MY VERSION of YOGA 101

5 Apr

My yoga journey started July 2011. Originally I went to the yoga classes offered at my gym just because they were there. I wanted to get more fit and I decided to check out yoga. I was 62 years old at the time and I was experiencing yoga for the first time in my life. It was very challenging. I strained and struggled. Okay, I admit that I probably even grunted a time or two! Flexibility? I was like a board! Balance? Sure, balance wasn’t a problem if I could hang onto the wall! But fortunately I kept going to the classes.

By December 2012, I was becoming increasingly curious about the health benefits of yoga.  By Valentine’s Day of 2013, my love of yoga had blossomed.  By March 20, 2013 I was starting to experience even more from my practice.  Now, I am part of the #doyogaeverydamnday yoga challenge.  There I get to share my daily yoga experience with others who also love yoga. What’s fun about now is that when I look at pictures of me doing yoga poses from the early months, I see all the opportunities for fixing my alignment. Before, I was just happy to get into the pose at all! My view of what is possible continues to expand.

As far as I can tell, I’m the oldest person doing the challenge which is an interesting position to be in. While the other yoga challenge participants may see me as old, I don’t see myself in that way. Instead, I imagine how my 100 year old self will think about me at this age. She’ll see me as quite young – a novice. Imagine what I will be able to do after 36 more years of yoga practice! You think I’m being unrealistic? These 90 year old yoginis wouldn’t!  Here’s an interview with a 95 year old yogini.  I’m getting a late start but better late than never!

I’m now at the point where I want to know more than just how to do some yoga poses. So, I’ve gathered some information about yoga. It’s still pretty basic but it’s a start. If you want a more in depth explanation of yoga, you’ll find a great review of Carol Horton’s comprehensive book entitled Yoga PH.D at Body Divine Yoga’s blog. 

In the meantime, here’s some getting started information.

COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT YOGA

  • Is yoga good for something beyond stretching?
    • If you’re talking about the Vinyasa and power yoga styles, you will get a great cardio workout!
    • All styles of yoga lengthen, tone and strengthen your muscles. This can support your efforts as runners, cyclists, golfers, tennis players and many other sports!
    • The restorative and yin yoga styles are particularly great for reducing stress by helping you relax, focus and calm your emotions.
    • Increasing your balance is another great benefit of yoga.
    • Although it doesn’t have to be, yoga can offer a great framework for a spiritual practice for those who seek that.
  • Is yoga about religion?
    • Yoga originated in India and is often associated with Hinduism but modern yoga is quite different. Yoga is a practice, not a religion. Often you’ll hear the word ‘Namaste’ and you’ll see people putting their hands in a prayer-like position but these things aren’t done in a religious way. The word Namaste means “the divinity in me respects the divinity in you.” It is offered as a gesture of great respectfulness. This is also true of the prayer-like hand position. For thousands of years it has been an Indian greeting of respect. Yoga means union and is designed to connect the body, breath, spirit and mind. It’s fair to say that yoga is a lot of different things to different people. It’s up to you to decide about your own practice.
  • How often should I do yoga?
    • This will depend on you and your goals. When I started, I went to classes twice a week. Now I do yoga daily. As your practice evolves over time, you will know when it is time to devote more time to it. It seems wise to start slowly but to be consistent. Keep realistic goals so that you will enjoy success along the way. As time passes and as you become more comfortable doing yoga, you will know what is right for you.
  • Do I have to take classes to learn yoga?
    • At first, classes make learning yoga easier. Your yoga instructor is there to provide needed information and feedback. Classes also provide the structure needed to develop an ongoing practice. With that said, there are lots of people who use free online resources to learn yoga. If you want, you can learn without ever going to a formal class.
  • What equipment or supplies are needed?
    • You’ll definitely need a yoga mat. There are some other commonly used yoga props which can be helpful but they aren’t mandatory. Yoga blocks and a stretch strap are the most commonly used props you might want to consider getting. The blocks are usually foam and are used to sit on or lie on. The strap is used to help you build flexibility. Since you need clothing that will allow unrestricted movement, you probably want to consider getting some yoga pants and tops. If you practice a restorative style of yoga, your clothing doesn’t need to be as fitted. If you do any of the other styles, baggy shirts will fall over your face while doing poses like Down Dog and inversions!
  • Is it ok to eat or drink before doing yoga?
    • Since yoga involves being upside down and twisting, it’s not such a great idea to eat or drink too much for two hours before you practice. I can personally testify that eating right before doing Down Dog pose isn’t a good idea!

HOW TO GET STARTED WITH A HOME PRACTICE

Here are some links to some free online classes:

DoYogaWithMe 

MyYogaOnline (gives 2 weeks of free yoga instruction)

Yoga For Beginners – a practical guide

Be More Yogic (some free)

MODERN YOGA

Here’s a great summary of the different styles of yoga. 

If that’s a little too much detail for you right now, here’s some getting started information.

Yin Yoga is a restorative, gentle yoga style.

B.K.S. Iyengar created a style of yoga that focuses heavily on alignment and on the use of props. It is very intense but slower.

Vinyasa yoga involves a series of dynamic poses that are referred to as flow. This is a more athletic style of yoga that links movement with breath.

Ashtanga is possibly the most rigorous style of yoga.

ANCIENT YOGA

For those interested in a little more background information, here’s link to a summary written by William J. D. Doran. This summary talks about the book entitled Yoga PH.D written by Carol Horton. It’s a very interesting book.

Namaste and have fun with yoga!

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