This is a long post on yoga practice for beginners. And, because most of us are too busy to read something this long in a single session, we have broken it down into bite-sized, digestible sections that you can dip into.
For easy navigation click on these index links. And to get back here click on the “back to index” links at the end of each section.
Introduction to Yoga
Yoga is something different to most people. It’s quite diverse, and most beginners at yoga have different expectations when they start. And in fact, some people think that yoga is a bit “Out there.” That’s perfectly okay.
Whether your goal is greater enlightenment, a more toned and muscular body, or relief from disease, there’s a yoga style for you. This post will be your guide.
As a philosophy, yoga has been with us for 5,000 years. And, to be sure, it is a philosophy, or a way of thinking rather than a religion. In ancient India, the word yoga simply meant union. And this refers to a union of the entire self – mind, body, and spirit.
We achieve this union through a number of physical poses. These are frequently called asanas. But in fact, asana is just one of many types of yoga. And today’s researchers are discovering the many Benefits of Yoga.
Yoga can increase spirituality. And it is also able to heal, soothe or alleviate many physical ailments and diseases. These include stress, heart problems, and immune system disorders. It also increases physical flexibility, which can help reverse the aging process. And the more vigorous yoga practices are considered cardiovascular exercises.
As a yoga practitioner, along with a proper diet, you will be able to lose weight. But note that the gentler types of yoga do not have cardiovascular benefits, so you will need to supplement gentle forms of yoga with cardio exercises.
Why are people becoming interested in yoga?
The most common reason for the increased interest in yoga is to improve flexibility and physical health. However, besides the physical benefits, yoga also boosts the mental power and paves way to spiritual enlightenment.
For most practitioners, yoga provides a spiritual awakening that makes yoga become an important part of their lives. It is a wonderful process of gradual personal growth and development. And the essence of yoga is always to become a better version of oneself.
The Science of Yoga
People have practiced yoga for thousands of years. Its original purpose was to raise the individual to a higher spiritual level, but over time it became clear that yoga benefits the whole person, spiritual and physical.
Modern scientific research has demonstrated the tremendous overall physical and mental health benefits of a yoga lifestyle. Yoga is all to do with becoming a better version of yourself and getting connected with the real and authentic you as the mind becomes more uncluttered.
It keeps us focused on the present. We start out with yoga on the mat. But then we find that it gradually extends into our entire day. This is because it engenders a greater compassion and awareness that becomes a part of our life. Yoga won’t provide untold wealth but the physical and mental benefits are remarkable
The world is already replete with abundance, much of which we are blissfully unaware of as we go through life. So the real beauty of yoga is that it grounds us to the present, and in that way connects us to the abundance that is within our grasp. We will find a better, more fulfilled life within our reach when we simply let go and just accept what is there.
Each yoga pose, which typically involves some stretching, has its own purpose and benefit. One of these is to allow the practitioner to become aware of tension and learn to release it.
Yoga poses are very specific and precise. But, while perfection comes with practice, this is not the ultimate goal. Yoga involves a lot of stretching, and the effect of this is to create balance by increasing flexibility and strength
Yoga is extremely diverse and it is focused on the individual. And this makes it important to work at your own level of comfort. You work the poses in the best way for you. This is not a competition and you have nothing to prove. Yoga is a lifetime commitment, not a short-term contest.
Even if you are out of shape and not used to exercising, you can still practice yoga. And it is important that you think of yoga as always a work in progress. It is a journey that does not have an end. This is a good thing, because once you get into it, you won’t want it to end.
And remember, although you start out with yoga as a physical practice, yoga will find that it will inevitably touch on your spiritual side
The Benefits of Yoga
20th and 21st century research has found a myriad of physical and mental benefits to practicing yoga.
Relief from Stress
Stressors fill our daily lives. And we know with certainty that stress can cause immense damage to the body and mind. But holding yoga poses, stretching muscles, being focused on the present, and breathing deeply and slowly all help us achieve a state of greater relaxation, harmony, and relief from stress.
Yoga and Pain Relief
Studies have proven that the practice of yoga has the effect of providing great relief for people suffering from arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and other chronic conditions.
Yoga and Breathing
Yoga combines physical movements with breathing. Slower, deeper breathing can alleviate stress.
Yoga and Flexibility
The stretching that is part and parcel of Yoga strengthens our muscles. And because yoga affects the entire musculoskeletal system, we experience greater elasticity and flexibility from head to toe. We also find that It loosens tight and tense muscles, and helps us remain more relaxed.
Yoga and Weight Management
You will find that, when you practice yoga, you become more aware of what you eat and the effect such food has upon your health. This naturally leads to healthier, better eating habits and a pretty much automatic loss of unwanted weight.
Yoga and Circulation
Your health will suffer, if your blood isn’t supplying your brain and body with oxygen sufficient, Proper circulation is necessary for the brain to function, production of energy, and the growth of cells. Most yoga poses involve thorough stretching and this improves circulation.
