What is Yoga?

What is Yoga?


Yoga means a lot of different things to lots of different people and I'm going to refrain from diving into a detailed description here for a number of reasons,




An in depth description of its origins and purpose might initially put off newcomers to the practice. Not all traditional aspects of Yoga are for everyone - if you get into Yoga you might like to study these areas but its not necessary to begin with.





Many hundreds of books and websites have already been written to answer the question 'What is Yoga' and I simply couldn't do it justice here. You'll find references to further reading on my page here.





Your faith, country of origin, upbringing and your level of experience of Yoga massively effects what it means to y o u.


Instead I'm simply going to say what practicing Yoga in the modern world can involve.


When you start out and begin practicing Yoga (in the western world at least) it is likely that the you'll start by performing some physical exercises in a group class under the guidance of a teacher who will gently instruct and direct you towards a 'posture' - a shape that you make with your body (or Asana). Holding yourself in a posture will result in your muscles, connective tissue, joints and bones being used in different ways, thus giving you a form of exercise. This form of exercise is hugely adaptable for all ages, body shapes, disabilities, health issues and is equally useful and effective for men and women.


Many classes will also incorporate a few minutes of breathing practices (Pranayama) as well. This may seem odd as presumably you feel capable of breathing whilst you read this. The fact is many of us breath badly without knowing it and this can be detrimental to our health and also hinder our ability to perform the physical part of Yoga well.


Many classes will also incorporate a few minutes of relaxation practice. Many of us are stressed, work to many hours and seem to have too little time for ourselves. A guided relaxation practice in a class gives the body a few minutes to release some tension from our muscles, joints and minds.


A number of different styles of Yoga exist and so different group classes may perform similar postures with slight variations. The variations can effect the way you enter and exit the posture, the speed you move from one posture to another, the temperature of the room, any many other aspects. A few named styles that you may see advertised are summarised in the table below.


Yoga Style
Hatha Yoga
One of the most known Yoga styles in the west.   A balanced approach that generally includes posture work and breath work and caters well for mixed levels of ability. Many teachers borrows aspects from the other styles.
Ashtanga Yoga
A generally faster paced, more gymnastic style of Yoga in which students flow from one posture to the next in coordination with the breath.
Iyengar Yoga
A precise form of Yoga that focuses very strongly on alignment and is known for its use of props such as belts and blocks to assist in the postures.
Scaravelli Inspired Yoga
Yoga inspired by Vanda Scaravelli tends to focus on breath awareness, movement of the spine and creating space in the body to allow it to move more naturally.
Bikram Yoga
A specific set of Yoga postures are practiced in a heated environment to encourage sweating and stretching without injury.
Yoga Fit
A Yoga style adapted specifically for fitness clubs combining Yoga and other fitness movements. Potentially more of high impact workout than other forms.



If you do decide to learn more you'll find Yoga is in fact a way of life and a learning journey you may never complete.


For many people, after a while of practicing the postures, the breathing and the relaxation, they find their outlook on life gradually changes.


You may be less stressed, anxious and irritable, and may feel that you cope more easily with life's challenges.


You may choose to modify your lifestyle, the food you eat, and what you drink.


You may choose to interact with the people around you differently and they may notice a new calmness in you.


As you delve deeper into the rich tradition of Yoga you may find a new better you, that you feel happier being.

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