Beginner's Yoga: Everything You Need to Know
What is yoga?
The word "yoga" comes from the Sanskrit root "yuj", which means "to yoke" the spirit and physical body together. Yoga has evolved over thousands of years to embrace a wide range of styles and disciplines.
Yoga is a popular activity for athletes, children, and seniors, and can be modified to suit all levels of fitness. Yoga has been proven to lower blood pressure and increase strength and flexibility. It also energizes our bodies and calms our minds.
Yoga Quick Guide
- Aerial: Fluid, acrobatic yoga... in a hammock
- Anusara: Playful. Expect to laugh and go upside down
- Ashtanga: Athletic and vigorous.
- Bikram: Consistent poses in a very heated studio
- Hatha: Foundation for many yoga styles. Great for beginners
- Hot: Make sure to bring a towel
- Iyengar: With a focus on structure, usually uses blocks, straps for support
- Kundalini: Focused on meditation and breathing
- Power/Flow/Vinyasa: An athletic and physically challenging style.
- Pre- and Post-natal: Gentle Hatha yoga is ideal for pregnant women to help lower stress.
- Yin: A slow class that will take you deeper than you've ever gone.
Here's the extended version of each style mentioned above:
It's easy to free your mind when a hammock is gently cradling you and gravity does the work of deepening your stretch. The compression-free inversions can be terrifying at first until you realize that the hammock has your back. Aerial yoga is all about trust...and the blissful sensation that you're floating.
Expect a playful class with a strong focus on proper alignment and Tantric yoga philosophy (not what you're thinking). Anusara (like most yoga) is derived from Hatha yoga.
This practice is very athletic and made up of six vigorous series of postures. It's one of the oldest forms of yoga and is considered to be the foundation of much of the yoga we see today in the west.
You're going to sweat more in a Bikram class than you ever thought possible. The 90-minute Bikram yoga class consists of 26 postures and breathing exercises repeated twice in a room heated to 105 degrees with 40 percent humidity.
Hatha is the foundation of every style of yoga mentioned here. Traditional Hatha yoga is a holistic path that includes disciplines, physical postures (asanas), purification procedures, breathing (pranayama), and meditation. Hatha practiced in the West consists of mostly physical postures and is also recognized as a gentle introductory yoga for people new to yoga.
By adding heat it is said that classes will help you lose weight, loosen your muscles (by adding increased range of motion) and improve your cardiovascular system. It differs from Bikram's in that the series of postures are not always (but can be) in any particular order and modifications are often offered.
Expect a class emphasizing healing the body and mind through use of supported postures. One of the oldest forms of yoga, it's for a person who loves technical intricacies and is also great for people who are new to yoga or have any issues with their health.
Don't be surprised if your waving your hands like you just don't care or laughing uncontrollably, this practice is intended to wake up the kundalini energy coiled at the base of your spine while activating chakras (energetic centers in the body), as well as detox the body and mind.
Many say Power yoga is the Western interpretation of Ashtanga. It is sometimes done in a heated room and focuses on breath as fuel for the practice. This practice can be challenging for beginners, but is a nice balance to more gentle forms of yoga once you become comfortable with the different postures.
Derived from Ashtanga yoga, expect a class full of rhythmical flow (often combined with music) connecting each moment with unifying pranayama (breath). Classes can be more meditative or focused on the natural movement of the body, almost like dancing through postures. A great transition from Hatha when you're looking for more of a challenge.
Some believe that Yin yoga is the oldest form of Hatha yoga, since it is the ideal method of physical conditioning for prolonged meditation. Don't let the props and gentle movement fool you—this is not a form of restorative yoga. The long holds require that you focus and release all effort from the muscles.
Your body is your best guide. You don't have to stick to one kind of yoga, just do what your body needs! There are many other styles not mentioned here that we encourage you to discover for yourself.
What to wear to yoga
Proper alignment in yoga postures is an important part of the practice. Choose clothes that are not too baggy and that help you and your yoga instructor make sure you're not doing anything harmful to your body. In more physical types of yoga and especially in hot classes, expect to sweat. Wear clothes that dry quickly, wick moisture away, and will keep you as comfortable as possible to get the most out of your yoga class. Fabrics with stretch will help you feel most comfortable as you move from pose to pose. Whatever you choose to wear to class, you should be able to move freely and feel good.
Yoga props and blocks
Yoga blocks and straps are great tools for beginner to seasoned yogis. Some styles of yoga, such as Iyengar, require more use of yoga props (such as straps) than others to help you better align yourself in a pose or get into "hard to reach" postures. Try sitting on a yoga block with your legs crossed to help open your hips up.
Check out available yoga blocks and straps
You're going to be spending a lot of time up close and personal with your mat. Yoga mats come in a variety of colours, sizes and thicknesses. Are you a traveling yogi? Look for thin travel mats that fold up so you can take your downdog on the road.
Our global ambassador Chris Chavez recently stopped by our office to teach a yoga class over lunch. Check out a sneak peek from the video:
Watch Eoin Finn, global lululemon ambassador, demo a sun salutation for you:
For more from Eoin, check out the Blissology Project at http://www.blissology.com.