FAQ: Top 5 Frequently Asked Questions About Yoga

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!

Peace out,


And for funsies check out my Top 5 Yoga-Related YouTube Finds!

Photo courtesy of Anna Ferguson.


Yoga Class Etiquette

Here are some basic yoga dos and don’ts to help you feel comfortable attending a class if you are new to yoga, or perhaps as a refresher for more seasoned practitioners. These simple tips can help create an enjoyable, productive experience for everyone. Be on time. Try to arrive 10-15 minutes early for class. This will allow time for registration and payment and help the teacher to start class on time for everyone. Also, arriving early will help you prepare for class by finding your spot in the room and beginning to get centered and relaxed. If you do arrive a little late, that’s okay. Most teachers are very understanding. Just try to enter the yoga room as respectfully as possible as others have already begun to relax and prepare for class. Try to scope out an open spot first then move carefully through the room and unroll your mat quietly. Turn your cell phone off. A phone ringing can be very distracting to both teacher and students. If you are on call, you can let the teacher know before class begins and set your phone or pager to vibrate. Also, if you have a watch or an iPod that beeps, leave it outside the yoga room or set to silent. Take your shoes off. Most studios have a place outside the yoga room to keep your shoes. You will spend a lot of time on the floor and practice in bare feet. Removing your shoes helps to keep the floor clean for everyone. Refrain from wearing perfume or scented lotions. This is out of consideration for others. Some people have sensitivities to fragrances. Even natural essential oils can be too much for some people, especially when breathing deeply as we do in a yoga class. Keep talking to a minimum. Comments and loud conversations can distract others from their experience in class. If you have a specific question about something as it occurs in class, you can feel free to ask the teacher (not another student) at the time. It is likely that another student has the same question. Just keep it to a minimum and not too chatty or lengthy. Also, try to refrain or to at least speak quietly just before and after class as people are relaxing or meditating. You can have your conversations outside of the yoga room. Final relaxation is part of class too! This is so important. This is the part of class, arguably the most important part, where we integrate the benefits of the body work, the breath work and focus of the yoga class. If you absolutely have to leave early, let the teacher know before class, position yourself near the exit and leave as quietly as possible. Thanks for reading!  If you enjoyed this post (we could all use a reminder now and again), please share using the buttons below. Namaste, Lindsay Photo courtesy of Anna Ferguson.

Yoga for Depression

How is a yoga practice beneficial for someone with a history of depression?

Here is what I think, or at least what I have noticed in my personal experience.

First of all, depression is defined as experiencing feelings such as worthlessness, hopelessness, lethargy or an overall feeling of sadness that lasts more than two weeks.  Most of us feel down from time to time, but clinical depression is a completely different animal and is very serious.  I am not suggesting that yoga replace medical care for clinical depression.  I am simply acknowledging how yoga has helped me personally as someone with a history of depression and that yoga can prove very helpful as a preventive measure.

When you exercise, as in a yoga class, your body releases chemicals called endorphins.  These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain.  This can help ease anxiety and feelings of depression.  Regular exercise has also been proven to reduce stress, boost self esteem, improve sleep, and increase energy levels.

In addition to the physical benefits and the boost to your self esteem beginning an exercise regimen brings, there are more subtle ways in which yoga might help with depression.  The mind-body connection is something which most people agree exists.  The most immediate way of expressing emotion and communicating is through our body.  The term “body language” refers to how we react physically to our emotions.  I believe this to be at the root of yoga’s benefits for assisting in overcoming depression.  Many yoga postures (asanas) place your body in positions which open the front side of the body.  Take a backward bend like Ustrasana, Camel Pose, for example.  This position with the chest lifted and arms extended is the physical expression of joy and gratitude.  Practicing this posture will trigger an emotional response which, as you might imagine, can bring immediate hope and relief to someone experiencing a depressed state.

There is another way yoga might prove useful.  Something I also consider to be a key element in yoga’s ability to ease depression is the way in which yoga practice reveals to us how we treat ourselves.  Listening to that internal dialogue can be extremely helpful.  Are we accepting of our self?  Are we critical?  Is this thought or this way of thinking useful to me?  One of my favorite yoga quotes really sums this up:

“Yoga is the perfect opportunity to be curious about who you are.” -Jason Crandell

Yoga eliminates hiding from yourself by bringing forth confrontation of both physical and emotional blockages during asana practice.  While the physical blockages may seem obvious (the tight hamstrings, shoulders, etc.), the emotional experience in your yoga classes might be confusing at first.  You may find yourself feeling angry, scared, or disappointed during class, and sometimes it may seem completely out of place.  Great!  Take this as an opportunity to acknowledge, accept and feel your emotions completely.  Allow yourself to be curious and to practice not judging yourself.  Simply ask yourself, “I wonder where that came from?” and let the healing begin.  For once you ask the question, or perhaps it is simply the act of asking the question, your mind is opened and your heart is opened as well.  Yoga class can offer such wonderful and much needed emotional release.

