Yoga – The Mental, Physical and Spiritual Benefits (An Easy Guide)

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Yoga - Discipline of Mind, Body and Heart in Union

Yoga

Yoga - Discipline of Mind, Body and Heart in Union

The ancient discipline of Yoga, is more than just a way to lose a few pounds! The word Yoga actually comes from the Sanskrit word yuj, meaning to yoke or bind, and is often interpreted as “union” or a method of discipline.  The discipline of Yoga, allows the practitioner to quiet the fluctuations of the mind, in order to experience complete presence, or “Samadhi”.  In ancient references one can practice the discipline of Yoga in any particular action/discipline. For example, the ‘Yoga’ of washing dishes, could theoretically bring one into the state of union with mind, thought and action.  In modern reference activites like this are often referred to as ‘mindfullness’ exercises.

When we are referring to physical postures, or ‘asanas’, most people are actually referring to “Hatha Yoga” (or one of it’s various types. For more information on the exceptionally profound and diverse science of Yoga, this article may be helpful: Tantric Roots of Hatha Yoga), which can result in several psychological benefits, allowing you to lead a peaceful and happier life.  In Hatha Yoga, the physical postures when combined with certain methods of breathing and focus, bring your mind, your body and awareness into one unified experience, increasing the benevolent experience of your life. This allows us to be truly present.

If you are determined to enroll in a Hatha Yoga or a general yoga class, this article will provide you all the information you will need to get started.  With regular practice, Hatha Yoga will help bring tranquility to your mind and your life, helping you to live a life of abundance.

Benefits of Physical Yoga

Are you planning on taking up a ‘yoga’ class? Here are a couple of benefits of practicing yoga:

Improves Flexibility

Improved flexibility is among the most notable benefits of yoga. In your first class, you may not be able to touch your toes or reach as far as your instructor. However, with continuous practice, you will notice gradual loosening, this will make it possible for you to achieve impossible poses. Here’s when the aches and pains will start to diminish. Inflexible muscles can result in poor posture. Additionally, tight hamstrings can result in the flattening of the lumbar spine, contributing to back pain. Performing yoga improves flexibility and puts an end to all these pains and aches.

Protects your Spine

The shock absorbers located in the vertebrae can herniate from decreased mobility. The spine craves movements as it is the only way to get nutrients in the spinal disks. Practicing your favorite asanas everyday with plenty of forward bends, backbend and twists will keep your spinal disks supple and healthy.

Build Muscle Strength

Strong muscles not only look good, but they protect you from all sorts of conditions such as back pain and arthritis, which can significantly decrease your chances of developing chronic or acute musculoskeletal complications. Building strength through yoga also helps balance flexibility. So, if you were simply lifting weights at the gym, you would be building strength at the expense of flexibility.

 Perfects your posture

Good posture not only results in several health benefits, but enables you to look taller and more confident. The neck and back muscles need a lot of support to balance the head in place. When the head is balanced directly over an erect spine, there are fewer problems. However, once you move your head a few inches forward, you may start to strain those muscles, resulting in fatigue. If you tend to feel tired throughout the day, perhaps you need to work on your posture. When you slouch, the body compensates by flattening the normal bones and muscles in the lower back and neck. This can cause degenerative arthritis or pain in the spine.

Prevents Joint and Cartilage Breakdown

When you are practicing yoga, you move your joints to the fullest of their capabilities. This can prevent mobility issues and can play an integral role in preventing degenerative arthritis or other conditions. The joint cartilage is similar to a sponge, it can only soak up a new supply of nutrients when its fluids have been squeezed out. Without proper nourishments, the neglected areas of the cartilage can wear out, resulting in the breakdown of cartilages.

Improves Bone Health

It is commonly known that weight-bearing exercises play an important role in strengthening the bones and warding off osteoporosis. Many asanas in yoga requires individuals to lift their own weight. In fact, some poses such as the Upward and Downward Facing Dog can strengthen the arm bones, leading to less osteoporotic fractures. A research conducted by California State University highlighted that practicing yoga can increase bone density in the vertebrae.

Different Types of Physical Practice

Are you googling the best yoga classes in town? Well, your head must be spinning with all the different options to choose from. Here’s everything you need to know about some of the different types of yoga:

Hatha

Hatha is considered as among the gentler forms of yoga. These classes focus on the basics and feature slower movements that requires you to hold each pose for a few breaths. However, in Sankrit, the term Hatha refers to any kind of yoga that includes physical postures.

