Common yoga questions answered

2016Mar21_Yoga_AYoga can seem a bit like a cult. Dozens of people line up in a classroom, all dressed in similar outfits, moving in unison and sometimes chanting words in a foreign language. To an outsider, this odd display of behavior can bring up a lot of questions. So if you’re scratching your head, wondering what’s the deal with this whole “yoga thing”, here are some answers to common questions the yoga curious ask.

What is yoga?

Yoga originated in India over 2,000 years ago. While today most people perform yoga through a series of postures and stretches, the original practice of yoga was much broader and included 8 total practices, which were referred to as “limbs”. The postures you see students performing in your local gym are one of these 8 limbs; the others include concentration, ethical guidelines, breathing exercises and a few others.

The original purpose of the posture-based yoga practice was to purify the body and prepare it for long meditation sessions. If you were to follow this and the other 7 practices, you would hopefully achieve the ultimate goal: samdhi, referred to today as enlightenment.

So does that mean yoga is a religion?

When you see how serious some students take yoga, you can see why it’s sometimes misinterpreted as a religion. However, yoga by no means qualifies as one. It should be noted that it was originally created as a philosophy (as described in the previous answer above), and some of the more devout practitioners today would still consider it a way of life. With that said, modern-day yoga can really be whatever you want it to. It can simply be a means to improve your flexibility, mental focus and health, or it can be a serious discipline that shapes every aspect of your life. Regardless of what yoga means to you, there are many varieties that are a far cry from religion. These include rage yoga (which involves cursing, screaming, and sometimes drinking beer), cat yoga, stiletto yoga and more.

Do you have to be a vegetarian to practice?

Vegetarianism in yoga is a hotly debated issue. One of the original principles of yoga philosophy stresses non-harming to self and others. Some interpret this to mean you can’t eat meat, as doing so harms animals. And if you choose to eat your triple cheeseburgers, steaks and mounds of bacon, you may be scrutinized by some of the old-school members of the yoga community. However, most fellow yoga practitioners won’t bat an eye, and will even enjoy that philly cheesesteak with you.

The point is that practicing yoga and eating meat is a matter of choice. You are free to do so if you’d like. And in today’s modern yoga scene, most people could care less whether you do or not.

How many times should you practice per week?

To achieve some of the benefits of yoga, aim to practice at least one hour a week. By doing so, you should notice your body becoming more limber with less pain and a slightly increased mental focus. However, if you want a more dramatic difference, aim to practice for an hour, 3 or 4 times per week. This can help you develop better posture and more muscle strength, greatly improve your disposition and provide an array of health benefits that include lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.

How is yoga different from stretching?

On the surface, it’s easy to see why some people think yoga is just some glorified stretching practice. When you look closer though, there a few key differences. For one, most yoga classes try to sync your movement with breath. For example when you move into a stretch, you will breath in, and then exhale when you release it. Also, yoga requires you to pay attention to more than just the stretch and posture you’re maneuvering into. You’ll also be aware of what’s going on in your body, mind and breathing process. Becoming more aware of these three things will help you develop focus and mental clarity both on and off the yoga mat.

We hope these five answers will help shed some light on these common yoga questions. If you have more you’d like to ask or are interested in joining a class, call us today.

Published with permission from FitnessAdvisory. Source.

Don’t let these yoga myths fool you

Yoga_164When you think of yoga, what image comes to mind? Is it some hippy chick with pink hair in skin tight yoga pants doing a scorpion pose? Or is it a dark skinned, half-naked, bearded man wrapping his legs behind his head? Whatever you think of, you probably have some preconceived notion about what yoga is, the type of person who does it, and what the ideal yogi looks like. Forget all that. And while you’re at it, forget about these four myths as well.

I’m not skinny or young enough to practice yoga

When we see pictures of women doing yoga, they’re almost always incredibly lean, young 20 or 30 somethings. And when you attend a yoga session, you’ll see your fair share of these women. But is this really the only type of girl who does yoga? If you look around the classroom more, you’ll notice there are a range of other body types. There are some women who are short and stout, others who are heavy set, and even those that are in their 50s or older.

Age and waist size aren’t what yoga is about. Yes, yoga is an exercise that can help you lose weight. Yes, a lot of young people do it. But more importantly, yoga is a practice that can develop your mental focus. When you’re sweating, practicing crane pose and focusing on your breath, the little problems of everyday life tend to melt away. In time, you can carry this added focus outside of the yoga classroom and into your day-to-day activities. It will help you be a better you and focus on the bigger picture, one that runs much deeper than appearances.

Practicing yoga isn’t part of my religion

Whoever came up with the idea that yoga is religion? Maybe it’s too many movies or YouTube videos of women chanting “aum” and saying “namaste”. In all fairness, there is a connection between Hinduism and yoga. But this doesn’t automatically make you Hindu for practicing it. People all around the world celebrate Christmas. Not all of them are Christian, and nor does it make them automatically believe in the ten commandments.

Whether you’re Atheist, Christian or Buddhist, yoga is for everyone. Religion is only involved if you want it to be.

It’s slow and boring

Just because you have one bad romantic relationship, doesn’t mean all of them will be bad. The same goes for yoga. One class you attended may have been slow and boring, but another can be completely different. From the “slow and boring” Gentle Flow yoga to the fast-paced Ashtanga and the intense workout of Bikram, try out different types and see which one fits.

Yoga will automatically give you a flat tummy

Yes, yoga can give you a flat tummy or tight butt. But just because you started attending class once a week doesn’t mean you’re going to achieve those results next month. In fact, there’s no exercise that’s going to produce instant results or a flat tummy overnight. A healthier, leaner body comes with regular exercise and the right diet. If you do yoga, do it because you enjoy the practice. If you don’t enjoy it, then find something else you do like. You’ll have the most success in achieving your fitness goals if you can find an exercise or practice that you’ll stick with in the long run.

When it comes to yoga, don’t believe what everyone else is saying. If you’re really curious about it, go ahead and try it for yourself. If you like it and decide to stick with it, you’ll quickly see that these myths really are just nonsense.

Want to learn more about yoga or give it a try? Contact us today to find out more or join one of our classes.

Published with permission from FitnessAdvisory. Source.