Yoga and Cardio Health
People who have experienced heart surgery also tend to experience anxiety and depression. But yoga can be helpful in alleviating this kind of post-operative stress. It can also lower blood pressure, thus serving as a heart-healthy preventive measure.
There’s No Hurry – Take Your Time
These benefits will take time to achieve. Yoga is not a two-week miracle program. So, as you begin with your yoga sessions, allow sufficient time for the results to manifest themselves.
Yoga has become quite trendy these days as practitioners in their fancy and fashionable yoga pants and colorful yoga mats head toward their favorite popular yoga studios to attend their weekly yoga session.
However, many these fashionable yogis are probably unaware of the long history of yoga. This is a history stretching back to ancient times in the spiritual roots of India.
People today practice yoga for their health, but yoga itself is rooted in a rich spiritualism that ancient yogis spent a lifetime mastering.
For ancient yogis, yoga was a way of life and mention of yoga in Hindu literature first appeared as far back as 1500 BC
It is clear from the literature that the original concept and purpose of yoga was to elevate those who deserved it to a higher level. This is a level that would connect the individual to the universe as a whole.
But for ancient Buddhists, yoga wasn’t even a specific discipline. It grew out of the desire to control and harness both mind and body in such a way as to attain high spiritual goals.
These spiritual leaders saw that, while man is fallible, he is always capable of self-improvement by making dysfunctional thinking truly functional. They saw the potential of the mind as a tool to engender inner peace and relieve suffering through broadening the consciousness of the individual consciousness and becoming receptive to new ideas.
In old writings we see the description of several levels of being, with yoga practitioners reaching the next and then higher level through increased knowledge. And by the third century AD, yoga was an accepted Buddhist practice involving a spiritual quest pursued through meditation
Later developments in Yoga
Over several ensuing centuries, the practice of yoga became a more sophisticated way of attaining important personal and spiritual goals, although as a practice it was still far from today’s set of poses
It became more meditative and intended to help “transcend” human suffering and rise above it. It was also used to deepen and broaden human consciousness such that it became a path to personal enlightenment
By the eighth century, a mix of poses and meditation known as hatha yoga came into practice. And yoga came to be seen as a means to resist destiny and regain control of the self. So we can see that the beginning of training and controlling the mind is clearly emerging.
Up to the 15th century, while the West was in a state of constant strife and war, Eastern Buddhism was focused on peace of mind. And by this time, yoga was shifting its emphasis away from transcending pain and towards achievement of a higher plane of existence
Yoga, as the old spiritual quest of Buddhism, didn’t reach the West until the late 19th century. And yoga, as we know it today, only started to become popular in the U.S. in the 1940s, as younger Americans started taking yoga classes.
By the 1980s, the health benefits of yoga became more widely known and its popularity increased. And its practice was seen as more of a physical than spiritual endeavor by the majority of practitioners
By 2018 the popularity of yoga in America had increased massively to some 36 million practitioners, with flexibility and stress relief being the most popular reason for taking it up..
However, while mastering the physical aspects of yoga is important, it is equally important not to lose sight of its spiritual benefits. Thousands of years ago, yoga was a preparation for the spiritual enlightenment of meditation. It was designed to relax the body and prepare it for meditative practice.
This ancient purpose holds true today. After all, the nature of mankind has not changed.
So, to nurture your spiritual side, keep in mind the Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga:
- You have unlimited potential. And yoga’s purpose is to help you reach a high level of consciousness.
- The universe is filled with abundance. To receive, learn to give.
- The universal law of cause and effect is known as karma. This means that your actions, whether negative or positive, will come back to you in equal measure.
- Don’t resist life’s forces. Your desires will be fulfilled when you least resist.
- Achieve clarity on what your intentions and desires are.
- Don’t struggle. Be receptive to all the opportunities that come your way.
- Know what your true purpose in life is.
Mind Body Connection – Yoga and the Emotions
The purpose of yoga is and always has been to connect the body to the mind.. That is what the Buddhists had in mind thousands of years ago. Because, even then, it was clear that when the mind and body work as one, the whole self becomes healthier, more aware, and better able to function at a higher level.
But how exactly are the mind and body connected?
People who are conscious of their feelings and thoughts are better equipped to deal with stress and life’s adversities. They form better and healthier relationships.
Ultimately, they believe in their ability to succeed. We all face setbacks. It’s how we handle adversity that makes the difference. Unexpected events can lead to depression, anxiety, stress, and confusion. Even welcome events, such as marriage, a new home, or new job can stress us out as we face an unknown future.
The body responds immediately when our mind experiences turmoil. Everyone with experience of life is aware of this. It’s a reminder that the body is there to tell you that all is not well within your mind. So, whether we are conscious of it or not, the mind and body work constantly as a team.
So, where does Yoga come into play?
As our mental awareness increases with yoga, we gain greater awareness of our underlying thoughts and emotions. And this allows us to acknowledge and express them rather than keep them hidden and let them fester.
