- What is Yoga
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What is Yoga?
A common misconception about yoga is that it is more of a meditative practice than it is a fitness routine. Actually, yoga is neither. Yogic practice is not JUST for meditative purposes and neither is it simply a workout routine to help you lose weight. Yoga is an ancient Indian practice with holistic benefits that people all over the world have been doing for over a thousand years, and has evolved into different types and styles.
Different Types of Yoga
Yoga originated in India but it has evolved into different styles as it achieved mainstream popularity. Western yogis developed styles of yogic practice that they felt the people today would be better able to adapt and integrate into their lives. An example of such style is Power Yoga, which was derived from Ashtanga yoga and developed by Larry Schultz and Beryl Bender Birch.
Power yoga is more vigorous and takes on a more fitness-based approach. It was developed with the aim of making yogic practice easier to relate to by focusing on its weight loss benefits. Along the same vein is Hot Yoga, which simply involves doing yoga exercise in a heated room to make students sweat more and burn more calories.
Another popular style of yoga is Vinyasa, which focuses on aligning movement with breath to create a steady flow. In this style of yoga, more attention is placed on breathing and the transition between poses rather than achieving correct body alignment in holding the yoga poses. Hatha yoga, on the other hand, is characterized by exactly that — focus on correcting the alignment of the body and making sure the poses are done and held properly.
Series and Sequences of Yoga Poses
There are certain styles of yoga that involve doing series of poses that must be followed in a specific sequence. The most popular example of this is the Sun Salutation series, which consists of 12 poses that go full circle from seated to standing poses. The purpose of following sequences is to get the full effects and benefits of your yogic practice. You can’t expect to achieve the results that you want just by doing a limited number of poses over and over.
These series of poses also help students, especially first timers, ease into the physical and mental demands of yoga by learning the flow of yoga poses and how to transition from one position to the next. The Sun Salutations are often done as a starter sequence in yoga classes and is part of the basic foundation of yogic practice.
Yoga and the Importance of Proper Breathing
Unlike other forms of physical fitness routines, yoga is not about simply bending and twisting your body into different positions to stretch and tone muscles or lose weight. Breath is a central element in practicing yoga, and all those who practice it should learn to breathe deeply and steadily while holding different poses. Breathing is important not just for the mental and spiritual aspects of yogic practice, but also for reaping its physical benefits like restoring or improving respiratory health.
Practicing proper breathing in yoga exercise is also technically beneficial because the time you need to hold yoga poses is measured by the number of full breaths. For example, you will hear yoga instructors tell you to hold a pose for a specific number of breaths before you can move on and transition to the next yoga exercise in the sequence.
You don’t need a lot to start learning yoga. The only “equipment” you’ll need is a comfortable yoga mat. If you are doing Hot Yoga or any other style geared towards weight loss, choose yoga mats with a high level of slip resistance and preferably an absorbent surface. Once you have that down, all you will need is a sense of openness to learn the philosophies of yoga and discipline and determination to stick to a regular yoga routine.
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