Guest Post: Starting a Yoga Practice
So, you have thought about starting yoga.
Yoga is an ancient spiritual practice, developed over thousands of years ago in India. The main goal of yoga is to calm the fluctuations of the mind, as described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
But, what exactly does that mean?
It means to bring the mind into the present moment; not regretting the past or being anxious about the future, giving all your attention to the present moment, without getting caught up in your thoughts and emotions. For some it may mean moving their body through different postures or asanas, taking a walk in nature or sitting quietly and breathing.
Practicing yoga is usually referred to as the time spent on your yoga mat doing asana. Asana practice brings more balance and awareness into your body and mind. During the practice, you turn your attention inward and focus on your breath. Give the same attention to your alignment, your movements, thoughts, and emotions. Slowly, over time and with constant practice, this attention will spill into your daily life.
Many people start practicing yoga for its physical benefits, some of which include increased flexibility, increased strength and muscle tone, healing from injury, and improved balance and concentration.
Forward bending, back bending, side bending, twists and balancing postures are part of a balanced practice. Certain postures will challenge your physical abilities and others will bring up deep-rooted emotions and fear. How you react in certain postures could be an indication of how you react to real-life situations. This awareness is the first step to make positive changes in your life.
Your current physical condition is not a reason to stop you from starting yoga. It’s not about what you can physically do, but how aware you are of what you are doing. You don’t need special equipment or clothes to practice yoga. Choose clothes that are comfortable and easy to move in. A yoga mat is useful since it prevents slipping but a towel or cotton rug work fine, too. If buying the latest yoga clothes and a fancy yoga mat motivates you to get started or to continue with your practice, then by all means, buy them.
There are more than 100 different types, or schools, of yoga. Most yoga classes typically include breathing exercises, meditation, and postures.
If you have never tried yoga before, search your area for beginner yoga classes. If you live in an area where there are not many yoga teachers or yoga classes available, you can practice at home. Nowadays, there are many online resources.
These are some common names, and descriptions, of yoga classes you’ll find:
- Hatha Yoga – A slow-paced class with easy, basic poses. Poses are held for a few breaths.
- Iyengar Yoga – This is a slow-paced class, it focuses on form and correct posture. Iyengar yoga makes use of blocks, straps, chairs, and bolsters to ensure proper alignment.
- Vinyasa Flow Yoga – A fast-paced class, where students flow from one posture to the next incorporating the breath. Classes are dynamic and are usually sequenced to the rhythm of music.
- Ashtanga Yoga – This is a fixed sequence of postures, balancing breath and movement. Ashtanga yoga classes come in two modalities: Led or Mysore. In a Led class, the teacher calls out the name of a posture and everyone moves in unison. In Mysore style, there is a teacher present but everyone is working on their own set of postures at their own pace. The teacher will add-on postures once you are proficient in the previous posture and remember the sequence. Mysore style is the best way to learn Ashtanga yoga.
- Restorative Yoga – A slow-moving class that focuses on relaxation. Makes use of props to fully relax. Great for students who need to relax and release stress.
- Yin Yoga – A slow-paced class where poses are held for minutes at a time, using props. Yin yoga works on your connective tissue and fascia. The challenge in Yin yoga is to relax into the posture and calm the mind while holding each posture for the required length of time.
- Bikram Yoga – Follows a fixed set of postures in a room heated to about 104°F. Be ready to get sweaty. When trying Bikram for the first time, take it easy- the heat can make the class feel strenuous. Remember to drink plenty of water before and after class.
The good thing about this long list of yoga classes is that there is a style of yoga for everyone. Don’t feel discouraged if you’ve tried a yoga class and didn’t enjoy it- try another teacher, a different studio, or a different style.
Carolyn Young is an integrative nutrition health coach and yoga teacher living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She practices a holistic approach to health and wellness. She’ll guide and motivate you to find a diet that works just for you, fun ways to incorporate physical activity in your life, how to build a meditation practice and create a positive mindset to achieve your health and life goals. Carolyn works with clients online and locally to create a balanced, healthy lifestyle in a way that is flexible, fun and rewarding.
Find Carolyn at www.CarolynYoung.me, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Facebook @Carolyn Young Wellness and on Instagram @carolynyoungyoga.