Why yoga will improve your health and wellbeing:
Let’s first start by defining What is yoga? Well for some, yoga is the physical practice of stretching, moving the body in ways that look and feel beautiful and sometimes outrageous. For others, yoga is breathing, concentrating on the breath and growing it into depth and fullness. Moreover, some think yoga is the practice of sitting in stillness, also known as meditation. Some people think it’s physical, others consider it mental and emotional or even spiritual. So what is yoga? To sum it up, yoga is all the above and more. There is no confinement to what yoga is, as it may be different for everyone. Each individual experiences the ‘yoga’ that is right for them at that phase of their lives, and this may change and evolve over time of course as we do ourselves.
Having defined yoga with no confinements, yoga becomes a practice welcoming all. As long as you have a body and can breathe, you can start a yoga practice.
But why should you?
..Here are some benefits that you may encounter through your practice.
Benefits of Yoga
The most spoken of is that yoga will improve your flexibility and mobility; making your body capable of moving freely with a wider range of motion without stiffness or tightness. It also improves your balance and control over your own muscular body. This makes you capable of simple movements at more ease for example, bending over to pick up things from the ground, balancing on one foot to tie your shoe lace, or opening door handles with your foot when your hands are packed with grocery bags!
Yoga gives you a great deal of bodily awareness and proprioception. So we become more physically aware of where we are in relation to the space around us. It trains us on which muscles to switch on in any position as well and when and how to! This can be relatable to any daily tasks like how to sit on the floor and get back up to standing with ease, maybe without putting your coffee aside from your hand or leaning over a prop beside you, it alerts us to move and sit with grace, and with correct posture.
There are plenty of styles of yoga. However, one benefit that is shared across all types of yoga is the ability to have a longer, deeper and an enhanced quality of breath. I cannot stress enough the importance of breathing, it is the key to our life.. literally to be and stay and be alive. The richer our breath, the more we nourish our internal system and body, therefore the richer our quality of living. The breath has been scientifically proven to have a direct correlation to our mental activity. When we breath in long, smooth and deep waves, we are sending signals to our brain to stabilize it’s activity, for our nervous system to relax as we stimulate our rest and digest mode and for our whole entirety to become more tranquil, focused and stress-free.
Who can practice it?
In general, yoga is a low impact form of exercise, meaning it doesn’t cause a great amount of pressure or stress on any one joint in the body, making it a sustainable practice in the long run and holding very low risk of injury.
Now it’s important to note that yoga is good for all ages and genders. Kids, elderly, teens, adults, males and females are all going to benefit from different kinds of yoga. The practice is surely customable to individual needs and different levels. As there are many types of yoga, almost everyone can find their preferences and what is most suitable for their current health needs. I recommend that if you do give yoga a try, that you give it a true chance! Try not only one, but maybe three or more types of classes.. they can be drastically different experiences, so it’s worth a shot!
There are many different styles and levels of yoga. Here’s a little guide to get you started with attending the right yoga class for you!
Yoga for beginners: this gives it away in the name. This class is perfect for newbies and is usually a slow and carefully explained flow of movements. You can feel free to ask your teacher questions here if you need to. The class is ideal to prepare you before jumping into the yoga world. I recommend attending 8-12 of these before exploring some of the other classes.
Basic yoga: Likewise, this class is very similar to yoga for beginners. It may slightly vary depending on the teacher’s style and the level of students attending. However, it should be manageable for anyone to start with.
Slow flow: Here is where it starts getting juicy. This class will take your knowledge from beginners classes and incorporate it with a flowing sequence and maybe even throwing in a few other new poses every now and then. It is a great class for beginners to also start dipping their toes into a slightly more dynamic style of yoga.
Vinyasa flow: This is a dynamic class. It’s suitable for intermediate or experienced practitioners. At this point you may need to know the names of most of the poses in order to flow with ease and more smoothly. The class may have a quicker pace, depending on the teacher. However, it may also be challenging in other ways such as holding poses for longer and building strength and stability.
Yin yoga: You may also see it as “candlelight yin” or in any other similar variation. It’s the same style, except with candles around the room. Yin yoga is a static practice, usually all done seated or laying down on the mat. It includes holding poses that stretch the muscles and the deep tissue for up to five minutes on each posture. This class is great for a deep stretch as well as for cultivating a calming effect on the body, to recover physically, mentally and emotionally.
Yin/yang: This is a mix of a dynamic flow and a yin class. It’s more of a yang-yin class, as you start with a dynamic physical practice and end with the second half of yin-style yoga. It’s a great way to cultivate balance in our system between effort and ease. Moreover, it’s a good way to experience the two types in one class.
Restorative yoga: (could also be “Restore and Recover” or a similar wording) this is similar set up to yin yoga, however, the focus is not on deeply stretching the muscles and deep tissue. Instead, it is focused on putting the body in comfortable yet varied positions in order to calm down the nervous system. This causes an enhancement in breathing, slowing of heart rate, destressing, digestion, and even improve in sleep patterns.
Acro yoga - Ariel yoga- Inversion classes-Let’s save these for later down the line in your yoga journey. They are tailored to intermediate and advanced practitioners and require a bit more skill, foundation and experience.
“Ok, I’ve chosen a class. What now?”
Well congratulations, you’ve accomplished the hardest step! However, there’s a few things to keep in mind before attending your class. Here are a few tips to get you prepared for your attendance!
Make sure you wear comfy clothes. Whatever you feel comfortable moving and exercising in should be fine. You do not need shoes or socks, so no need to worry about these. Most, if not all, studios will offer you yoga mats, but if you have your own at home, you may bring it with you if you prefer.
Arrive early! Not only is it respectful for the studio, teacher and other practitioners that the class is not disturbed once it starts, but it is mainly for your own peace of mind! Give yourself some time to set up and arrive physically and mentally on your mat and in the space. The less rushed you are, the more focused you will be, improving your physical and mental performance and experience.
When you arrive to the yoga studio, try to be mindful of your voice and steps, there may be another class running at the same time and it’s important to keep the noises down.
Separate yourself from your tech! Keep your phone on silent or hand it to the receptionist in case you think you may receive an emergency call. Consider taking your smart watch off or turn the notifications off so that nothing can distract or disturb your peace.
You are ready to roll out a mat in the studio and sit comfortably until class begins.
Now you are all set up. Enjoy your class and savor the bliss of your breath.
BY Hana El Leithy