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Yoga for Beginners: The Complete Guide to Get Started

Published: 28.07.2021
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Yoga is not some kind of magic, religion, faith, or sect. Yoga is an opportunity to learn how to feel your body, get rid of pain, straighten your back and learn how to breathe correctly. It is a tool to get to know your inner world, to become more relaxed, and to discover the joy of life.

The life of a modern person is sometimes full of stress and obstacles to overcome. All this affects the body: immunity decreases, stooping, fatigue, various neuroses, and ailments appear. That's why more and more people are coming to yoga, the ancient practice of healing the body and spirit.

This material can be considered your assistant on the way, a kind of beacon in the endless ocean of spiritual and physical development. Here are the answers to the first and most important questions about yoga that arise in just beginning their acquaintance with unique, ancient teachings. And, most importantly, we have tried to answer these questions as accessible and simply as possible to make your immersion in the practice was easy, inspiring, full of love and trust. So feel free to bookmark this article: you may have to return to this text more than once so that you don't get lost in the endless labyrinths.

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Introduction: what is yoga

Perhaps when you hear the word "yoga," you always imagine someone twisting into knots, standing on their head, or even hovering above the ground in the "lotus position. Yoga does not just pose, stretching exercises, twists, splits, and all sorts of gymnastic tricks. Yoga is something more, which includes both the physical aspect of human development and the mental, psycho-emotional and spiritual perfection. The word "yoga" itself is translated from Sanskrit as "unity, harmony," and these concepts fully reflect the essence of this teaching philosophy.

The yoga practice helps lay the foundation and tools for good habits such as discipline, introspection, and nonattachment. This exercise also empowers you to make conscious choices to live a healthy and fulfilling life. Many today agree that the root "yuj," from which yoga originated, refers more to inner states such as clarity, peace, and happiness.

Why practice yoga

Perhaps the whole essence of yoga is encapsulated in one phrase, which in Sanskrit is "Chitta vritti nirodha," which translates as: "Stopping the movement of the mind." The realization of this profound statement comes with years of regular practice. Still, more superficially, yoga practice helps one discover one's true nature and sense all the latent possibilities of one's body.

Everyone comes to yoga for different reasons: someone is tired of the endless conflicts with himself and with people around him; someone wants to get healthy, to strengthen muscles, ligaments, joints, and the whole body; someone is interested in the possibilities of his intellect; someone is close to Indian culture and wants to know all about yoga.

There can be many reasons for practicing yoga. Still, the idea is that by practicing yoga, one becomes more positive and joyful, expands the boundaries of his perception of the world, learns to accept events in all their beauty, becomes healthier, both physically and mentally, learns to control his emotions, states, and feelings, starts to look at the world and himself from different angles, constantly improving and evolving.

"Yoga is like music: the rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul create a symphony of life" - B.K.S. Iyengar

A little bit about the main directions of yoga:

There are so many different styles of yoga in today's world, and it's easy to get lost in the variety. Below we will list the primary (most popular nowadays) types of yoga so that every beginning student can find something that suits their temperament and responds to their heart from scratch.

  • Hatha yoga is the most popular direction globally, and the main idea is that to elevate spiritually, you need to prepare your body to the maximum. Therefore, particular attention in hatha yoga is directed at the work on the physical body, on the correct functioning of the spine, and all internal organs and systems. It is believed that when you have prepared yourself physically, psychologically, and mentally enough, then you can approach the deeper aspects of yoga.
  • Ashtanga Vinyasa is one of the most complex, dynamic styles of yoga. At the heart of this style is the continuous repetition of asanas, joined by specific movements - vinyasa. Each activity is accompanied by breathing cycles (pranayamas). By choosing ashtanga, you are sure to quickly train your abs, hips, back muscles, and whole body. By the way, there are six levels of difficulty in this direction. Each group involves performing specific bindings (vinyasa).
  • Iyengar Yoga is widely recognized as the most gentle and static type of yoga. After whom the method was named, its creator wanted to make it so that everyone could practice yoga, even those who have certain physical limitations. That's why at Iyengar yoga classes, there are always props. Also, this style implies a careful adjustment of asanas and an extended stay in them.
  • Raja yoga is yoga focused on working with the mind. You could say that it is the last four steps of Patanjali's classical yoga. Raja yoga involves working with energies, expanding consciousness and awareness of the self through pranayama (breath control) and meditative practices (concentration).