So please, take these 60-90 minute classes and get to know yourself, accept yourself, love yourself and heal yourself.


Lindsay Fields




Cleaning Your Yoga Mat

After a few hot yoga classes your mat might lose that New Mat Smell.  Okay, truthfully, it might be down right stinky.  These are my preferred methods.


yoga matsHOMEMADE CLEANERS: for light washing periodically, maybe even after every hot yoga class to maintain a fresh, functional mat.  Just spray, wipe and hang to dry.  Here is what I use:  To a 32 ounce spray bottle add 1 cup vinegar.  Fill the rest with water and add 15-25 drops of your favorite essential oils.  You can also add 1 tablespoon castile soap or mild detergent (optional).  Experiment with your essential oil blends.  Just know that essential oils are extremely strong and only a very small amount is needed.  Tea Tree oil is perfect because of its antibacterial properties.  Lavender and Thyme are also wonderful.  Another combination I like is equal parts rosemary, clove, eucalyptus, cinnamon and lemon essential oils.  According to stories, this mix was used by a group of thieves who robbed the dead and dying victims of the bubonic plague.  The robbers did not contract the infection and for this reason the blend is known as the Theives Blend.  Added bonus – it smells wonderful!  A very simple homemade cleaner would be water and Thieves Blend only.*

WASHING MACHINE: Most people don’t realize you can wash your yoga mat this way.  I do it every 2-3 months.  Use cold water and don’t over do it with the detergent.  Stop the machine before the spin cycle.  Hang your mat and allow to dry completely.*

*Some mats are made of different materials (rubber, jute, etc.) and require special care.  Always check the care instructions when you purchase a yoga mat.

Also, I’d like to add that vinegar in the rinse cycle is great for getting that sweat smell out of your yoga clothes and towels.  You just have to run an extra rinse cycle at the end.  Baking soda added at the beginning of the wash cycle also works wonders.

Here’s to a happy, healthy yoga mat and practice!

Sun Salute

Hot Yoga: So, Why the Heat Anyway?

This is probably the question I am asked most often as a Hot Yoga teacher.

Yes, the room is intentionally heated to about 90-95 degrees and in some studios, even hotter (Bikram studios will be around 105).  While it is true that the heat is not necessary to practice yoga, it is absolutely safe and, in fact, has many benefits.*

Sun Salute

Here are a few examples:

  • The heat warms your muscles which allows for extra flexibility and a deeper release in your body with less chance of injury and improved resolution of injury.
  • Capillaries dilate in the heat. This in conjunction with the specially designed asanas (yoga postures) helps to oxygenate the tissues, muscles, glands and organs more effectively.
  • Improved circulation. The body, as it is trying to regulate a safe body temperature, increases heart rate and volume of blood ejected from the heart with each beat in order to transport heat from the body’s core to the skin surface.  The benefit of this is improved circulation to your extremities.
  • It is great for endurance and willpower. A challenging environment strengthens self control, concentration and determination (if you can do this, you can do anything).
  • Sweating flushes toxins through the skin which, after all, is the body's largest organ of elimination.

All that said, the heat will effect people in varying ways and caution should always be exercised.  The heated room is a tool and not something you should have to survive against.  Always listen to your body and take care of yourself.  Proper hydration is essential before, during, and after class.  As the sweat rate increases in a hot yoga class, body water loss increases, and without adequate fluid replacement, the body’s ability to dissipate heat is compromised.  Electrolyte supplements like Ultima Replenisher are also helpful, especially when beginning a hot yoga practice and acclimatization process.

One final note, I have found that reminding myself of the benefits that the heated room brings during a difficult part of class completely shifts my energy and I am able to push though those layers of self doubt.  It is my hope that this information also helps you in your personal practice.

Here are some related Hot Yoga articles:

What to Expect at Your First Hot Yoga Class

What is Hot Yoga and How is it Different From Other Yoga Styles

Hot Yoga Hydration Tips

Thanks for reading!






*Practicing yoga in a heated environment is contraindicated for people with Multiple Sclerosis. Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise regimen.

(ref. "Physiological Concerns while Exercising in the Heat " by Leslie S. Funk )