Appropriately expressing negative emotions allows us to deal with them and put them behind us. So when we deal effectively with negativity, we are able to acknowledge the more positive aspects of our lives.
Sometimes, we can become so overwhelmed, we no longer see anything good or positive, even if it is all around us. But yoga can provide that necessary balance.
Yoga fosters a healthy outlook that boosts the overall quality of our life when we need it. This is because a healthy mind-body connection provides us with the ability to better cope with adversity as we become more resilient.
Resilience is a skill that can be learned and developed. It prevents us from being victims of circumstances and gives us greater control over our lives. And we can strengthen our resilience through relaxation and by developing a calmer outlook.
Yoga and Emotions
Both meditation and yoga are very valuable tools for helping us take greater control over our feelings, thoughts, and our life in general. We eat healthier, sleep better, and connect with others on a higher level, when we are in control.
The myriad of ways that the mind impacts the body became clearer during the 20th century, when repeated studies reveal how stress and emotions can inevitably become linked and connected. They especially affect our immune systems. A weakened immune system can leave the body vulnerable to colds, inflammations, and infections.
Fortunately, physicians these days are adopting a more integrated approach to the health of their patients. More and more are recommending yoga and meditation not only for stress, but for the alleviation of cardiovascular diseases, as well.
So, discuss the overall benefits of yoga with your doctor. Whatever the state of your mental and physical health, it can always be enhanced.
Yoga Strength and Flexibility
Strength training, usually in the form of lifting weights or CrossFit, has been gaining popularity.
Increasing bodily strength is important to prevent osteoporosis (the loss of bone mass) and sarcopenia (the loss of muscle mass). This happens naturally as we age.
Strong muscles are essential in helping keep joints healthy and prevent injuries. And this protects us against falling as we age.
While the benefits of strength training are proven and clear, some people question whether practicing yoga counts toward increasing strength and muscles. This may be especially the case for athletic males, who view yoga as a “girlie” kind of activity.
But can yoga really build strength and muscles? Well, yes and no. It depends on the type of yoga you practice. Certain types of yoga, such as the deliberately gentle Restorative Yoga fall into the No category. This doesn’t make them any less effective as a yoga practice. It just means that more people, especially older people, can enjoy the benefits of yoga.
However, there are yoga exercises that are physically very demanding and challenging and would be difficult for even a strong male. Yoga poses, such as Planks and Warrior require support of the entire body and will certainly develop muscles and strength.
In this way, yoga can even be better at building strength than some other forms of exercises. For example, Ashtanga and Vinyasa Yoga can increase strength through the greater repetition of poses, especially in the upper body region and legs.
What’s more, holding poses for a longer period of time, say up to two minutes per pose, is a terrific muscle enhancer. But just keep in mind that it takes time to build that type of stamina.
Yoga and Muscle Building
If building muscle is an individual goal, you need to ask, ‘How much muscle is enough?‘
For maximum muscle-building, weights can certainly bring you faster results than yoga. But many many people use both yoga and weightlifting for some dramatic bulking up.
But, unlike weight training, yoga isn’t specifically geared toward the physique. It is much more than exercise. With weightlifting, you are pretty much limited to building muscles. And you can do it indefinitely by simply adding more additional weights.
However, with yoga, you build strength in a more balanced way. This is because as all muscles, big and small, are built up. And with yoga the emphasis is on strength rather than bulk.
Your body acquires greater strength resilience and lets you use that strength in all physical activities, such as bending, lifting, and twisting. In this way, rather than becoming a more muscular looking person, you are becoming a stronger person.
You can include other types of exercise within your yoga program. But yoga by itself, if you practice it regularly, will improve your body and add strength and flexibility, as you persist with the program.
Yoga stretches are widely known for improving flexibility. And flexibility and balance become especially important as we age and become vulnerable to falls and injuries
Many people are under the impression that you need to be flexible in the first place, before starting a yoga practice. But the opposite is true. You can start out on your yoga practice in any physical condition and you will keep improving your flexibility.
With yoga, it is for example easy to focus on 3 specific areas of the body: hips, shoulders, and hamstrings. Daily yoga stretches will increase your flexibility tremendously as you provide these muscle groups with a real workout. On a regular yoga schedule, stretch out just to the limit of your comfort threshold, and expect to see results very soon.
Yoga and Mental Focus
But remember that yoga is very much mind-centric. And if you have rigid attitudes, such as that things should be done only one way, you are limiting your mental power. It may be that your mind is just made up about certain things, and you see no reason for further exploration.
Try to let this go. The purpose of yoga is to unleash your mental powers and in so doing it will engender change in all areas of your life.
Yoga and Cardio and Weight Loss
It is simply a fact that exercise, especially aerobic exercise, is beneficial for heart health.