What is hatha yoga

Hatha yoga is a popular physical branch of yoga, also known as yoga poses. It uses physical postures and breathing techniques to "build" a healthy body and mind and help you achieve peace and serenity.

By practicing hatha yoga, you can free your body from the negative power and stress that create an imbalance. It is a form of yoga that begins with your body, leads to the breath, affects the mind, and ultimately works with reason.

When you first start practicing hatha yoga, you may find that some asanas are not easy for you to perform. You may find that you struggle a little or just can't do the asanas correctly. The question then becomes, "Can beginners do hatha yoga?" Yes, of course!

Here are some of the asanas (poses) of hatha yoga that have significant benefits and are quickly learned by beginners under the guidance of a yoga teacher or instructor.

Interesting fact: Regular physical yoga practice can reduce human body weight by 20% in just a couple of months. It is a universal remedy for the healing and renewal of the human body.

Basic asanas for beginners

Mountain pose (tadasana)

The technique of execution:

  1. Stand up straight so that your feet are in contact with your heels and big toes;
  2. Tighten your kneecaps, tense your hips and glutes;
  3. Pull your belly in, give your chest a little bit forward, feel your spine lengthen, with your head looking straight ahead;
  4. Arms may be along the body or above the head lifted up;
  5. Make sure your body weight is evenly distributed across your feet, and you are not "dropping in" on your heels or toes.

Effect:

This asana allows you to cultivate the habit of proper muscle tone and proper weight distribution. It can be considered one of the basic asanas, as it helps to harmonize internal processes and tune in to the practice. An alternative name, samasthiti (stability pose), indicates the stabilizing and calming effect of the pose.

Dogface down (adho mukha shavanasana)

The technique of execution:

  1. Get into a foursome position. Distribute your body weight evenly between your hands and knees;
  2. Make sure your palms are shoulder-width apart and your pelvis is straight over your knees;
  3. Place your feet on your toes and extend your knees, pushing your pelvis back and up. Feel how you move your palms off the floor;
  4. Bend your knees to extend your spine as far as possible from your tailbone to the top of your head. If your heels pull away from the floor, that's okay;
  5. Neck relaxed and head pointing down calmly;
  6. As you progress in the asana, it will become easier and easier for you to put your heels down on the mat. But don't rush into it because the most important thing is to feel the extension of the spine and the back muscles;
  7. Stay in the position for several breathing cycles. Then, when ready, try to step out of the asana gently, bending your knees, shifting your body weight to your heels, move into "child's pose," and rest.

Effect:

This position helps stretch the spine and strengthens the back of the body, arms, and legs. If performed correctly and regularly, this posture will remove tension from the body, relieve pain in the legs and back, and improve blood circulation to the brain.

Warrior pose (virabhadrasana-II)

The technique of execution:

  1. Stand on the mat with your feet wide apart, about 90-120 cm from each other;
  2. Turn the right foot to the right 90 degrees, and the left foot spreads to the right 45 degrees. The toes of the left foot are level with the right heel;
  3. Note that the pelvis should not "go away" behind the right foot. It is turned forward;
  4. Bend your right leg at the knee so that the knee is right under the heel at a 90-degree angle. If you make the first point correctly, you won't have a problem with it;
  5. Lower your pelvis so that the thigh of the bent leg is parallel to the floor;
  6. Spread your arms out to your sides and point your gaze behind your right hand;
  7. Hold the position without interrupting your breathing, releasing fatigue and tension with each exhalation;
  8. After doing asana on one side, do the same on the left leg.

Effect:

Asana strengthens leg and shoulder girdle muscles, helps to reduce fat deposits in the waist and hips, has a beneficial effect on endurance. It gives self-confidence, fortitude, restraint, and patience.

Tree pose (vrikshasana)

The technique of execution:

  1. Stand in tadasana. Lift your right leg, bending at the knee;
  2. With your hand, pull your right shin up to the inside of your left thigh, pressing your foot against your supporting leg;
  3. The knee of the right leg looks to the side, and the supporting leg is strong; the kneecap is taut;
  4. Make sure the pelvis stays stationary and does not "move" toward the left leg;
  5. Raise your hands, or put your palms together in front of your chest;
  6. Concentrate your attention on one point, tighten your crotch muscles;
  7. Stay in the position for a few breathing cycles, then lower your leg and arms, take the tension off the supporting leg and do the asana on the other leg.

Effect:

The balance posture promotes coordination, normalization of the vegetovascular system, harmonization of the internal state, pressure, and hormonal system. In general, all balance positions have a calming effect, help to take control of the emotional state, relax, and strengthen the immune system.

