The term yoga comes from a Sanskrit word which means yoke or union, as in joining
mind, body, breath, and spirit together. On the physical level, yoga postures, called asanas, are designed to tone, strengthen, and align the body. These postures are performed to make the spine supple and healthy and to promote blood flow to all the organs, glands, and tissues, keeping all the bodily systems healthy. On the mental level, yoga uses breathing techniques (pranayama) and meditation (dyana) to quiet, clarify, and discipline the mind.
Styles of Yoga~
Talk about confusing, it seems there are almost as many styles of yoga as people practicing it
The term Hatha Yoga refers to the actual physical practice of yoga, which encompasses most of the styles.
You may have to do some research on the many different styles of yoga to determine which one may be a good fit for you, try out many different styles and teachers until you find one (or several) that speak to you.
How often should I practice?
Overall, practicing 3 times per week is ideal but remember: a little bit of yoga every day is better than a lot of yoga once or twice per week. If all you can do is 15 minutes per day, do that. Yoga does not break down the muscle fibers like weightlifting, it’s not likely to fatigue the muscles like running, or other more strenuous sports. Whatever you choose you will see the benefits of a regular yoga practice.
In Sanskrit the word is namah + te = namaste which means “I bow to you”. Namaste is one of the various forms of formal traditional greeting mentioned in the Vedas. This refers to paying homage or showing respect to one another, as is the practice today, when we greet each other.
Om or Aum~
Om is not a word but rather an intonation, which transcends the barriers of age, race, and culture. It is made up of three Sanskrit letters, aa, au and ma which, when combined together, make the sound Aum or Om. It is believed to be the basic sound of the world and to contains all other sounds. It is a mantra or prayer in itself. If repeated with the correct intonation, it can resonate throughout the body so that the sound penetrates to the center of one's being. Om represents the past, the present, and the future.
Savasana (corpse pose)~
This is the final resting pose in just about any style yoga class. This final pose is where you lie on your back with your eyes closed and body relaxed. Savasana allows the body to rest and assimilate the changes made during the practice. Savasana also serves the point of ritual, as it gives teachers the opportunity to guide students in relaxation, affirmation, and an overall sense of peace. It allows the individual practitioner to give ceremony and sacredness to their practice and to feel peace that so often results from our efforts in yoga.
The Sanskrit word Chakra literally translates to wheel. and refers to wheels of energy throughout the body. There are seven main chakras starting from the base of the spine through to the crown of the head. To visualize a chakra in the body, imagine a swirling wheel of energy where matter and consciousness meet.
Bandha means to lock, close-off, to stop. In the practice of a Bandha, the energy flowing to a particular area of the body is blocked. When the Bandha is released, this causes the energy to flood more strongly through the body with an increased pressure.
There are four main types of Bandha's-
Mula Bandha- Root Lock
Uddiyana Bandha- Abdominal lock
Jalandhara Bandah- Chin Lock
Maha Bandha- all three at the same time.
Is Yoga Risky?
Thankfully not often, but on occasion I will have a student approach me and tell me that they were injured during class.
Yoga is advertised as a safe, healthy exercise alternative for us. Doctors recommend yoga classes, we see pictures of older adults doing yoga, yoga philosophy promotes the practice as a way of healing injuries and curing ailments, yoga classes are popping up in hospitals and treatment facilities, what could possibly go wrong?
The physical practice of the postures (asanas), are just that, a physical practice. As with any physical practice, whether it’s tennis, running, pickleball, weight lifting, and so on, there lies an inherent risk of injury. Our bodies may be stiff, out of shape, older, not accustomed to a particular movement, or just too much strain placed on them, and we can sustain an injury. If we’re lucky, it is a minor injury and will heal quickly and hopefully we will gain some insight into our bodies and our own limitations.
But what about the mindset that we approach yoga with, we think that just because it’s called ‘yoga’, that it couldn’t possibly hurt us. WRONG!
Often times these injuries show up later, the student may feel fine during class but notice soreness, stiffness, or pain later. Sometimes the injury occurs abruptly and painfully during class.
I have spent many years studying yoga and movement. I am aware of many common contraindications for different ailments and injuries that I see in day to day classes. Much of my work is done with older adults, which can create its own unique challenges.
At the risk of sounding redundant in my classes, I am constantly warning of potential risks of certain postures (asanas) for particular issues. Can I warn of every potential risk, can I hover over every student at all times to make sure they’re not going to get injured, can I tell when a student is over-stretching beyond their safe limits, of course not.
There are some postures that I have removed from my classes due to safety concerns, I feel the inherent risk is too great for any benefits derived from the posture.
I also do not offer ‘hands-on’ adjustments to assist a student to get deeper into a posture. Again, I feel the inherent risk in pushing or pulling a student deeper into a pose is too great. I am not ‘in’ their body, I have no way to determine if their muscles, tendons, and ligaments are prepared (or ever will be) for certain postures.
Is Yoga risky, yes it can be, but it can also be safe and effective.
I believe the benefits of a consistent yoga practice far outweigh the risks. And remember that yoga isn’t just about the physical practice, it’s about the breath, the self-awareness, to learn to become less reactive and more responsive, to learn that we may not always be happy, but we can be content and grateful.
So practice your yoga, listen to the guidance of your teacher, but most importantly, listen to the guidance of your inner self and your body, and understand that it may change from day to day.
Be on time~
This respects your classmates and the teacher, and will give you time to place your mat and get any props you may need.
Dress lightly in loose and comfortable clothing, nothing that you wouldn’t be comfortable bending over in. You want to enjoy your yoga session without worrying about your clothing.