Best for: This form of yoga is best suited for beginners who want to work at a slower pace. Hatha is great choice if you have just started practicing yoga.

Iyengar

This form of yoga is all about precision and paying attention to each detail. Individuals need to be careful about their body alignment in each pose. Iyengar yoga encourages the use of yoga blocks, straps and blankets to help you perfect your poses within a range of motion that is safe. Each pose is held for a longer period of time. Even experienced folks who have practiced other types of yoga are recommended to start with a level on Iyengar class to brush up on the techniques.

Best for: This types of yoga is best suited for detail oriented yogis. If you like to pay special attention to movement, anatomy or form, you will start to fall in love with Iyengar. Though, individuals of all ages can practice Iyengar, it is recommended you consult your doctor first.

Vinyasa

Vinyasa is a dynamic form of yoga that links each breath and movement together in a dance-like way. You won’t be holding one pose for long so be prepared for your heart rate to rise. Your yoga instructor is likely to pump up the music so that the beats match the intense poses.

Best for: Vinyasa is best suited for folks who enjoy intense exercises.  Endurance athletes and runners are drawn to Vinyasa because of its fast pace and continuous movement.

Ashtanga

If you are up for a challenge and are in search of a more orderly approach to yoga, consider trying Ashtanga. This form of yoga consists of a total of six series of specified yoga poses. Individuals flow and breathe through each pose without any difficulties. In some classes, the instructor calls out the poses while others may require you to perform the steps on your own (rest assured, there will always be an instructor in the room to offer you assistance when required)

Best for: If you are a perfectionist by nature and like to stick to strict guidelines, Ashtanga might be the perfect choice for you.

Bikram

Bikram yoga consists of a series of two breathing exercises and 26 poses that is practiced in a room that is heated to approximately 105 degrees. The hot and humid environment makes yoga practice strenuous. All Bikram studies follow the same practice so you will know exactly what to do, no matter where you unroll your mat. If you are a newbies and are considering to take up Bikram, remember to take it slow. Rest whenever necessary and drink plenty of water.

Best for: While it may sound challenging, Bikram yoga is best suited for beginners because of its predictable sequence.

Hot Yoga

Hot yoga is also performed in a hot and humid environment though the instructors are not constrained by the 26-pose sequence similar to that in Bikram. While the added heat will make it easier for you to dive deeper into some poses, it can be easy to push yourself hard, which is not advisable.

Best for: If you’re a fan of a hardcore workout that will leave you drenched, hot yoga is a good option for you.

Things You Will Need for your First Yoga Class

Whether you are joining yoga class to lose weight or for meditation, practicing yoga offers countless benefits for the mind, body and soul. Unlike going to the gym, yoga isn’t just a form of exercise, it is a way for individuals to connect with their spiritual self. If you are newbie, here is a list of things that will come in handy for your yoga classes:

The Right Gear Clothing

Wearing comfortable and breathable clothes will make it possible for you to perfect your yoga poses. While t-shirts and skinny jeans may be your to-go clothes for the day, wearing tight clothes can restrict movement. Wear comfortable clothes that are not too baggy.

Invest in fitness or yoga-specific clothes made from breathable and moisture wicking fabrics.

Yoga Blocks

Yoga blocks are typically constructed using hard-form materials. This useful tool allows individuals to achieve physically challenging poses without putting in too much effort. These props come in handy if you have yet to achieve flexibility that is required to perform difficult poses. You can place the blocks under your feet and hands to intensify the yoga stretches to achieve perfect body alignment.

The yoga blocks aids in performing poses to lengthen the spine such as the asana.

Yoga Mats

While most gyms and yoga studios are stocked with plenty of yoga mats, it is best to bring your own for hygienic concerns. Yoga mats provide traction to the hands and feet, preventing you from falling face down on the floor while perfecting a difficult pose. Additionally, the mats allow you to define your personal space and provide better cushioning.

Yoga Towels

You can’t head to class without your trusted yoga towel. Sure, you can probably use a beach towel or a regular towel, but don’t expect it to be as absorbent as a yoga specific towel. These towels are made using non-slip microfibers that will prevent you from slipping down or sliding on the floor. Additionally, the towel is twice as more absorbent, allowing individuals to hold their yoga poses for a long period of time without experiencing discomfort.