Bridge pose (urdhva dhanurasana)

The technique of execution:

  1. Take a horizontal position on your back;
  2. Bend your knees so that your shins are perpendicular to the floor;
  3. Lift your pelvis with your hands on your shins. You can stop at this position and practice it for gradual mastering;
  4. If you feel you can go deeper into a flexion, lower your pelvis to the mat, place your palms next to your head, and push your chest and pelvis up by pressing your hands off the floor;
  5. Stay in the position for several breathing cycles as long as you feel comfortable.

Effect:

It increases flexibility and mobility of the spine, stretches and strengthens the back muscles, opens the chest and shoulder joints, stimulates the thyroid gland, and increases the chance of losing weight. Being able to stay in this position for a long time speaks volumes about the health of the body.

Triangle pose (uttkhita trikonasana)

The technique of execution:

  1. Stand up straight, with your feet wide enough apart so that they are in line;
  2. Turn the right foot to the right and the left foot 45 degrees to the right;
  3. Spread your straight arms out to the side and stretch your whole body behind your right arm, with your pelvis facing forward and not turning around behind your right leg;
  4. Put your right palm on the shin of your right foot (knees outstretched), straight your left arm up toward the ceiling;
  5. Look up behind your left hand. If you feel comfortable in this position, place the palm of your right hand on the floor in front of the inside of your right foot;
  6. Stay in this position for a few breathing cycles, then do the same pose on the other side.

Effect:

Uttthita Trikonasana opens up the hip joints, stretches the hamstrings, ankles, and tendons, and improves the gastrointestinal tract. Regular performance of asanas will open the chest, improve circulation, and develop coordination and balance.

Twisting pose (ardha matsyendrasana)

The technique of execution:

  1. Sit on the floor with a straight back and stretch your legs out in front of you;
  2. Bend your right leg at the knee and step over your left thigh with your foot;
  3. Use your left elbow to grab your right knee and twist to the right side;
  4. Look behind your right shoulder, trying to curl up harder in the thoracic region;
  5. If you are comfortable in this position, you can deepen the twisting. To do this, return to the starting position sitting on the floor;
  6. Bend the left leg at the knee and press the calf muscle and thigh against each other;
  7. Move your pelvis off the floor and place your left foot under your buttocks. Sit on the foot so that the left heel is under the left buttock. The left foot should be horizontal to the floor, and the outside of the ankle and the pinky toe should be on the mat;
  8. Bend your right leg at the knee and put your foot behind your left thigh so that the outside of your right ankle touches the outside of your left thigh on the floor;
  9. From this position, turn your body to the right, as in the original version, clutching your elbow at your knee, looking over your right shoulder;
  10. Repeat the asana on the opposite side.

Effect:

"An important physiological aspect of this asana is that it stimulates the pancreas, liver, spleen, kidneys, stomach, and descending and ascending parts of the colon. It proves useful in treating diabetes, constipation, dyspepsia, and diseases of the genitourinary tract. It tones the roots of the nerves and adjusts and adjusts the spinal column's vertebrae to each other. The back muscles are stretched in the opposite direction to the normal one, which reduces their tension. This is why matsyendrasana is recommended in cases of lumbago, rheumatism, and vertebral disc misalignment. This is a powerful asana; its stimulating effects can be felt very quickly," quote from the Hatha Yoga Pradipika treatise.

Cobra pose (bhujangasana)

The technique of execution:

  1. Lie on your stomach, put your feet together, palms under your shoulders;
  2. With an inhale, slowly lift your torso, pushing your palms off the floor. Keep your elbows tucked in;
  3. Hold the position for a few inhales and exhales, then slowly deepen the flexion by pulling your chest even harder toward the ceiling;
  4. If possible, extend your arms fully and reach for the top of your head upwards;
  5. Take a few breaths and exhales, then slowly step out of the asana.

Effect:

Asana has a powerful effect on the human body. First of all, it is perfect for normalizing the kidneys and the reproductive system. It activates the glands of internal secretion, helps to increase the volume of the lungs, stimulates the thyroid and parathyroid glands, strengthens the abdominal muscles, and, importantly, helps normalize the digestive tract. In addition, bhujangasana is energizing and gives confidence and strength.

