Yoga is best known for using poses, breathing, meditation and diving deeper into spirituality. If you’re new to yoga maybe your first thoughts are of someone wrapped up like a human pretzel, celebrities in see-through yoga pants or maybe even vegan, hemp-wearing hippies chanting ‘Om’.
Yes, those are all stereotypes which you can, and probably will see during your first forays into the Yoga world… if you haven’t already! But even without all the poses, chants and well… suspiciously thin material used for certain yoga pants, there’s actually so much more to Yoga.
When you put aside the unfortunate stereotypes and myths that might otherwise scare you away, you’ll find a practice that can be very beneficial to your mind, body and spirit.
In fact, if you want to get technical about it – and who doesn’t? – take a look at the Oxford dictionary which defines Yoga as follows:
Yoga is a Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practiced for health and relaxation.
With something as esoteric as Yoga can be, you won’t be surprised to find that it suffers its fair share of strange and unusual myths. We’ve talked about this before, here, but just to refresh your memory a bit, these are some common ones:
You have to be flexible to practice yoga.
Yoga is a form of religion.
Only vegetarians practice yoga.
Yoga is for thin people.
Who Should Do Yoga
Yoga is for everyone. There are so many diverse forms (over 10) that you won’t be hard-pressed to find at least one which suits your tastes.
Are you an athlete? Yoga is for you.
Want to relieve stress? There’s a yoga form for that!
Just want to sweat…profusely? Yep, Yoga’s got your (hot) back.
What Are The Benefits?
Yoga is good for the mind, body and spirit, which means that you’ll benefit in each of these areas to some degree.
Helps you tone your body, become more flexible, stronger, longer and leaner.
Improves respiration, energy, and vitality. When you focus on your breathing, you learn to relax, clear your mind and let the stress and tension out of your body.
Helps relieve pain while also improving your athletic abilities.
Helps you relax and handle stressful situations more easily.
Teaches you to have a more focused mind.
You’ll also learn to focus your energy and become more body conscious, as well as gain greater awareness of your feelings.
People who practice yoga, especially the meditation side of it, often talk about the spiritual benefits from insight and illumination to the sense of unity with everything.
Where to do yoga
If you’ve seen or heard of Tara Stiles then you’ll already know that the gym or yoga studio is not the only place you can practice yoga. She rocks her personal yoga practice all over New York city, from the streets to the subway. In fact it’s poetic to see her practising such serene and peaceful poses in the midst of all the hustle and bustle, noise and activity.
And she’s not the only one! Here are some other city yogis doing their thing:
In other words: the world is your Yoga playground, so don’t be afraid to use it.
The Many Types of Yoga
The Yoga Newbie
These styles of yoga are for those brand new to yoga or new to working out period. Anyone recovering from an injury or if you just want something peaceful to do with less spirituality can start here:
Gentle Hatha uses postures (asana) and conscious breathing (Pranayama) in combination with mental focus to develop awareness, strength and flexibility, and relaxation.
The Intermediate Yogi
This yogi has dipped his or her toe into Yoga… and liked it! Now you want to delve a little bit deeper into the philosophy and practice of Yoga.
The Experienced Yogi
You regularly practice yoga, but now you want to go even deeper into the mental and spiritual aspects of it. Spirituality is a large component of your practice and lifestyle – you seek to align the poses and breath-work with the spiritual components.
The Fitness Yogi
If you love fitness and finding fun challenging ways to get a workout, but you’re not really interested in the spiritual of philosophical sides of Yoga, then there’s still something for you!
The Adventure Yogi
If you’re the kind of yogi who just wants to have fun, then take a Yoga ride on the wild side with a few of these more adventurous forms.
AcroYoga blends the wisdom of yoga, the dynamic power of acrobatics, and the loving kindness of healing arts. These three lineages form the foundation of a practice that cultivates trust, playfulness, and community.
Paddle surfing is great, it promotes balance, strength and general fitness. When you combine it with Yoga it’s even more awesome – is that possible? Yes!
It provides an isometric workout that strengthens your core muscle groups, while giving you a fun and exciting way to view the natural surroundings.
By now you should have some idea of which yoga class you would like to participate in. So try a class out at your local gym or studio, and see what difference it makes for your mind, body and spirit – Namaste!