Starting a yoga practice can be a bit intimidating. Not knowing where to start or how to start can offer enough challenges to make anyone hesitant to even trying out a yoga class.
If it wasn’t for my high school aerobics teacher who was heaven bent on introducing every avenue to physical fitness to us, maybe I wouldn’t have even tried it. But yoga is kinda like one of those things that says once you go, you never go back. LOL
So, on with this mini-class-in-a-blog post.
My goal with this “mini class” is help anyone who wants to get started with a yoga practice get started… Some hesitation to actually getting started may be due to a lack of understanding to what Yoga is. We will start there.
OAN don’t forget to download this Yoga Vocabulary Organizer- a worksheet. (I hope you enjoy this as much as I did creating it. ) It has quite a few of the words you will hear used a lot in yoga, but also a strategy to help you actually learn the new words. 😉
What is Yoga?
Yoga is different for everyone who practices it. There are so many perceptions of yoga and the media has done a great job of creating a perception of yoga as a physical sport or fitness method where individuals put themselves into various, sometimes-strenuous positions…and indeed yoga does involve maneuvering oneself into various positions that are sometimes strenuous.
But Why? Why would folk manipulate their bodies into uncomfortable positions, how does that “help” anyone?
I am going to cut tot he chase and let the cat out of the bag and share the big secret. Why is everyone raving about yoga? Why does it have an elitest vibe in a lot of circles. Yoga can be that definitive thing one can do to shift their life, if you choose it as your path.
In short, your body is made in the image of it’s creator. Your body is a microcosm of the universe. And everything that goes on inside of it, is reflected in your outer experience and perception of the world. We know everything has manifest itself in physical and ‘spiritual” form. Yoga is one way of conquering yourself, your fleshly, lower nature. This is what yoga has taught me. Yoga can teach you your own lessons. Yoga is magical. Ok, I will stop with the nostalgia and write about more concrete definitions of yoga. Here goes…
The term Yoga is a Sanskrit word, not an English term. Sanskrit is an old language spoken by the inhabitants of Greater India that originated in the second millennium B.C.1 (2000-1000 B.C.) And the Sanskrit word yoga means “union”. Union of what is the next logical question. I don’t know. Union of two things. I see it as union of physical and spiritual, heaven and earth. Yoga is the practice that can bring your heaven to earth. Our life (lives) are a journey back to our source, back to God, our heavenly homes and to become Christ. We make a journey through various lessons ascending up Jacob’s ladder to receive cosmic (Christ) consciousness. Practice of hatha yoga is our avenue of utilizing the physical body to get where we are going. Now, I just said “hatha” yoga. “Hatha” yoga is one of many so called “paths” of yoga. There are some paths of yoga that don’t involve maneuvering your body into various physical positions. We will not discuss those paths in this course. Depending on the teacher…the number of paths and path names vary. We can all be our own guru’s, that’s our goal as human beings.
This should give you a baseline understanding and point of reference for the yoga that you would like to practice.
Types of Yoga.
Did you download the Yoga Vocabulary Organizer- a worksheet? It helps for this part too…
As I mentioned in the previous lesson, Hatha yoga is one of 8 or so “paths” of yoga. We won’t go into depth about those, but I will list them:
1. Self Control
2. Spiritual Observances
3. Hatha (ha-tha)- Postures (Asanas)
a. Ancient Egyptian Yoga [Kemetic (kem-e-Tic)]
b. Iyengar (i-yen-Ger)
c. Ashtanga (ash-tong-a) [Vinyasa Flow]
d. Bikram (be-crum)
e. Kundalini (coon-da-lenni)
4. Breath Control
6. Steadying the Mind
8. Deep Meditation
Now we will zoom in on the path of Hatha yoga. Hatha refers to the yoga that involves postures & poses…movement of the body into those sometimes strenuous positions.
Let’s classify a bit and talk about the different systems, types, styles and ways of practicing hatha yoga. We can sometimes hear everything from “apple to zebra” yoga, hehe.
Yoga is ancient wisdom. Anyone can choose to study, learn and practice it.
From my research, most types of yoga come from 5 systems of yoga; Ancient Egyptian, Iyengar, Ashtanga, Kundalini or Bikram. You may also see different types of Tantra & Womb yoga.
