1. What is Yoga?
The origin of Yoga dates back to pre-Aryan culture, as indicated by the archaeological excavations in Mohenjodaro, one of the main cities of the civilization of the Indus river Valley. Here many statues have been found, representing deities performing asanas (postures) and practising meditation.
The teachings of what is now considered to be classical yoga have been compiled by the Indian sage Patanjali, around the third century before Christ. Patanjali systematized the teachings of yoga in the Yoga Sutra.
Yoga involves a number of practices - some of which are physical, some are breathing and some are purely for meditation. These practices enhance well-being and can help us to maintain and restore health.
The word Yoga derives from the Sanskrit root "Yuj", to join, and it means unity. One of the interpretations of this unity relates to regaining the lost harmony and union between the different aspects of our being - physical, mental and spiritual, in this sense Yoga can be regarded as the oldest method for self-development and personal growth.
2. I am very unflexible, can I do Yoga?
Anyone can learn Yoga and benefit from it. Yoga is not just for those who are strong, flexible, thin, etc. Yoga is a non-competitive discipline and it gives us the opportunity to come to our mat as we are: working within our own limitations, strengths and weaknesses.
We just need to approach the practices with an attitude of openness and self-acceptance.
3. What style of Yoga should I practise?
Hatha , Ashtanga, Iyengar, Vinyasa flow... just to name but a few of the styles to choose from.
Some styles may focus on more dynamic practices, some may place the emphasis on a slow practice where postures are held for longer, others again bring you more through the experience of connecting the breath to the postures.
The best advice I can give you is to try and see what suits you best.
You may feel overwhelmed by your first yoga experience. Be willing to try a different class and instructor, do go back to a class a second time, and maybe a third, before you decide Yoga is not for you... it will be worth it.
4. What are the benefits of Yoga?
Yoga can help you in many ways, on a physical and mental level. Here are some of the benefits coming from practising Yoga regularly:
* Muscular tension and mental stress are released
* Energy levels increase
* Posture, balance and flexibility improve
* Core strength increases
* Lubrication of the joints, ligaments and tendons increases, thus helping to increase joint range of motion
* All the internal organs are massaged, which also helps to flush out the toxins
* Concentration improves
* Body awareness develops
* Self-acceptance increases
5. What is the best time of the day to practise Yoga?
Yoga is best practised first thing in the morning or early in the evening, around sunset. Morning practice is a great way to revitalize mind and body. Evening practice should incorporate more restful postures, breathing and meditation exercises to help induce a deep, restful sleep. You should drink water before and after class, but as Yoga is best practised on an empty stomach, you should avoid eating a heavy meal 2-3 hours beforehand.
Having said that, it is of course better to fit in your practice whenever you can rather than not practising at all. In the beginning, you may find it difficult to set aside time, but even if you start doing Yoga regularly for 10 minutes a day, it will complement your teacher-led classes and yield benefits. You may find yourself on the path of regular practice sooner than you think:
"Yoga is a light, which once lit, will never dim. The better your practice, the brighter the flame"
6. What do I need to do Yoga?
The only equipment you need is a non-slip yoga mat.
You should wear loose, comfortable clothing, that allow you to stretch and move freely. Yoga is traditionally practiced barefoot, however you can wear socks if you wish.
You may want to bring to class a blanket or additional clothing to keep you warm during relaxation.
7. What does a Yoga class involve?
A session usually starts with a few minutes spent on developing awareness of the present moment, by focusing on the breath, concentrating inwards and becoming physically grounded.
Then it moves into a series of gentle limbering postures, which help to open up and warm up all the joints and muscles.
Limbering postures are followed by strengthening ones, which create heat and energy in the body.
The session then slows down as we move into a series of calming poses, where we allow the body to soften and release before entering final relaxation.
Whilst breath awareness is something we focus on throughout a Yoga class, there are also specific breathing techniques (Pranayama) which will be used in combination with certain postures and practices.