WHAT IS YOGA? by Susan Robinson
Yoga means different things to different people. Most will think it is a physical activity or exercise, which is true. Others will describe it as meditation, which is also true. Some will think of special breathing techniques, chanting or mantras, all of which are true.
Yoga includes but is not limited to the physical form known as Hatha Yoga, meditaion, and breath work also known as pranayama. Today we find so many styles of yoga that it can become very confusing!
Generally speaking, yoga offers many ways of accomplishing the same goal, and that is to balance mind, body, and spirit. Some just like to say mind and body, but after practicing any form of yoga they come to realize that they are enjoying greater spiritual connections as well. No matter what your spiritual belief’s are, practicing yoga can enhance your connection to your higher source, whatever that means to you.
While practicing hatha yoga, the physical postures (also known as asanas), and flowing through these postures (vinyasa or vinyasa flow), you will create more flexibility and strength in your physical body. In any yoga class always listen to your own body.
As we move from one posture to another we begin to breathe with our movement. You will hear “inhale” and “exhale” many times in your yoga class. At first it is enough to concentrate on what your body is doing, so moving with your breath will come in time.
At the end of your typical yoga class you will experience “final relaxation”. Everyone looks forward to this time to lay back and enjoy the benefits of your yoga practice. You will be guided through some relaxation techniques, as you become more aware of your breath, and notice the sensations of energy flowing through your being.
Finally, sitting up in comfortable cross-leg, usually ending with everyone creating together the sound of “Om”. You will know the class has ended when students and teacher bow with “Namaste” or "Namaskar" meaning I honor the Divine in you as the Divine in me.
VARIETY OF YOGA CLASSES
At the local gym, yoga studio, or recreational center you will have many options to choose from.
Gentle yoga is for those who are just starting out or just need a slower paced, easy posture class.
Power Yoga is for those wanting to work up a sweat, breathe harder, build more muscle strength and try some postures not available in other yoga classes.
Yoga (no label in front of yoga) is generally intermediate but the instructor will take into consideration the ability of the class as a whole as to what kind of yoga practice to offer.
Restorative Yoga is designed to allow your body to relax and open by using props. We use bolsters, blocks, straps, and blankets to help our body stay comfortable in certain positions to achieve more flexibility both physically, mentally, and emotionally. This is also powerful but on the opposite spectrum from Power Yoga.
This is a small overview of yoga… a small step on your journey to discovering this ancient healing art, handed down for centuries so that we can enjoy not only physical balance, but also peace and balance within. You could spend your entire lifetime studying all the different aspects of yoga and still not cover everything. Start where you are and experience the wonders of yoga.