Heart disease kills hundreds of thousands of people each year in the US. It occurs as plaque in the arteries starts to block the free flow of blood. But it is completely preventable. The major causes of heart disease are obesity, inactivity, a poor diet, and smoking. However, a yoga lifestyle usually works to remove or limits all of these factors and helps achieve improved cardio health
Many people avoid the word “exercise,” as they imagine pumping furiously in an aerobics class or jogging endlessly around a track. However, while these exercises are certainly beneficial, they are not the only ones that can help us maintain a healthy heart and longer life
Yoga’s gentle but challenging poses, can actually work to produce the benefits of aerobic exercise but in an easier way. In fact, there have been numerous studies comparing yoga to no exercise at all and comparing yoga to regular aerobic exercises
When compared to people who engage in no physical exercise or exertion, practitioners of yoga show clear and significant improvements in cardio health. They lose weight and achieve significantly lower blood pressure. And their cholesterol levels also improve.
Yoga research studies
It came as a big surprise when people who engaged in regular aerobic exercise were compared to a yoga practicing group. The yoga group came to achieve pretty much the same level of benefit as the aerobics group.
A group of independent researchers, the Cochrane Collaboration, confirmed the results, but did indicate that the length and intensity of a person’s practice of yoga did figure into the findings.
In other words, people who attend a weekly yoga class will enjoy fewer benefits than those who practice yoga several times a week or on a daily basis.
Many Americans suffer from a cardiac issue called atrial fibrillation. This is an irregular heart rhythm that can arise out of stress, high blood pressure, and excess weight. But, as with regular heart disease, atrial fibrillation can be prevented too.
Another study at the University of Kansas used a group of 52 patients suffering from atrial fibrillation and had them engage in two weekly yoga sessions for several months. The study found that the yoga participants enjoyed a lessening of anxiety and blood pressure together with an improved heart rhythm.
More recent evidence suggests that yoga, when practiced regularly, produces the same heart benefits as more traditional aerobic exercises. In fact, a study of the American Heart Association found that transcendental meditation can lower the risk of cardiac death in almost half of the patients with heart problems
Another study at the Medical College of Wisconsin assigned half of a group of patients with high blood pressure to a yoga-transcendental meditation group and had the other half taking blood pressure medication. The yoga-meditation group practiced for up to five years on a 20 minutes per day schedule.
The study showed that almost half of the yoga-meditation group had a reduction in heart problems when compared to the group on blood pressure medication.
So there is clear evidence that yoga has a significant positive impact on heart health.
Yoga and Weight Management
While certainly there are quicker ways to lose weight, yoga can definitely help you shed a few pounds.
It’s simply a fact that yoga doesn’t burn the same number of calories as aerobic exercise. An hour of yoga will burn around 150 calories. But an hour of walking will burn over 300 calories.
However, there’s more to weight loss than just burning calories, even if yoga does provide a healthy workout. Yoga does help us burn some calories. But more to the point, yoga increases our awareness of our bodies and the food we use to fuel it. Check out this authority.
If your diet consists of burgers and fries, the enhanced mind/body connection that comes with yoga will reinforce your awareness ot the toxicity of certain foods and make you reach for healthier, more life-affirming choices
Toxic food will simply become less appealing. This means that most people start reaching for a salad instead of a burger
However, if you do want to lose weight on your yoga regime, you should opt for the more strenuous types of yoga, such as Kundalini Yoga and Yin Yoga.
Mind and body
When you combine yoga and meditation, you open up the mind to new ideas and ways of doing things. Yoga is meant to alleviate inner fears and open up new, life-enhancing possibilities. So, when it comes to yoga, you will soon enjoy a stronger and more limber body, as well as a mind that becomes open, flexible, and curious.
Just below is a link to a video about meditation and busy people.
Types of Yoga
And that naturally brings us to the subject of the various types of yoga.
There are so many different types of yoga discipline as to cause confusion. And this makes it tough for a beginner to pick one. But don’t let the variety stop you from diving into the yoga pool. This is because there are certain types of yoga that are geared toward beginners. And these are your best options when learning about yoga movements.
And always bear in mind that it is your yoga teacher who can make or break the experience for you.
In order to begin yoga at home, you need to get yourself a mat, towel (or yoga blocks) for when you need support, and a strap as an aid to certain bending poses
Hatha yoga is a very general type of yoga and this makes it difficult to define. It consists of gentle movements without a continuing flow between each pose. This makes it easy for beginners to master the basics
Hatha Yoga is very adaptable to the needs of the individual and individual physical conditions. It is a great way to increase strength and flexibility while at the same time reducing the risk of injury. It is probably the best place to start and learn basic yoga poses before moving on to more arduous movements and positions
In Hatha Yoga, the focus is on holding a pose and strengthening balance. Hatha Yoga is a slow-moving school of yoga. So if your goal is to move fast and break a sweat, this is not the best option for you. The main benefit of hatha yoga is a decrease in blood pressure and stress, as the body learns to relax.
Vinyasa Yoga has a faster pace than Hatha Yoga. And with Hatha Yoga, poses can flow rapidly, one into another. These are rather like the sequence of dance steps. Each movement is linked to an inhalation and exhalation, so movement is coordinated with breathing.