Yoga Straps

If you are a newbie and are not flexible enough to touch your toes or reach your feet, you are sure to benefit from yoga straps.  These straps provide added length that will make it possible for you to reach your limbs. Yoga straps come in handy for performing poses that require users to maintain balance whilst using all their strength such as the Natarajasana pose.

Most instructors recommend beginners to use yoga straps to perform difficult poses as it reduces the risk of injuries and muscle tear. If you don’t have yoga straps, you can use a sturdy rope or a scarf as an inexpensive alternative however, be careful as it might tear during the process.

Yoga Bolsters

Yoga bolsters are cushioning pillows that are used to support the body while performing advanced yoga poses. These bolsters especially come in handy for newbies who are prone to face difficulties while holding yoga poses for a long period of time. These comfortable pillows counteracts bad posture, relieves stress, promotes calmer breathing and improves blood circulation in the body. You can place the bolsters under your knees, neck, hips or legs depending on the specific pose. These yoga bolsters relieve tension whilst reducing discomfort, allowing users to have a more relaxing experience.

Tips for Performing Yoga

Here are some tips that will allow you to make the most out of your yoga class:

Pick the Right Teacher

When it comes to choosing the right teacher, you can’t use the one size fits all for all. Choose a yoga instructor on the basis of their style, approach, experience and training. If you are still young, you will be able to perform a variety of yoga poses and classes without worrying about the risk of injuries however, if you are above 40 years old with super tight hamstrings, you may benefit from individual yoga sessions where the instructor will dedicate all their time to you. The same approach should be used if you are suffering from a medical condition or have physical limitations. Be honest and let your instructor know of any health conditions that you might hand. Don’t be shy, your instructor won’t kick you out and will offer specific feedback related to your condition. If a teacher is willing to give you all the attention you need, you have found the right one.

Build a small library of books and CDs

If you want to learn more about yoga, consider investing in yoga books and CDs. Make use of all the extra resource materials you can get your hands on. If you are too lazy to read books, consider investing in audio recordings. Listening to these recordings will offer you plenty of therapeutic benefits to internalize the mediation and relaxation.

Makes Space in Your Home

If you are a newbie, you may want to invest in an extra yoga mat so that you can practice at home as well. Store yoga props nearby so that you are motivated to perform simple poses whenever you have the time. Make space in your house so that you have plenty of room to stretch out.

Take breathing breaks

Remember to take short breathing breaks.  Breathing is one of the most effective ways to manage stress. Taking deep breaths can help you manage anxiety and calm yourself down and stressful condition. Performing breathing exercises will allow you to refresh yourself and ease away the tension in your respiratory muscles.

Safety Guidelines for Performing Yoga

Remember, safety always comes first. Follow these simple guidelines:

  • Consult your doctor: Even if you are using videos to perform yoga, don’t forget to consult a doctor. You should particularly seek medical advice if you suffer from back injuries, are pregnant or have any other condition that may be adversely affected by exercise. Consult a professional heath expert before performing breathing techniques and performing asanas to determine how safe it is for you. The videos you find online are not suitable for everybody.
  • Avoid straining and overstretching: Most of the injuries caused while performing yoga is a result of overstretching. If you want to benefit from the different yoga poses whilst reducing the chances of injury, only go as far as you can without pushing yourself too much.
  • Do not compete with others: If you have joined a yoga class, don’t pay too much attention to what others are doing. A competitive attitude won’t get you very far and can cause you to experiment with asanas and poses that you are clearly not ready for. Trying to intimidate or impress others can cause you to twist or stretch further than you should.
  • Be responsible: At the end of the day, you are an adult and are responsible for your own well-being. So, do not try postures that make you feel uncomfortable. While it is good to challenge yourself, gently stretch your boundaries so that there aren’t any complications.
  • Come out of pose when it gets too much: Don’t strain yourself. If you are starting to feel sharp twinges of pain then you have probably gone too far. Get out of the pose immediately and take a break. Additionally, if you are starting to feel too shaky or week in a pose, come out of it immediately. After practicing yoga for a couple of weeks, will gradually build up the strength to hold asanas for a longer period of time. If you are starting to experience numbness in your hands and feet while performing yoga, stop yoga immediately and consult a doctor. Your instructor may have to modify yourself routine according to your health.

Follow these important tips and guidelines before you enroll yourself in a yoga class. Good luck!

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