Since yoga has become more mainstream in North America, many are wondering what the lowdown of yoga is. What is it? Who can do yoga? What ages? What experience? And so on.
The short answer, anyone can do, everyone benefits from it, it is all ages, all body sizes and no experience is needed to do it!
The practice of yoga dates back to India and is thousands of years old. The ancient Sanskrit word “yoga” can be translated as: to yoke, to join, to unite. This unification is speaking to the whole of us. We are not just a body. We are not just a mind. Nor are we just spirit. We are all them, in one holistic being and each is affected by the other. For example, people with chronic physical pain can develop depression, you can feel so excited or nervous, that your stomach flips and your heart pounds faster. Body and mind is intertwined and very connected. The practice of yoga assists the body, mind and heart to unite, and through the practice become more flexible, stronger and more balanced as a unit.
The many benefits of yoga for the body are a list quite long. The physical body responds advantageously to this healing practice and may offer the following, with regularity: lower/ regulated blood pressure, increased lung capacity, prevention of cartilage and joint breakdown, lubricated joints, increased blood flow, spinal health, balanced insulin levels and lowered blood sugars, assistance with lymphatic system, detoxification, increase physical strength, muscle toning, increase flexibility and range of motion, weight loss, improved balance, aids sleep and the list goes on.
The bonus of the physical practice often leaves the mind feeling more centered, decreased anxiety, feelings of purpose, calm and peace with an open heart and a deeper meaning to our lives. Yoga assists to increase metal clarity and focus, regulating adrenal glands and lowering cortisol levels (stress hormone), shifting brain waves and balancing nervous system.
The misinformation that we have to be like a pretzel is very misguided. In fact, anyone can do yoga. The beauty of this healing practice is that it meets you exactly where you are at. However, that being said there are many different types of yoga and a beginner may want to know where to start.
Chair Yoga: This is yoga done in or using a chair. It can be beneficial for people that cannot get up and down on a yoga mat, or those recovering from surgery/illness or those that sit in a chair a lot. The chair is used to support the individual as they do yoga poses to strengthen, stretch and balance.
Beginner Yoga: Just like it says, structured for the beginner. Poses will be basic and easier. You will still push to your edge but from the beginner’s perspective. These classes are great for the newbie as they will feel the support of everyone in the class, as everyone is just starting out.
All level Classes: Beginners to more experienced students will attend an all level class. The teacher will show a pose at its basic level and then more advanced variations, often leaving everyone doing it just a little bit different. And since we are all unique with different body types and experience, this is a great class for the beginner student.
Restorative Yoga: Restorative yoga is a slower class that anyone can attend. It provides delicious poses aiding to relax the body and soothe frayed nerves. Restorative classes use bolsters, blankets, and blocks to prop students in passive poses so that the body can experience the many benefits of a pose without having to exert much effort. A good restorative class is leaving you feeling blissful and aligned.
Vinyasa: Pronounced “vin-yah-sah”, is the Sanskrit word for “flow”, and vinyasa classes are known for their fluid, movement-intensive practices. Vinyasa moves through smooth transition from pose to pose to pose. There are classes dedicated just for this type of yoga, but often the “All level Class” will do vinyasa within the class.
There are also specialty classes available in many yoga studios such as Yogalates (Pilate/yoga mix), Back Care Yoga, Prenatal Yoga, Seniors Yoga, Moms and Baby classes, Toddlers, Kids, Yin Yoga, Kundalini, Aerial yoga and Guided Meditation classes.
There are many different titles and types assigned to a yoga class but ultimately each student needs to find a fit for them and when they practice they should feel happier and healthier on all levels of their being.
Your yoga teacher may also provide experience with mediation, breath work and relaxation techniques in the various types of classes.
Yoga is a mindfulness practice.
Meaning, a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.
Mindfulness has been shown to be effective in supporting health management by stopping, noticing, bring awareness to the moment we are experience by noticing how we feel in our body, noticing our thoughts and observing any emotions we might be encountering. Then, with non-judgment we accept things as they are and move in the direction that we need to by redirection, readjusting and realigning.
The healing practice of yoga brings present moment awareness, pushes us to our edge, aligns us holistically and offers acceptance, release and healing. By creating strength and harmony in both the mind and body, yoga leaves us healthier and stronger, calmer and clearer and feeling a sense of overall wellbeing. Body, mind, and heart, perfectly “yoked” and united.
(Happy Healthy YOU is a wellness column by Kelly Spencer: writer, life coach, yoga & meditation teacher, holistic healer and a mindful life enthusiast! If you would like to see an article on a specific topic, please email email@example.com).