However, there are no strict sequences from one pose to the next. So your yoga teacher can “mix and match” the poses to vary the routine.
Vinyasa Yoga is not as gentle as Hatha Yoga. And it can push the boundaries of strength and flexibility. It can provide a wonderful cardio workout, as your body is continuously moving, except when doing the restful Downward Dog pose.
And, like Hatha, Vinyasa is an excellent starting point for beginning yoga students.
Iyengar Yoga is an extension of Hatha yoga. It is specifically focused on bodily alignment and can be tremendously healing. Iyengar Yoga increases strength and flexibility through slow stretching movements that are held through a period of time. Iyengar Yoga tones the muscles and calms the mind.
Better bodily alignment can strengthen muscles, help with pain, and improve posture. Iyengar yoga embraces the whole body and will improve digestion and circulation. When you have a healthier, better body, you find that better lifestyle choices will naturally follow
This form of yoga can use props such as belts and chairs to improve body alignment. It is perfectly appropriate for beginners
Ashtanga Yoga tends to be more structured than some of the other yoga schools. There are a series of six movements, and each must be mastered before moving on to the next. Ashtanga Yoga challenges strength, endurance, and flexibility. So it is best to attempt Ashtanga Yoga after gaining some familiarity with other yoga disciplines.
Ashtanga works the entire body and results will come quickly. It does require a disciplined commitment, and most practitioners of Ashtanga perform the exercises every day.
Bikram Yoga has 26 specific poses. And in each Bikram session these are completed in a structured sequence. Each session lasts for around 90 minutes. And the twist to Bikram is that it is practiced in 105 degrees heat! As with a sauna, this adds the benefit of ridding the body of toxins.
As you might guess from the name, one performs Hot Yoga in a room with a temperature between 92 and 105 degrees. It differs from Bikram in that Hot Yoga is unstructured. It does not have the 26 specific poses of Bikram Yoga. It is suitable for beginners but you have to take into account the additional challenge posed by the heat.
Kundalini Yoga uses meditation to energize the body. It has a powerful effect on the mind, because it increases awareness and strengthens your inner self. This allows for a more authentic you. With Kundalini Yoga you have a blend of movements, chants and breathing.
Yin Yoga combines the mental with the physica. It is specifically designed to provide both energy and calmness for a busy mind.
The benefits of the regular practice of Yin Yoga are a sense of calm, reduction in stress, improved circulation, flexibility, and greater joint mobility. The exercises are done on the floor and involve holding poses for a long period of time.
Yin Yoga affects the lower body parts, especially thighs, hips and spine. Poses are held for five minutes or even more.
We live in a world that is dominated by people who like to think of themselves as Type A personalities. It is a world that continuously attacks us with mental and sometimes physical stimuli. And this can easily overwhelm and overload our minds, including the Type A minds..
But when we are always on the move and feeling a sense of urgency, our bodies are unable to relax, and our minds cannot find. And consequently we spend much of our energy in suppressing unwanted emotions and thoughts.
But Yin Yoga can restore balance to mind and body. The long poses stretch the tissues and strengthen the body while at the same time allowing a calming awareness into the mind.
Restorative yoga restores your mind and body. It is easy, slow-moving, with poses that are held long enough to provide a state of complete relaxation. You can use props such as towels and blocks to help you maintain and sustain your pose.
Restorative Yoga will help slow you down when you find everything around you becoming crazy and hectic. Think of Restorative Yoga as providing an isle of tranquility in a crazy world.
Your body’s first line of defence against inflammation and disease, from cancer to flu, is a healthy immune system. And to function properly, it is necessary for your immune system to be in balance.
Yoga poses and the immune system
Do you ever wonder why some people catch every bug that is making the rounds, while others appear to be immune? It is times of stress that can render our immune system especially vulnerable. And some people appear to be more vulnerable than others.
Yoga is a natural stress reliever and relaxant. It is an excellent way to keep our immune system in top shape. It can provide that necessary boost during times of stress.
A study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine shows that yoga can be helpful in reducing inflammation. Researchers looked into whether the practice of yoga could affect inflammation during 15 separate trials. And most of the studies were done using easy, Hatha poses
These studies showed a pattern of yoga indeed causing a decrease in inflammation and also having other positive effects on the body. And the best yoga programs were those that lasted up to12 weeks of hourly sessions. Consistent practice was found to be the key to success.
Basic Yoga Poses
Basic rules for yoga poses:
- Do wear comfortable clothes.
- Don’t practice asanas on a full stomach.
- Do not force any yoga pose to the point of pain. Yoga should be painless and should feel comfortable. Your strength and flexibility will improve with unforced practice.
The Mountain Pose is where all standing poses start. It may look as easy as if you are just standing there. But the point of it is to make you feel grounded.
