No matter in which part of the world you live, there is little chance that you have never heard of the practice of Yoga. Yoga is an Indian discipline that has gained popularity over the last few decades in the western community, mainly because of the benefits that it brings to our health. In this post we'll explore together what is the practice of yoga, its origins, and yoga benefits. Do not miss this post if you want to know about yoga benefits to our health and all the essentials to start yoga classes. Ready, Set, Go!
Yoga is an ancient Indian discipline that is extremely good as a physical activity but it also has an spiritual side. The art of Yoga practicing heavily relies on meditation, breathing exercises and physical postures and it significantly contributes to improve your health at all levels.
The word "yoga" derives from Sanskrit and ir means "union". According to Patanjali, traditional yoga practice is all about "the cessation of the modification of the mind" in his own words. Or in simpler terms, yoga is all about trying to stop modifying our thoughts and inner feelings and be at peace with them.
According to Wikipedia, these are relevant terms in Ashtanga Yoga which is the classification of Yoga that has spread the most in western culture:
One of the most well known asanas (they are 12 in total) is "the sun salutation" which in Sanskrit reads "Suryanamaskar"
The Indian Ascetics are responsible for the introduction of yoga practices. These people advocated a way of living in which nothing material or earthly was more important than your spiritual growth. They usually gave up any materialistic goals to focus on religion and spirituality. There are even some illustrations of what could be interpreted as yoga postures in the Brāhmaṇas, the religious book that laid the foundations of Hinduism.
Alright then, as it is usually the case with ancient practices, there are nowadays a couple of styles of systems of Yoga practice:
Well, if you are considering to start practicing yoga in 2021, the good news is you have some company. According to recent studies by the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) over 14 million Americans (mostly adults) practice yoga. And the figures continue to rise. But you have to bare in mind what we have been saying all through. Yoga is not just about looking good and feeling fit -it's not wrong if you experience it that way, though- but you are missing too much from the practice, then.
Yoga is a whole package of experiences both physically and mentally, so keep your mind as open as possible and your ego humble. Embrace everything that you learn and be thankful! Here are some tips for you to consider before starting yoga classes. Let's see:
1. Look For a Good Place
Remember, with the rocketed rise of popularity in yoga, many institutions have taken advantage of this and offer courses with unexperienced instructors. When looking for the right place to start your yoga practice, take your time and trust the universe that it will come in due time. Look for certifications, yes, but most importantly look for kindness. The right place will make you feel comfortable and loved. You will know!
As we said as you look for the right place, it needs to come with the right instructor. The role of your teacher will play a key part in the relationship you'll build up with your yoga practice. They are going to be your guides but they need the necessary experience to take care of your body an emotions, too. No instructor should hurry you up or make you feel less or not fully comfy. Choose wisely!
A good quality equipment will do the best of every physical activity, and yoga is not the exception. And if we talk about star equipment for yoga, here comes the star of our classes: the MAT! Besides comfortable clothes, you'll need a quality mat, to begin with.
The mat will be your best class companion and an essential tool for your postures and meditations. Of course you can borrow a mat from someone you know of from the school you chose, but it's very important that you have your own mat to make the practice even more personalized and yours! Check out the following info on really good mats oit there in the market!
All the products we'll recommend come from GAIAM, a company dedicated to fabricate the best yoga equipment while making it sustainable.
If you already practice yoga, you may have realized that the less accessories you carry to the class, the better. So, this is the ideal mat for you! or for you, the one thinking about starting yoga classes!
The Easy-Cinch-Yoga Sling by GAIAM is very light to carry, made with quality material and it lasts for ages. The sliders are made of metal which makes it really resistant and durable. This is also a relatively non-expensive alternative to start with your yoga classes!
Apart from a comfortable mat, you may also want some bigger bag to carry other essentials to the class such as a bottle of water or another pack of clothes in case you need to dress up for being at work after your yoga class. Well, the Tree of Life Yoga Tote may fit you perfectly.
Beautifully embroidered with GAIAM's tree of life, this tote has everything: it's cotton on the outside and naturally wicking nylon in the inside so that you can just throw wet towels or clothes after the class without any worries. The Tree of Life Yoga Tote is comfortable, fashionable and you can just drop it into your washing machine, clean it and dry it very easily!
