By Angela Lee
Yoga might be all the rage today, but it’s actually an ancient art that began thousands of years ago in India. The positions in yoga require physical discipline, but yoga also is a mental mindset that requires your mind and spirit to be focused. Yoga is for just about everyone – no matter what age or ability. The earlier one starts, the longer the benefits can last (like a lifetime) and the more valuable it will be. The great thing is that you can start at any time and the research is mounting on how yoga can be good for both physical and emotional health.
Benefits of Yoga
Everyone from Madonna to your best friend seems to be doing yoga! That’s probably because:
- Yoga increases flexibility and physical awareness.
- Yoga incorporates stretching and strength training at the same time.
- Yoga can lower risk to joints and muscles, which lowers your chances of becoming injured. Yoga incorporates a lot of stretching, which loosens muscles in the process.
- Good posture can be improved through yoga.
- Yoga emphasizes steady breathing, which flows oxygen through blood and calms a busy mind.
- Yoga brings a sense of peace and is great for managing stress.
- Yoga also improves mental focus.
If you are new to yoga, pick a style that matches your personality and physical ability. Choosing the wrong kind of yoga can be a turn-off, but you can always try a few different kinds if you’re unsure! And, of course, as with any form of new exercise, consult a health professional before starting yoga.
- Gentle Yoga: A great introduction to yoga is taking a gentle yoga class that guides you in basic relaxation breathing and simple postures.
- Hatha: A slow-paced, gentle type of yoga, good for an introduction to basic yoga poses and movements.
- Vinyasa: Consists of a series of movements synchronized to breathing; more vigorous than Hatha and tends to follow a flow sequence.
- Ashtanga and Power Yoga: Fast-paced and intense, and they include sets of poses performed in the same order (sun and moon salutations). They can be physically challenging because of constant movement from one pose to the next. Some forms are conducted in high temperature studios (90-100ºF). Not recommended for yoga beginners.
- Iyengar: Focuses on body alignment. Poses are held for long periods of time instead of moving quickly from one pose to the next, as in Ashtanga and Power Yoga.
- Trauma informed yoga or trauma sensitive yoga: As the heath benefits of yoga continues to be studied this form of yoga emphasizes regulation of sensations and emotions. It’s orient people to and staying safe and grounded in their body, and can be helpful for those with chronic stress or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Wear comfortable, breathable clothes that are easy to move around in. Form-fitting clothes are helpful, since some yoga poses can cause garments to slide up or down. Yoga is mostly done barefoot, and make sure to put your hair up!
What to Bring
During yoga classes, students are positioned on a yoga mat to prevent the hands and feet from slipping. The mat also cushions the bodies from the hard floor. Many gyms and yoga studios offer rental mats for free or a small fee, or you can purchase one on your own. It’s also smart to bring water and towels, especially if you’re doing Ashtanga and Power Yoga since they can make you sweat more.
Tips for New-To-Yogis
- The best time for yoga is in the morning before breakfast or later in the evening when your mind tends to be less cluttered and you won’t be too full from eating.
- Practice yoga in a place that is clean and free from distraction.
- Avoid eating (except for a light snack if needed) for two hours before class to avoid feeling tired or bloated.
- Master easy poses before moving onto more difficult ones.
- Stop and relax when you feel tired.
- Find a yoga studio with experienced teachers.
- Try experimenting with a yoga app or DVD series.
Yoga is a fun, highly beneficial practice that can shift your body and mind into shape. So grab a mat and some friends and dive into your own yoga journey.
Last reviewed May 2018 by Tara Cousineau, PhD.