Stand straight with your feet naturally apart. Press all ten toes into the ground. Raise your knees and inner thighs in an upward lift. Tuck your tummy in and raise your chest. Keep your shoulders down. Hold the palms of your hands in toward your body. Inhale and you will feel your chest rise. Hold the pose for 5 seconds.
This is one of yoga’s most popular poses. Get on your hands and knees and make sure that your knees are in line with your shoulders. Keep your head neutral.
Exhale while raising your spine up and keeping your head down. Inhale while lowering your spine and raising your head toward the ceiling. Do this several times
Downward Dog Pose
Another favorite animal among yoga enthusiasts, this is a wonderful stretch.
- Get on your hands and knees with hands flat on the floor.
- Inhale and raise your knees up. Your heels will lift. Raise your butt up toward the ceiling.
- Another favorite animal among yoga enthusiasts, this is a wonderful stretch.
- Go down on your hands and knees and keep your hands flat on the floor.
- Inhale and raise your knees up. Your heels will lift. Lift your butt up toward the ceiling.
- As you exhale, lower your heels and straighten your knees, until your legs are straight. Keep your arms braced as you straighten them.
The Downward Dog can work wonders for sinus congestion. This bending, downward pose also helps with infections, since it helps drain the lungs.
The camel pose is good for Bronchitis and will also help with neck and back pain. It can be strenuous for your back, so check with your doctor before getting started.
Start by stretching your spine using the Cobra Pose. This is a great warm-up and helps prevent too much strain on the spine. It is difficult to master the Camel Pose right away. So take your time and work your way up towards the full backward extension. Remember, you should never force any yoga pose.
Kneel on your mat with your hands on your hips. Tuck in your chin and then press your lower spine toward the floor. Arch your pelvis forward. If you need to, you can place your hands by your tailbone. Once you have mastered this, bring your arms back and hold onto your heels. Stay in the Camel Pose for around 60 seconds, or until you start feeling uncomfortable.
Whatever type of yoga you practice, it will help strengthen your immune system. The forward and backward bends described above are simply extra helpful in giving your system a needed hand.
Sit with your legs and buttocks and legs pressed into the floor. Stretch your legs open. Inhale. Then, as you exhale, lower your torso close to the floor. You will feel the stretch in your inner thighs and spine. Keep the pose for 10 breaths. Place your hands beneath your knees and take hold of each leg.
Depending on how flexible you are, you can lean forward as far toward the floor as you are able, but without forcing it. Expand your chest by inhaling. And then exhale as you fold your body downward.
Exhale and place your feet around 4 feet apart. Stretch your arms up perpendicular to the floor.
Shift the left foot 60 degrees to the right and the right food 90 degrees to the right. The heels should be aligned.
Exhale as you bend your right knee over your right ankle. As you practice this, your right thigh will become parallel to the floor.
Raise your chest and bear down on your left foot. You should feel stretching from the back of your left leg up to your belly. AS you do this, bring the palms of your hands together.
Remain in this pose for 30 seconds. Then inhale and push your back heel into the floor while reaching up and straightening your right knee.
Take a deep breath. Then reverse the legs and repeat the exercise.
Extended Puppy Pose
This pose will stretch the spine and at the same time soothe the mind.
Get on your hands and knees. Move your hands forwards and curl your toes under.
Exhale while bringing your butt back to your heels. Keep your arms stretched forward and at the same time keep your elbows off the ground.
With your butt above your heels, lower your forehead down toward the floor. Feel your spine stretch. Breath into your spine and hold the pose for 30 seconds.
The Triangle stretches and tones the entire body. Stand with your feet far apart. Lift both arms to shoulder height. Turn the right foot out by 90 degrees and the other foot in by 45 degrees.
- Lower your right hand to your knee, or if you are able, touch your ankle.
- Raise your other hand to the ceiling.
- Hold the pose through 8 breaths. And then repeat the exercise with your other side.
Lay on the floor with your face down. Your legs are stretched behind without touching. Put your hands palms down underneath your shoulders with your fingers pointed forward.
As you pull your chest and head upward, inhale. As your arms straighten keep your hands pressed into the floor. Hold your shoulders back, as you raise your chest.
Don’t force any lift that doesn’t come naturally. Hold the Cobra Pose for up to 30 seconds.
The Tree Pose helps achieve and maintain balance while standing on one foot. This is a great asana for beginners.
Start by standing with your feet together. Raise your right foot as high as you can, to the upper left thigh. Lift your hands and press the palms together. Keep looking ahead while maintaining your balance.
- Move to the Plank Pose from the Downward Dog.
- Inhale and lift your torso forward until your elbows are on the floor.
- Press your lower arms into the floor and gaze at the floor
- Hold the Plank Pose for 30 seconds and work up to 1 minute. This pose is designed to build strength. Keep breathing and make sure your shoulders are relaxed.
How to Get Started Doing Yoga
As you set out on your yoga journey, you should keep at the forefront of your mind how important your mental attitude is for your success. Physical flexibility and agility will come with time and practice. But to begin practicing yoga, you need the right mindset.
