Yoga may be described as a set of physical practices designed to promote control of the mind and body and to attain spiritual and physical well-being. The practice of yoga can help to increase self awareness, promote a sense of peace, and increase the body’s strength, endurance and flexibility.
The basic goal of yoga is to unite the body, mind and spirit. However, there are different styles, or schools, of yoga and each will go about achieving this goal in their own way. The practice of yoga is typically comprised of three basic elements which are as follows:
- Asanas. Asanas, or postures, are gentle stretching movements which help to balance the mind and body while rejuvenating the brain, spine, glands and internal organs. Postures are intended to increase the blood and prana supply to targeted organs or glands.
- Pranayama. Pranayama refers to breathing. Yoga involves specially developed breathing techniques which produce a large store of energy in the area of the solar plexus. The energy creates vitality in the body and helps to combat illness or disease. Yoga breathing also improves brain function, helps to eliminate toxins in the body, and promotes relaxation. By combining asanas and pranayama, the result is a state of high vitality and rejuvenation. Yoga breathing is performed through the nose, both on inhalation and exhalation.
- Meditation. Meditation, or concentration, can help to increase the benefits of the postures by concentrating the healing action where it is needed. Meditation may involve affirmations or visualization.
For the beginner, discovering yoga can be an exciting time. When getting started, it’s best to try several different classes. Because there are many different schools of yoga, you may want to try several out in order to determine which you like best. The many styles of yoga may include differences in how the asanas are performed or which element they focus on. However, it’s important that you keep your level of fitness and health in mind and choose classes which are appropriate and not overly strenuous. Some styles of yoga, such as viniyoga, sivananda, and ananda, are generally more gentle and may be a good place for beginners to start. Other styles of yoga like ashtanga, bikram and power yoga tend to be more vigorous and may not be best for the beginner.
Many yoga schools offer beginner classes and a good yoga teacher will help to correct your body alignment while performing postures and also suggest modifications to suit any physical restrictions that you may have. It’s important that you pay attention to your body rather than trying to stretch farther than or even keep up with others in the class. If at any time you feel pain, lessen the pose or come out of it altogether.
Yoga for Beginners Table of contents