Cow pose (gomukhasana)

The technique of execution:

  1. Sit on the mat with a straight back, stretching your legs out in front of you, palms on the floor;
  2. Helping yourself with your hands, lift your pelvis, bend your right leg at the knee and place it on your shin;
  3. With your hands on your left shin, place it on top of your right leg so that your knees are directly over each other;
  4. Lower your ankles to the floor, toes facing away from you;
  5. Lift your right arm, bend it at the elbow, and put it behind your back with the fingers down;
  6. Left-arm bent at the elbow, put it down behind your back, fingers up;
  7. Grasp your hands in a lock behind your back and lock the position;
  8. Do the same asana on the opposite side.

Effect:

"Gomukhasana tones the muscles and nerves in the shoulder and heart area. The channels of the feet are clenched, affecting the channels that connect to the organs of reproduction and the glands of internal secretion, which are thus regulated. On the pranic level, gomukhasana affects the vajra Nadis and prevents prana from flowing backward. Instead, prana is directed to and accumulates in the Muladhara chakra. Because the fingers of the hands are intertwined, prana also cannot flow through the hands. Gomukhasana creates a complete energy circuit in the back area. The position of the hands is vital in this posture, namely, that they form an outline in the shape of a figure of eight or the sign of infinity. This creates a complete balance in prana - between the higher and lower forces and between its positive and negative aspects," quote from the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.

Birch tree pose, Candlestick pose (sarvangasana)

The technique of execution:

  1. Lie on your back with your legs stretched out. Place your arms along your torso;
  2. Using your abs, lift your straight legs without bending at the knees;
  3. Gently move your pelvis and lower back up, bringing your legs fully upright;
  4. Bend your arms at the elbows and help yourself with your hands, holding your back;
  5. Chin pressed slightly against the body, push the thorax toward it;
  6. Do not strain or twist your head while doing the position;
  7. Stay in asana for a few cycles of breathing, then slowly, vertebrae by vertebrae, lower your back, pelvis, and legs down;
  8. Relax in a horizontal position.

Effect:

In physiology, the shoulder blade stand allows you to rest to the cardiovascular system, improves blood circulation, and promotes rest to the lower extremities. Also, it stimulates the body's endocrine system, improves digestion, tones the body, and strengthens the immune system. Develops balance, resilience, strengthens the abs, arms, back, and buttocks muscles.

Tips for beginners in yoga: answers to important questions

What are the contraindications to practicing yoga at home?

So you've decided to do yoga - great! But before you start practicing the physical aspects of yoga, pay attention to whether you have any serious pain in your body. Maybe an untreated illness that's causing discomfort or a long-standing injury. If you're feeling healthy and full of energy, it's a good idea to start with some basic asanas and learn how to breathe correctly. If you have chronic pain in your spine or know about pathologies of internal organs, it's better to practice with a qualified instructor who will direct you in the right direction.

Asanas, when performed correctly, bring fantastic health benefits, but if performed incorrectly, they can be harmful to the body. Quite often, beginners overdo it in their training and inevitably get injured. To avoid this, take your yoga practice seriously: we recommend taking your first steps with an instructor who can help you adjust the proper body positions. If you have decided to do asanas on your own, try to be as vigilant as possible about your sensations.

You can start small: try exercising with yoga elements or gradually add asanas to your daily workout. For example, the familiar Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) sequence will help warm up the body and bring the emotional background into a more favorable state. Also, you can make it a rule to do a relaxation practice every evening (in yoga, it is called "Shavasana," i.e., "corpse pose"), it has a beneficial effect on the nervous system and the whole body.

Interesting fact: If you have an illness or some kind of trauma, we recommend you attend a "healing yoga" or yoga therapy class. In this direction of yoga, special attention is paid to working with pathological conditions of the body: hernias, protrusion, pain, etc.

"Yoga teaches us how to heal what cannot be tolerated and how to tolerate what cannot be healed."-B.K.S. Iyengar

What shouldn't i do when practicing yoga?

Under no circumstances should you consume mind-altering substances or beverages! This may seem obvious to you, but still, let's pay attention to this: no alcohol or drugs! Also, it is recommended to refrain from smoking tobacco (at least immediately before the class). The fact is that yoga will increase the negative impact of toxic substances on the body, which is unlikely to benefit.

In addition, in an intoxicated state, a person cannot concentrate on the asana, which is extremely important for injury safety. Take care of yourself and practice only in a clear state of mind.

Interesting fact: According to observations, people who regularly practice hatha yoga have no problems and quite quickly give up bad habits. This happens by itself, as the body is cleansed and, in general, becomes more vital. More positive, healthy habits are born.