For a beginner, yoga can be very confusing. For example, even choosing the right yoga outfit can be a headache! So how on earth do you decide which yoga practice is best for you to follow?
So, it’s best to start by just relaxing, laying back, and considering the following as your roadmap to a successful yoga practice:
Rid Yourself of Expectations
If you have looked at pictures of yoga poses, you might have found them intimidating. You might have had thoughts like, “I could never contort myself like that!”
But keep in mind that the person in the photograph may have taken years, even decades, to achieve that level of expertise.
So do understand that yoga is non-judgmental. And it is not a competition. Age and body shape are only mental limitations and have no effect on your ability to begin your yoga practice.
If you are physically unable to do a particular pose, there are a dozen other poses you can master in comfort.
Find the Right Teacher
As you probably figured out in high school and college, the right teacher can make a huge difference in any class. If you don’t feel motivated and inspired by your yoga class, perhaps you have the wrong teacher.
Consider whether the teacher is teaching things that you need to learn. A good teacher will guide you step by step along the journey. So, if you feel at a standstill, perhaps the teacher is not for you
Can you ask the teacher questions?
A good yoga teacher is available before and after class for his or her students. And he or she will listen and address individual concerns. If your teacher is not approachable, find one who is.
Don’t hesitate to ask your teacher about his or her training or philosophy. The best type of teacher is someone who views yoga as a continuous work-in-progress and is still studying with his or her own teacher.
It’s the Yoga, Not the Outfit!
Yoga has become so trendy, people are actually fretting about which designer outfit is best and what color mat they should buy. But all you need for yoga is a simple pair of leggings, shorts, tank top, or T-shirt.
You’ll want a yoga mat that lasts, so do choose a quality mat. It will be an excellent investment.
There are ways to practice yoga on a budget. The local YMCA, gyms, and some community centers frequently offer yoga classes at low rates. And during warm weather, yoga groups may meet at local parks./ When signing up for classes, buy in bulk
Some yoga studios offer “Karma Yoga” classes. These classes are free in exchange for doing some work at the studio, such as manning the front desk and cleaning up after a class
The Best Time to Practice Yoga
Traditional yoga involves sunrise or sunset. So get up an hour earlier than usual and do your asanas before you do anything else.
You will find that this energizes and activates your body and mind in the best possible way. The physical poses get your body going, while the breathing clears the mind.
Setting your intention for your yoga practice will bring yoga into your daily life. Yoga was originally developed as a spiritual quest and intentions clarify your purpose in practicing yoga.
Perhaps it focuses on a personal quality that you wish to improve or enhance. Perhaps you hope for greater patience, awareness, or compassion toward others. Maybe you wish to let go of past hurts. Make that real in your mind.
Your intentions are the bridge between your poses and the rest of your life. Yoga is not like walking out of the gym and forgetting about it until the next class. The mental practice should become a part of your daily life
Before You Begin, Talk to Your Doctor
You should discuss any possible limitations with your doctor before getting started. And having a doctor who is knowledgeable and supportive of yoga is a tremendous asset
Slow and Easy Does It
If yoga is a new experience for you, it is natural to be excited and jump right in. But yoga is a slow and deliberate process.
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Each session should be devoted to making poses easier. So, if certain poses are more difficult than others, simply practice them more until they become easier. There is no time limit for mastering yoga poses.
When poses become easier, go a bit beyond your comfort zone to reach the next level, but never to the point of physical discomfort
Begin at Your Own Starting Point
Joining a new yoga class, where everyone else seems to know what they are doing, can be intimidating. But ignore this and savor who you are every step along the way. Self-acceptance is the essence of enlightenment. The spiritual side of yoga encourages compassion. Start with yourself.
Avoiding Yoga Injuries
Practicing Yoga should be as safe as walking. That said, injuries are still possible, and you should take care to avoid them. So here are a few basic rules to follow:
- Avoid alcohol and don’t practice yoga on a full stomach. Remain hydrated at all times.
- Every yoga class should begin with warm-up exercises.
- Make sure you are dealing with a qualified teacher
- Don’t attempt poses for which you aren’t ready. This can cause severe muscle strain. Attempting poses for which you are unprepared is one of the leading causes of yoga injuries.
- Learn your body’s limitations and respect them.
- If you are having a bad day, accept it and don’t attempt difficult poses that may have been possible at other times.
- Certain areas of the body, such as neck, lower back, knees and hamstrings are particularly vulnerable to injuries. Take care with any poses involving those body parts.
- It is easy to become lightheaded when changing poses, so be sure to remain hydrated at all times
- Most yoga poses can be modified by using blocks or towels. Don’t hesitate to use these modifications until your body is able to create the poses more effortlessly.
- Don’t begin yoga by jumping into risky poses, such as a headstand. This can cause serious neck injury. Work your way up to the more difficult poses.
