretches the arms, the back, the core and the legs…and most of the rest of the body, all in one stretch.
Warrior 1,2 and 3
Believe it or not, even lying down is a pose in yoga!