"The only remedy against bad habits is opposite habits: all bad habits, which have left their impressions, must be overcome by good habits. Do good, stir up in yourself constantly exalted thoughts; this is the only way to suppress low impressions. Never say that any man is hopeless because he represents only a known character, a series of habits that new and better ones can curb. Character is the sum of habits, and only by creating new, opposite habits can it be remade."-quote from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras.

What will i need to practice yoga at home?

Comfortable clothes, a mat. Also, you can buy a unique strap and bricks or be innovative and find auxiliary elements for classes among your things. For example, use a regular belt and books instead of bricks. These items are called "props," which will help you if you do not have good stretching and cannot reach the floor or raise your leg high enough. Here we got acquainted with another term.

By the way, there are supporters of props and those who believe that special projectiles "inhibit" the development in practice. It is up to you to decide which camp you will join. But remember about ahimsa: if you feel pain or discomfort in any position - help yourself. There is nothing wrong with it.

"A cheerful mood is very important for health. It is the best antiseptic you can have, plus the thought that you are healthy. However, at the same time as thinking right, you also need to live right. Don't be a fanatic, thinking you are healthy and yet indulging in the wrong life every day."-Paramahansa Yogananda

How do you know if yoga is right for you?

You may be surprised, but yoga is not for everyone! Even though you can find a lot of information that everyone can do yoga, it's not true. To come to yoga, you have to be ready inside and feel that your whole being responds to the teachings, is open to them, and intends to learn and develop, both physically and spiritually.

Imagine, just yesterday, a person was drinking, smoking, swearing foully, and generally living immorally. Now he abruptly decided to do yoga: it is unlikely that classes can change the perception of such a person in a moment, although, of course, there are exceptions. Yoga is suitable for all those who want to monitor their health, learn to control their emotions, states, intends to gain inner confidence, and develop spiritually.

But it's essential to pay attention to the fact that sometimes people come to yoga with the sole purpose of improving their body and physical condition. This happens often, and while practicing the physical aspects of yoga, sooner or later, a person will start asking more profound questions of philosophy anyway. Or not. It's not that important. The main thing is to have a clear understanding that this is your way. Remember, no violence! Be honest with yourself.

Interesting fact: This or that body posture has a specific impact on a person's emotional state. For example, sadness is expressed in the form of slumped shoulders and slouching, while enthusiasm and confidence, on the contrary, straighten the shoulders and chest area. Accordingly, by consciously adopting a specific body position, we can control our emotional states. And the point is not that it happens instantly. Yoga creates the conditions for a consistent inner transformation.

"The yogi faces not only the external battles that concern every man, but also the internal ones: between the negative forces of anxiety and the positive capacity of his effort to meditate," a quote from Bhagavadgita: Explanations of Paramahansa Yogananda.

How to choose a style of yoga to start classes at home?

As mentioned above, the most important rule at the initial stage of "getting into" yoga practice is nonviolence toward oneself. There are countless different types of yoga, but all of them are based on classical Hatha yoga. We strongly recommend you start by mastering a few basic asanas, which are a foundation for further harmonious development in practice. It is essential to spend time on adjustment of the postures.

Feel how you stand in Tadasana ("mountain pose"), whether your back is straight in Dandasana ("staff pose"), whether you can achieve stretching from coccyx to top in Adho Mukha Shavanasana ("dog face down"), whether you do inhale and exhale in time, whether you keep your stomach taut. These are all essential parts of a successful yoga practice.

In any case, to choose a style of yoga, you need to understand your temperament and predispositions well. There are yoga styles that emphasize static asana practice, like Iyengar yoga. If you want intensity and dynamism during the class, Ashtanga Vinyasa is the right style for you.

Don't be afraid to experiment and try different things! Try different styles and different teachers. Once you've tried various options, you're sure to find the direction that completely resonates with your heart.

Interesting fact: The most optimal and favorable option for an entry-level yoga practice is a combination of static poses and dynamic chords. You don't have to choose extremes because you can balance between different types of yoga, and in the process, create your practice based on your needs.

How often should beginners practice yoga?

Regularity is crucial in yoga practice. Beginners should practice twenty to thirty minutes every day than three hours once a month. The best option is to attend classes in the studio two or three times a week or to do a morning yoga set with light asanas. In this case, the progress will be more tangible. Remember, "fast is slow but regular.