There are 4,583 registered yoga schools in Yoga Alliance’s database and each is a different personal brand representation of yoga, most likely originating from one of the 5 main systems (Ancient Egyptian, Iyengar, Ashtanga, Kundalini or Bikram).
Styles of Yoga
There are different ways to hatha yoga. Here is a list of the most popular ways you can practice:
• In “Yin” style. Yin yoga is a slow paced practice of poses. Poses are held for longer periods of time.
• In a Restorative way. Restorative yoga uses props to achieve physical, mental and emotional relaxation.
• In a Hot or heated room. Yoga performed in hot and humid conditions. Originally associated with Bikram yoga, but other types of yoga may be practiced in a hot room.
• In a Gentle way. Yoga that focuses on stretching and breathing with a non-strenuous approach.
• In a Flow (Vinyasa- vin-YA-sa). One of my favorites. Vinyasa means “breath-synchronized movement”. Smooth flowing, dance-like with each move on an inhale or exhale.
Some of these styles of yoga have been branded, there is an official Yin Yoga School, but there are yoga classes be offered in yin style. Vinyasa flow is a type of Ashtanga yoga and a typical yoga class is a flow class.
There is also yoga for different populations:
• Pre-natal- women who are pregnant
• Mother & Infant
Benefits of Yoga
Today I read 3 stories of healing through yoga. One in particular stuck with me. A lady by the name of Angela had been struggling with lupus for 18 years, (lupus is a deemed incurable disease that alters your immune system) until one day she decided she couldn’t take the pain anymore. She got up and danced for 2 hours and followed that up with deep stretching in yoga poses. It took her mind off the pain. From the point on, she began practicing dance and yoga several times a week. After awhile, the doctors said she was cured of lupus.
List of Benefits of yoga (Research proven)
• Lower stress levels (reduction in cortisol –the stress hormone through increased oxygen intake)
• Increased flexibility
• Lower blood pressure
• Improved lung capacity
• Improved sexual function
• Reduced chronic neck & back pain
• Anxiety relief
• Steady Blood sugar levels for Diabetics
• Improved sense of balance
• Stronger bones
• Lower risk of heart disease
How it works?
“ Although yoga is much more than a stress-reduction method, stress adversely affects a wide range of health conditions, and yoga is arguably the most comprehensive approach to fighting stress every invented. Stress isn’t just a factor in conditions commonly labeled “stress-related,” such as migraines, ulcers, and irritable bowel syndrome, but it appears to contribute to such major killers as heart attacks, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Even diseases such as cancer for which there is surprisingly little evidence that stress is a causative factor are extremely stressful once a person has been diagnosed and begins treatment. Yoga can improve not only the quality of life after diagnosis, but it appears to diminish the side effects of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and other treatments, and may increase the odds of survival.”
~Dr. Timothy McCall, board certified internist & Yoga Journal’s medical editor
So, stress plays a major role in disease. Now, let’s discuss a little anatomy. Did you know you had something called an autonomic nervous system (ANS)? Yes your ANS controls your heart, liver, intestines and other internal organs. It has two parts that work together, sympathetic & parasympathetic. The sympathetic nervous system fires up when you need stress hormones like adrenaline or cortisol, it’s your fight or flight system. We hear of these amazing stories of senior citizens lifting up cars to save people or people who have been shot several times who are able to run for quite a ways and they didn’t even know they had been shot. This is their fight or flight response. These hormones increase heart rate, blood sugar and blood pressure.
However, the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is the opposite, it chimes in to inhibit (restrict) the production of the stress hormones. Thank Goodness for the PNS!
You can activate the PNS through deep breathing.
It works because deep, long inhalations expand the passageways in your lungs where oxygen enters the blood and carbon dioxide leaves it. (Hanson)
Other ways to activate the PNS:
• Lowering heart rate
• Mindfulness of body
• Positive emotion
Are you READY?
Now, Get Ready With the Self Discovery Workbook for Yoga
You should also know that…
Namaste’, at the conclusion of most yoga classes the teacher says this to his or her students and then the class will say it back. Namaste’ is simply an expression of reverence & gratitude. It means ” the light (spirit/divine) within me acknowledges the light/spirit/divine within you.