Okay, so you've heard about yoga, you're even thinking about trying a class, but maybe you still have some lingering questions. Duuuhh, that's why you decided to cruise the online yoga scene. Well, I'm glad you did. Here is a Top 5 frequently asked questions about yoga … and whaddaya know, answers, too!
What exactly is yoga? The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root "yuj," meaning "to yoke" or "to unite." People have many different reasons for practicing yoga. For example it can be for physical exercise, mental well being, healing an injury, relieving chronic pain or finding a deeper spiritual connection. Hatha Yoga is the physical form of yoga where we practice a series of positions, known as asanas, designed to purify the body, increase physical strength and stamina, and restore balance to all of the body’s systems. The benefits of practicing yoga asanas as it relates to the idea of union can be described simply as uniting our awareness of all of our physical sensations, our breath and our thoughts. How far, and to what aspect of your life you want to apply the lessons of yoga asana is up to you.
Is yoga a religion? No. Yoga as we know it today finds its roots in a philosophy developed in India 5000 years ago. Sometimes yoga practice is combined with philosophies like Buddhism or Hinduism but the beauty of yoga is that it brings union within yourself and meets you where you need it most. You can choose to focus on the physical, the mental or the spiritual aspects or any combination of the three. It is not necessary to study any particular religion or philosophy to practice yoga. Many people find that it compliments their religious beliefs.
Isn’t yoga just stretching? Actually, depending on the style of the yoga class, it can be a physically demanding, even aerobic, workout. While there are more gentle classes that focus on lengthening muscles and restoring range of motion, Hatha Yoga is translated as “Forceful Yoga” whereby we willfully and intentionally work to restore balance to the body.
I am not flexible. Can I still practice yoga? This is a common misconception. You do not need to be flexible in order to practice yoga. If it happens to be flexibility that your body needs, yoga can help. You become flexible by doing yoga. You do not have to look like the yoga models we see in magazines to benefit. Listening to your body and finding a position that is right for you is all you have to do.
How often should I go to class? Obviously, the more you practice, the more benefits you are likely to receive. 2-3 classes (60-90 minutes long) per week is usually recommended to start. However, just 1 hour per week will still bring wonderful, healing benefits that you will quickly notice. Even a simple 15-20 minutes of yoga whenever you can is beneficial!
Thanks for stopping by and please feel free to post any additional questions below!
And for funsies check out my Top 5 Yoga-Related YouTube Finds!
Photo courtesy of Anna Ferguson.