In addition, as we pointed out above, yoga is not just a physical exercise; it is a way of life, so it is essential to practice the principles of Yama and niyama every day, constantly being aware of yourself and observing your manifestations time after time. In addition, the importance of daily breathing (pranayama) and meditation techniques cannot be overemphasized. After all, they contribute to the expansion of consciousness and purification of "mental garbage." When you consciously embark on the path of yoga, the practice takes place every moment of your life.

Interesting fact: The more regularly you exercise, the more your body itself "asks" for exercise. The body is a sage and intelligent tool, and it likes it when we give proper attention to working on it time after time. Mahatma Gandhi once said: "If you have time to eat, then you can find it for exercise as well." So the excuse "I don't have time for yoga" certainly won't work.

"The most important thing in yoga practice is to spread out the mat and start practicing," - B.K.S. Iyengar

How long should the training last, and at what time of day is it best?

On average, a yoga class lasts an hour and a half. In about that time, you can do enough asanas, as well as pranayamas, meditation, and relaxation (Shavasana). But again, if you feel that an hour and a half is too much for you now, start with less time. Listen to yourself! The same applies to the time of the day: it is optimal to practice in the morning when the body is just awakened from sleep and is full of energy.

But evening practices are also effective and have no less expressed manifestations. After a day, the body is "warmed up," and there is a possibility to try deeper variants of asanas, different exciting poses. It is not necessary to make a "strict schedule" for yourself because experience shows that in this case, your motivation disappears quickly, and the desire to practice disappears altogether.

Interesting fact: In addition to the fact that each of us has certain internal rhythms, the body is also influenced by the world around us. The moon, the stars, the change of seasons, even the weather conditions. All of these factors affect productivity in one way or another during exercise. Learn to observe the signals your body is sending you.

"If you imagine there is so much to accomplish in a short time, you lose courage. Don't worry about how much needs to be done, say, 'This hour belongs to me. I will do the best I can." Just as a clock cannot go 24 hours in one minute, you cannot accomplish what you can accomplish in 24 hours. Make full use of every present moment, and the future will take care of itself. Enjoy the beauty and wonder of each moment fully. Practice being present to the world within you. The more often you do this, the greater the power of this essence you will feel in your life" - Paramahansa Yogananda.

Is it better to practice indoors or outdoors?

There are advantages to both. The yoga classes in the fresh air help to enrich the lungs with oxygen, so it's perfect for performing breathing practices just outdoors. In addition, there is an opportunity to contemplate the beauty of nature, to be more relaxed and meditative. It is much easier to concentrate on the internal sensations indoors: nobody distracts you, there are no extraneous sounds and noise, you know for sure that suddenly a dog will not jump out from around the corner, a more pronounced unity with yourself.

We recommend that you not be tied to a specific place where you practice "better" or "worse. It doesn't matter where you are: outdoors, indoors, or over the moon. Yoga practice becomes an integral part of life, and you have to learn how to do it under all conditions and circumstances. It shouldn't distract you or limit your development in any way.

Interesting fact: There are many festivals, workshops, and yoga courses that take place outdoors. True, it takes place during the warm season, but it's a memorable, educational experience of unity with people who share the same interests. Be sure to give it a try!

Is it possible to practice successfully only from self-studies, books, and videos?

When practicing solely by self-study, you can make many mistakes, which will lead to negative consequences in the future. Sometimes people practicing yoga only from self-study books traumatize their body and then take a long time to recover, which only slows down their development in practice.

It is best to attend at least a few classes with an instructor so that the body gets used to the unusual positions so that the instructor helps you to adjust the asanas and develops a practice plan that suits you. At the same time, it is essential to be constantly engaged in self-development, read relevant books, listen to lectures, and watch videos. After all, all of this contributes to more excellent knowledge and more education in yoga.

Interesting fact: Try to study yoga treatises to deeply understand the essence of the teachings, the main directions, and techniques. We recommend reading Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Bhagavadgita with explanations by Paramahansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi, Yoga Clarification: The Path to Health by B. K. S. Iyengar.

Can yoga be therapeutic?

At the beginning of this article, we touched on the topic of therapeutic yoga. This is called "Yoga Therapy." The emphasis in the practice of yoga therapy is placed so that all attention is paid to working through the various painful conditions of the body. During the class, we use exercises and postures which help to harmonize inner processes.

As an established trend in the modern world, yoga therapy has proven itself and demonstrates positive results in treating and preventing various diseases of the spine, improves recovery from musculoskeletal system injuries, and improves blood supply to the brain and condition of the physical body.