Once you enter the yoga studio, be respectful of others meditative or introspective approaches; you'll be able to focus on your own yoga practice better when you are able to refrain from excessive movement or noise.
Remove your shoes~
Yoga is practiced barefoot, so it is most hygienic if you take off your outdoor shoes first thing upon entering the studio.
Turn off your cell phone~
Make a habit of doing this as soon as you get to the yoga studio.
Respect your neighbor~
Respect their space, avoid walking on others mats. Make sure you're clean and avoid perfumes, Limit very heavy , loud breathing to your personal practice.
Don’t be shy about using props whenever you feel you need to. Make sure to let your instructor know if you have any conditions that may affect your practice such as injury, or pregnancy. And be sure to always work within your comfort level. Most of all just have fun!
Don’t Skip Savasana!
Your final relaxation pose is Savasana and this is an important part of your practice. If you must leave early tell the teacher in advance, place your mat near the exit and don't make a habit of this.
Breathing practices are a great way to become more in touch with your mind, body and spirit. Deep, conscious breathing (yogic breathing) can be used as an anchor to stay in the present moment. Correct breathing means you breathe in a way that is physiologically optimal for your body.
Unfortunately so many of us do not know how to breathe properly, or we are just not aware of our breathing patterns. In our Western culture, little emphasis is put on proper breathing technique, so we were not taught at a young age how to breathe correctly.
Efficient breathing can reduce health risks
Breathe through the nose
Each breath you take should go in and out through the nostrils. Your nose prepares the air coming in to be used by the body as efficiently as possible. When you breathe through your mouth, the lungs get a lot more “unfiltered” air that is raw, cold, dry and full of viruses and bacteria.
Breathe with the diaphragm
The air you breathe in through your nose should go all the way down in your belly. 70–80% of the inhaling should be done by the diaphragm so that your breathing is nice and deep.
Filling the (Body) Whole
Most of us do not “breathe into” our entire body. We often only expand the upper chest (missing out on the depth of the breath). Or we expand the lower belly but do not allow the upper abdomen and rib cage to expand as well (thus missing the height). Most of us “breathe into” the front body, missing the sides and the back. In other words, we end up breathing into regions of our body, and not filling the whole.
Breathe to Relax
Since your breathing reflects your thoughts and feelings, situations that make you feel tense also lead to tense and stressed breathing pattern. The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) can be activated by modulating the breath. Imagine that you’re lying somewhere where you feel calm and peaceful, notice how your breath flows. When relaxed, you are more likely to be taking long, slow, deep diaphragmatic breaths rather than shallow ones. Deep, diaphragmatic breathing signals to the brain that everything is safe, and that the body can let its guard down, activating the PNS. The breath is the only autonomic nervous system function under your control. By modulating your breath you can consciously activate PNS (relaxation).
Everything has a natural rhythm, your body is no different.
Practice Sama Vritti Breath
Sama= same, equal,
Vritti= fluctuation Establish a rhythm where your inhale and your exhale become even in duration, this can be done by counting the length of the inhalation and length of exhalations.
Types of breath~
The two basic types of breath are:
Chest breathing, which uses secondary muscles in your upper chest. Chest breathing is designed to be used in situations of great exertion, such as a sprint or race. During stressful situations, you may inadvertently resort to chest breathing. This can lead to tight shoulder and neck muscles and sometimes even headaches. Chronic stress can magnify these symptoms.
Diaphragmatic breathing, which comes from the body's dominant breathing muscle — the diaphragm. This type of breathing is more effective and efficient. It can lead to feelings of relaxation instead of tightness.
The benefits of deep breathing extend beyond in-the-moment stress relief. Many studies have found that deep, yogic breathing helps balance the autonomic nervous system, which regulates involuntary bodily functions, such as temperature control and bladder function. This may help ease symptoms of stress-related disorders and mental health conditions such as anxiety, general stress, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The meaning of the word Yoga is union. It is derived from the Sanskrit root "yuj," (pron. yug) meaning to yoke or unite.
This unity or joining is described as the union of the individual consciousness with the universal consciousness. Yoga is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India.
Although it is often stated that yoga is 5,000 years old, what is meant is the foundation of the tradition and philosophy of yoga can be traced back that far. Yoga’s history has many places of obscurity and uncertainty due to its oral transmission of sacred texts and the secretive nature of its teachings.
The word yoga was first mentioned in the most ancient scriptures in the world, the Rig Veda. The Vedas were a collection of texts containing songs, mantras and rituals to be used by the Vedic priests (Brahmans). Veda means ‘knowledge’ and is regarded as revealed wisdom that was passed down orally for thousands of years.
The Classical period is defined by Patanjali’s Yoga-Sûtras, the first systematic presentation of yoga. Written around 200 BCE, this text describes the path of Yoga, often called "classical yoga". Patanjali organized the practice of yoga into an "eight limbed path" containing the steps and stages towards obtaining enlightenment.
Yoga was developed as a way to achieve harmony between the heart and soul on the path to divine enlightenment. It comes in many shapes and sizes; there is a broad variety of schools, practices, and goals, and it has thousands of interpretations and pathways that lead to spiritual awareness, expanded consciousness, transcendence, or simply physical fitness.
The Eight Limbs of Yoga include:
Yamas- Moral Restraints
Asana- postures, physical practice
Pranayama- breath work
Pratyahara- turning inward
Yamas: Five Ethics
Niyamas: Five Observances
Sauca- purity, cleanliness
Tapas- heat, self-discipline
Isvara-pranidhana- devotion to a higher power, surrender oneself