Cork is probably the best eco friend that yoga has encountered! This Performance Cork Yoga Mat will meet all of your needs if you are looking for a mat that is both, durable and very sustainable. Cork has antimicrobial properties, meaning that all of your sweat will be absorbed by the mat while also eradicating anything that can cause any unwanted smell, like microbes and bacteria. You'll pay a few more bucks for this one, but it's worth it in all the sense. Check out more info at GAIAM's
This mat is maybe more adequate if you are taking hot yoga classes (What's that? Oh well, if you don't know what this is, you have to read our post on Hot Yoga: Science-Based Facts about Its Health Benefits ) or if you are already a more advanced yogi. Created by yogis for yogis to come, the Performance Dry-Grip Yoga Mat (5mm) is not only high quality - it works better cushioned for your joints and postures and it's long-lasting- but also designed for you to get the most out of your yoga class.
As it was the case with most Eastern disciplines and philosophies, the real benefits of yoga were put the test by western science. And the scientific community as a whole agreed on the fact that yoga practice does helps. A lot!
So, based on the Indian texts, western medicine and the experience of hundreds, yoga can be said to be a life saviour because it makes your body and your mind stronger and less prone to physical pain, emotional unbalances and mental conditions. Let's check!
The relatively sedentary life than an average human has nowadays makes the body gradually less flexible, which is actually pretty bad because lack of flexibility can affect your bones, body posture and add tension to the muscles. Observe the natural world around you (that's what Yoga does), have a look at the behavior of your pets. Don't' you see them stretching out all the time? Just like trees!
Well then, your body needs to keep flexible too and yoga is definitely a good start to put your body into motion. It's common that in your first classes, you'll feel rough and tense, little flexible and some postures will look impossible. Trust me, with a lot of patience and practice, your body will start to relax and loosen. Within a couple of weeks you'll probably already experience less muscular tension and pain. That's not just coincidence. That's yoga doing its work. The more postures you practice and learn, the more flexible you'll become and a great sense of relief is gonna come with it!
When the body is in a deep state of relaxation, our energetic points within the body align perfectly. (If you are interested in chakras and all that jazz, please read our article The 7 Chakras of The Earth: What and Where Are They? for further information)
So, we were saying, the body aligns itself perfectly when relaxed. With yoga practice, your spine will go back to its natural shape. You'll start to notice that back and neck pains disappear. You'll also feel lees tense, less pressured and your body posture will improve significantly as you loosen the pressure from the muscles around your neck and your head. Even people with severe bone conditions such as rheumatic diseases or arthritis can ease their physical pain through a constant and well guided practice of yoga.
When you move the body, you oxygenate your blood. Any kind of aerobic activity can help you improve your blood circulation, but yoga is particularly effective on this because you'll be improving your blood flow as you also strengthen your muscles (and your mind!). The relaxation techniques, the "strangulation" of certain parts of the body that is needed in certain postures, even the inverted poses will get your blood flowing. Each inch of your blood will be full of renewed oxygen and you'll experiment an immediate sense of well being. In the long term, the practice of yoga can strongly prevent heart diseases and strokes.
One of the first things that a good yoga instructor will tell you is that one of the laying principles of yoga is being in the right here, right now fully in your true inner self. This exercise of focusing on the body movements and how to adjust your body to them will incredibly help you become more focused. Take this outside the yoga class, you'll feel better at problem solving or overcoming hardships. The more you practice yoga, the more you should feel this state of present, not distracting thoughts looping in the mind, just you in your full presence.
I think each one of us has experienced somewhere in life feelings of sadness, lack of motivation, anxiety and even depression. It's quite natural if you think about the kind of life we live, disconnected from our bodies most of the times. Studies by the University of Wisconsin, for example have shown that practicing yoga releases serotonin into the body. Serotonin is a key chemical element that ignites your left side of the brain- the not rational side, we may say- and helps you sense a feeling of wellness and happiness. So, yoga works at a really deep level if you are constant in your practice!
Now you have all the info you need to make an informed decision about the practice of yoga. If you have the time and the motivation, please do start. And don't forget to get yourself a good mat, please!