Interesting fact: In yoga, there are no sudden movements. All positions should be performed with ease and naturalness, without causing discomfort to your body.

Is it necessary to warm up before practice?

For beginners, warming up is essential! A thorough warm-up of muscles, tendons, and ligaments allows you to prepare the body for further physical activity and prevents injuries. Also, it's worth noting that at an older age, the warm-up is significant. It's the main element that helps turn the body on to perform more challenging positions.

With progress and experience in practice, you can do without the warm-up, but again, it is vital to listen to how you feel and be attentive to what your body needs at that particular moment.

The eight steps of patanjali yoga

The system of yoga was first presented and systematized in detail by the ancient Indian sage Patanjali in the 1st century B.C. in his classic work, the Yoga Sutra, which consists of 185 concise and evocative aphorisms.

Patanjali identified the means of self-improvement (physical, moral, and spiritual) known as the eight stages of mastering yoga. The implication is that by gradually ascending these steps, the disciple achieves both complete mastery and control over himself, overall the physiological processes going on in the body, and control over his senses. In other words, a harmony of body and mind is formed.

These are the eight steps, which we'll talk about briefly below:

YAMA - Five moral and ethical principles to be observed about the world around us:

  • Ahimsa is nonviolence toward oneself and other living beings. This is the very first, most basic rule! No violence in thought, word, or action;
  • Satya - the refusal to lie. To become more conscious and succeed in yoga, you have to monitor your inner state every moment, paying attention to the moments when you want to lie. And not only to other people but also to yourself;
  • Asteya is the renunciation of the desire to possess that which does not belong to you. In other words, non-stealing;
  • Aparigraha is non-accumulation. Refusal to accumulate endless things, beliefs, and concepts in one's home and mind;
  • Brahmacharya means restraint, control over one's passions. Unlimited desires paralyze one's mind. If one indulges every one of these desires, life will become a constant race to satisfy more and more cravings, which will inevitably lead to misery.

NIYAMA - five principles to be observed in the relationship with oneself:

  • Shaucha - purity. And, first of all, purity of the body and the surrounding space, and then, consequently, purity of consciousness. This step includes various shatkarmas (techniques for purifying one's body in hatha yoga);
  • Tapas is diligent and self-discipline. It is tapas that implies renunciation of laziness and asceticism. For example, the practice of asanas on the mat is not always comfortable and easy, and sometimes you have to step over your reluctance to make an effort to develop further. But it's important not to force yourself, not to torture, but to maintain discipline, always finding a balance;
  • Santosha - contentment. Whatever happens, be satisfied with what you have. For example, if you have some material possessions, be satisfied; if you have nothing, be happy. Being content with what you have is the most apparent manifestation of santosha;
  • Svadhyaya is self-education. Constantly expanding the boundaries of one's perception! Reading books, attending lectures, studying one's body, developing one's intellectual and physical faculties. Continuous development, even if it seems that "I already know everything;
  • Ishvara Pranidhana - devotion to spiritual practice, the dedication of merit to higher consciousness. In this case, it means that a person is ready to give the best, the most valuable knowledge and experience to the world. And it must be as sincere as possible, without selfish motives (to make money, to gratify one's ego, vanity). Ishvara Pranidhana implies a pure transfer of knowledge and experience, directed for good, with gratitude to the universe.

ASANA - pose. Body cleansing (internal and external);

PRANAYAMA - control of the breathing process, allowing the practitioner to enter subtler states of consciousness;

PRATYACHARA - techniques aimed at controlling thinking processes, the concentration of attention, ability to observe mental activity;

Dharana - concentrating on one object to enter a deeper meditative state;

DHYANA is a reflective practice that allows contemplation of the observer and the observed object;

SAMADHI is the state of absolute unity, self-realization in which the observer and the practical object merge into one.

It is worth noting that the steps are arranged in this order for a reason: it is essential to enter the practice as consistently as possible, without fanaticism or force. Each step implies gradual self-improvement without violence to oneself.

"Yoga becomes a friend to the one who sincerely and completely accepts it. It lifts one above pain and sorrow, enabling one to live and enjoy life to the fullest. Through the practice of yoga, a lazy body becomes active and energetic. Yoga transforms the mind and brings it into harmony. Yoga helps the body and mind sound in unison with the very core of the human being--the soul--and fuses them all," quote from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras.

About meditation, mantras, and mudras (basic explanations)

These practices are not primary, so we will only touch on these terms here for general understanding.

