It’s one of those pastimes that has seen an uplift in lockdown. If you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon here’s a brief beginner’s guide with everything you’ve ever wanted to know but been afraid to ask
The word ‘yoga’ is thought to mean ‘union’– taken from the Sanskrit word yuj which means to join – referring to the striking and flowing of poses to unify body and mind. Specifically, yoga focuses on matching breathing patterns with poses that take your body through a full range of motion, to help promote flexibility, mobility and a sense of calm.
Thankfully, to start yoga at home you need very little equipment. In fact, you don’t even need a mat – you could kick off with just a towel.
TERMS YOU MAY HEAR
To the newcomer, the world of yoga might seem all too much. What’s the difference between hot yoga and cold yoga? Between downward facing dog and upward facing? It can seem overwhelming! So here’s a quick rundown to ‘demystify’ yoga…
Jivamukti – Has its roots in Ashtanga yoga and includes a dynamic mixture of asana (postures), pranayama (breathing techniques), meditation and chanting. The purpose of Jivamukti yoga is to remind Western civilization of the original intention of yoga, which is to provide a practitioner with a path to enlightenment; to intertwine a holistic approach to living into every class and allow that approach to life to flow with grace into every moment through compassion for all living beings.
Hot Yoga – The benefits of hot yoga have been established time and time again. Incorporating everything yoga stands for – mindfulness, balance of body and spirit, alleviation of stress and anxiety; along with the detoxifying benefits of the added heat, the rewards of hot yoga are countless.
Great for beginners as well as experienced yogis, hot yoga – carrying out yoga in the heat – is designed to stretch and strengthen muscles through a sequence of static asana (postures) which leave you feeling stronger, renewed, and flexible. The heat enables joints and muscles to loosen and open up, allowing a more free range of movement while cleansing your body from within.
Hot Flow/Vinyasa – Hot Flow yoga tends to be for the more experienced yogi… but everybody has to start somewhere! Rather than going into and out of static yoga poses, the various postures are connected through a fluid sequence, leading into more advanced material.
Don’t Sweat It – Yoga’s ability to de-stress you before or after a busy day at the office can do wonders for your working day. Heading straight from work to the yoga studio can really help you to leave your work at the office and achieve a peaceful mind-set to take home with you.
BENEFITS OF YOGA
Improves your flexibility – One of the first and most obvious benefits of yoga. Initially you may not be able to touch your toes, never mind do a backbend. But if you stick with it, you’ll notice a gradual loosening and eventually seemingly impossible poses will become possible. You’ll also probably notice that aches and pains start to disappear.
Builds muscle strength – Strong muscles do more than look good. They also protect us from conditions like arthritis and back pain and help prevent falls in elderly people. And when you build strength through yoga, you balance it with flexibility.
Betters your bone health – Weight-bearing exercise strengthens bones and helps ward off osteoporosis. Many postures in yoga require that you lift your own weight. And some, like Downward and Upward-Facing Dog, help strengthen the arm bones which are particularly vulnerable to osteoporotic fractures.
Increases your blood flow and heart rate – Yoga gets your blood flowing and help your circulation, especially in your hands and feet. Yoga also gets more oxygen to your cells, which function better as a result. Yoga also boosts levels of hemoglobin and red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the tissues.
Lowers blood sugar – Yoga lowers blood sugar and LDL (bad) cholesterol and boosts HDL (good) cholesterol. In people with diabetes, yoga has been found to lower blood sugar in several ways.
Helps you focus and relax – An important component of yoga is focusing on the present encourages you to relax and slow your breath, shifting the balance from the sympathetic nervous system (or the fight-or-flight response) to the parasympathetic nervous system. If you learn to quiet your mind, you’ll be likely to live longer and healthier.