Yoga and Meditation
Yoga is a bridge between meditation and spirituality. Early Buddhists practised yoga in order to prepare for meditation. Meditation, like yoga itself, is secular. It can be practiced by anyone. The purpose of meditation is to quiet loud mental clamor and chatter and thus calm the mind.
- See our related post on meditation here.
Benefits of Meditation
- Meditation helps us become more aware of our inner life and outer life.
- It provides insight to improve our relationships.
- Being aware helps us act in the moment rather than acting out of habit.
- Meditation helps us become less critical of ourselves and others.
- Meditation helps us avoid acting out of random emotion and lets us analyze facts before taking action.
- Meditation reduces stress and anxiety.
- Meditation helps you adapt to changing circumstances.
How Does Meditation Work?
Much research has been done on meditation over the past decades. Physically, meditation lowers our blood pressure and calms our nervous system. When we meditate, our heart rate and breathing slow down.
Through greater awareness, meditation allows us to change the way we think about past experiences. And regular meditation can change any negativity about the past, such as to allow you to accept more positive thoughts and emotions.
Studies have revealed that meditation can actually change our brain structure. People who meditate have enhanced those areas of the brain dedicated to awareness and focus.
A study at Harvard University has shown that while age can diminish certain areas of the brain, regular meditators retain the brain capacity of someone decades younger. For anyone seeking a higher level of existence, meditation clearly has much to offer.
Another Harvard study showed that with regular meditation, areas of the brain that deal with fear and anxiety were reduced, while areas involving empathy and compassion became enlarged. Changing how our brain reacts is the ultimate in taking control of our lives.
How to Start Meditating
Like yoga, meditation requires commitment. It is an ongoing process. The more we meditate, the better we get, and there are no limits to how well we are able to meditate. Ancient and current Buddhist spend a lifetime on meditation and self-empowerment. So here are some tips on getting started.
- Meditation requires a quiet place.
- Most people close their eyes and focus on their breathing, noticing every inhale and exhale.
- Start with just a few minutes – it is surprisingly difficult to sit quietly for any length of time because we are used to being constantly active.
- Work your way up to half an hour or forty-five minutes.
- Try to meditate at the same time every day so that it becomes a daily habit.
- Find a comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed.
- Meditating after getting up in the morning can get your day started on a positive note; however, meditating before going to bed can help you sleep better.
Finding Time to Meditate
Claiming not to have enough time is simply an excuse not to get started. You don’t own time; you make it by getting up half an hour earlier in the morning. If you have your own office, close the door during lunchtime and use the hour, or part of it, for meditating
One of the most useful types of meditations is mindful meditation. It brings greater awareness to our thought and emotions
Many people are chained to negative thoughts, frequently about occurrences from years past. But mindful meditation allows us to acknowledge those negative feelings, then put them aside so that they no longer have the power to control us.
Mindful meditation is based on one critical axiom that cannot be overstated: You Are Not Your Thoughts.
Some people feel controlled by their negative emotions. But mindful meditation puts you in control.
Like yoga, meditation can change areas of the brain, increasing our ability for enjoyment and decreasing the areas responsible for depression and anxiety. So instead of having our mind jumbled with thoughts and feelings, mindfulness keeps us in the present to deal with what is happening now. This is a skill that we can learn.
How to Meditate Mindfully
Find a quiet place, preferably with natural light. Ensure that you will not be disturbed. If you can find a peaceful place outdoors, it would be ideal.
Half an hour is a good amount of time to set aside for meditation. But you can start with just five minutes and increase your time gradually. Like yoga, it should be easy and not painful or uncomfortable.
It is helpful to have a timer set to keep you from glancing at your watch.
You can use a chair or sit on the floor using cushions. If on the floor, cross your legs in a comfortable lotus position, which is the traditional Buddhist meditating stance. If you are sitting on a chair, have your feet touch the floor or use blocks on which to rest your feet.
Conclusions About Yoga
People have been practicing yoga for thousands of years. Yet it is still attracting new advocates, especially those in the medical profession. So there is no doubt that it has a lot to offer as we attempt to reach a higher level in our existence.
So, in conclusion, here are some key takeaways about yoga
- Yoga puts us in touch with our spiritual essence.
- Yoga will improve our breathing, immune system, circulation, heart rate, and cardio health.
- There are many different types of yoga, some easy and gentle, while others are. extremely demanding. They all provide benefits, but we should choose the yoga that is best for us.
- Nothing in your yoga practice should be forced or painful.
- Yoga poses affect our entire body as they stretch our muscles to the limit.
- Yoga connects the mind with the body to create one functioning unit.
- Use the following rules as the best way to approach your yoga sessions.
- Your poses will improve with practice, but it should never be a competition with the rest of the class.
- Finding the right teacher will make a big difference.
- Many people begin yoga with certain expectations. Ignore them.
- Start slowly. People practice yoga for decades and are still striving for perfection.
- Before you begin a yoga class, check with your doctor.
- Meditation is an important part of yoga.
- Yoga can add much to your life and can help you become a better version of yourself.