It's imperative in yoga to work with the deeper aspects of a person's inner world. You could call it working with the mind and the consciousness.

  • Meditation is a series of practices aimed at concentration. There are many meditative techniques: concentration on the inner sensations, on the breath, on the mantra, on the state, on an external object. There is even meditation in motion (active meditation). In one way or another, they aim to achieve a specific state of mind in which endless thoughts and vibrations stop and become observable. Also, the word "meditation" often refers to "deep reflection," but in either case, the term means contemplation of the inner space to expand consciousness.

There are specific meditative asanas in yoga, the most popular of which is the Lotus Pose. It is a sitting position with crossed legs, back straight, hands resting on the knees with palms up, and index finger and thumb joined.

"Whenever and for whatever reason, the fickle and restless mind wanders, the yogi draws it away from these distractions and returns it exclusively to the control of the Self," a quote from the Bhagavadgita: Explanations of Paramahansa Yogananda.

  • A mantra is a set of sounds, words, and phrases in Sanskrit that have a specific effect on the human body, psyche, and spirit. Quite often, mantras are used in meditation, resulting in an altered state of consciousness. Some forms of mantras raise themes of striving for truth, reality, light, love, knowledge, and divinity. Some mantras have no specific meaning but are meaningful in a spiritual sense. Mantroping allows one to feel more harmonious and fulfilled. Mantras are thought to have originated a thousand years before our era.
  • A mudra is a unique position of the hands (and in yoga, not only the hands but also the body, eyes, and tongue) that carries a particular sacred meaning. Each mudra has its importance. The practice of mudras is applied during meditation and the performance of breathing techniques (pranayamas).

The most popular myths about yoga

Myth #1: Yoga is a religion

Perhaps this is one of the biggest misconceptions that cause many people to abandon yoga. But in fact, yoga is a holistic system aimed at self-improvement of human life's physical and spiritual aspects. Throughout the world, yoga is practiced by representatives of various religious movements: Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, Jews, etc. In its essence, yoga is more like a science than religion because Indian sages developed all existing yoga postures and exercises through trial, error, and observation. No doubt, yoga can be practiced regardless of religious beliefs.

Myth #2: You have to be a vegetarian to do yoga

This myth contradicts YAMA's very first moral and ethical principle, ahimsa (i.e., nonviolence). If a person eats meat and is not ready to give up this eating habit, he clearly should not force and force himself "for the sake of yoga. Yoga classes can improve eating habits, but this will happen independently, with total internal willingness and openness. If you are not ready to give up animal products but want to do yoga, it shouldn't be a barrier for you. Do what you need to do at a particular moment in time.

Myth #3: You have to be flexible and stretched to do yoga

Of course, it's great if you're flexible enough and don't feel clamps and blocks in your body when you're doing specific exercises. But yoga is a holistic approach to working on the whole body and does not require the practitioner to bend in all directions. Even if you can't do anything, you just need to keep going in small steps and keep going in your chosen path. It is crucial to build the practice to the best of your ability and not be too strenuous. Remember that you can start small, you can do some basic yoga postures with simplified variations, and you can gradually see your progress.

Myth #4: Those who practice yoga become insane and inadequate

Interestingly, it's precisely the opposite. By practicing yoga, one acquires inner harmony, the ability to enjoy small things, calmness, ease, and fluidity. There is no fidgeting, twitchiness, desire to enter into conflicts and quarrels, and appears poise, restraint, and tolerance. Maybe to some people, these positive qualities seem "abnormal" because everything in the material world is very subjective, but on the whole, practicing yoga people become more plastic not only physically but also mentally.

Myth #5: Yogis have superpowers

Regular practice does allow a person to have complete control over their body, which can be expressed in seemingly "magical" manifestations. But in fact, there is no magic here, and the whole secret is in constant, persistent practice. Yoga poses allow you to go deeper into your body, needs, and desires, work on your thinking, perceive reality, know yourself, and learn about your conscience, intuition, and soul. All this comes with time.

Myth #6: Yoga is a sport

Even though much emphasis is placed on the physical aspects of yoga, yoga is not a sport. You don't have to compete with anyone (even yourself), try to be "better than anyone else," try to reach the top, and so on. This is not the essence of yoga. The importance of yoga is to get to know yourself, your possibilities, and your nature. It's good if a person is motivated and interested in yoga initially, but you understand the primary goal of yoga when you go deeper into the practice.

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Author:
Jerry M. Vaughan
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