1).What is yoga? What does the word yoga mean?
2).What is Hatha Yoga? What does Hatha mean?
3).What does Om mean? What does Namaste mean?
4).What is the meaning of asana?
5).Is yoga a religion?
6).Is yoga New Age?
7).How do I pick a type of yoga? There are so many styles of yoga, how do I know which style is best for me?
8).What style of yoga do you teach?
9).Can I do yoga at home?
10).What is the difference between yoga and just plain stretching & normal exercise?
11).Is yoga aerobic?
12).What’s the best way to get started especially if I’m out of shape?
13).Can I practice yoga even though I am not fit or flexible?
14).I have a previous injury, can I still try yoga?
15).Will doing yoga make me sore?
16).Can yoga help me lose weight?
17).Can men do yoga?
18).Is it okay to practice yoga during menses? Should I avoid inversions?
19).Is it okay to practice while pregnant?
20).How many times a week should I practice and for how long?
21).Do I have to be a vegetarian to practice yoga?
22).Why are you supposed to refrain from eating 2-4 hours before a class?
23).How is yoga helpful in our day to day life?
24).What are the do’s and don’ts while practicing yoga?
25).What is the best time to practice yoga?
26).Is there any age limit while performing yoga?
27).What do I need to begin? What accessories do I need to practice yoga?
28).What should I do about a slippery yoga mat? How do I wash my yoga mat?
29).What should I wear?
30).What if emotions come up or I feel emotional?
31).What should I do if I feel pain?
32).What is the difference between the beginner’s yoga classes, the ongoing classes and the gentle classes?
The word Yoga, of Sanskrit origin, means yoke, or union. Yoga is not asana (the physical postures). Yoga is a state of being; a state of being connected, grounded, centered and at ease with this moment and the essence of who you really are. In that state of being there is peace of mind and there is a natural happiness. In this state you are relaxed yet energized, alert and awake; it is a state of higher consciousness than most of us typically live in. It is a state of self-acceptance.
The physical postures, as well as meditation, are the main tools that we use to achieve this state of being. The poses give us an opportunity to practice allowing this state through quieting the mind, inner listening and releasing tension. We start to connect to (to join with) the truth of who we are in this moment, to life and the infinite field of conscious as an actual experience, not a philosophy or dogma.
Many people say I am going to go “do yoga”. However, yoga is a state of being. You cannot force it to happen. You can only do practices which may lead to a state of yoga. Yoga is the art of living in a connected, real, peaceful, grounded, relaxed yet alert way.
“Ha” means sun and “Tha” means moon; we work with opposites in order to create a dynamic state of balance. Many people believe that Hatha Yoga is a style of yoga. However, Hatha Yoga is a general, umbrella term for the physical postures (asanas). Within Hatha Yoga there are many different styles and names you will find such as Iyengar, Anusara, Ashtanga, Bikram, Kundalini etc… It distinguishes the practice of physical postures from other forms of yoga that have nothing to do with asana.
Om (Aum) is said to be the sound, or vibration, of the universe itself. Om is known as anahata, the unstruck sound; the sound made without any two things striking. It is an omnipresent vibration and is often referred to as pranava which translates into “humming”. Just as a bee hums as it goes about its business, the universe in which we live also has a hum. It is just that usually this sound is beyond our normal perception and the frequency of sounds we pick up on. Science has shown us that all of life is made up of energy (vibration). Ancient masters have passed down the knowledge that if you were to step outside of the universe and listen in, Om would be the hum or the pulsation that was heard. Om is considered a bija, or a seed syllable, out of which all other sounds arise because it has three syllables basic in all language: Ah, Oh and Mm.
Namaste is a dual greeting of hello and goodbye. This expression implies an acceptance of the moment, while extending hopes of goodwill and peace. It can also be translated as… the highest within me greets the highest within you; when I am in that place and you are in that place, we are one.
Asana refers to the physical postures that we practice.
Yoga is not a religion. Religion is defined as “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe.” Yoga is not about blindly following a set of beliefs or trusting someone else’s experience, it is about having your own. Hatha Yoga (the physical postures/asanas) are one aspect of Raja Yoga (The Royal Path). Raja Yoga is defined as an eight limbed scientific path to self-realization. Yoga is an experiential path. Once you experience something, you gain the wisdom of that experience and it truly is your own, no one can take it away from you because you know it to be true. Yoga is about discovering for yourself, from experience, your own truth; which can be expansive as the universe or as simple, mundane and practical as “I want soup!”
According to the dictionary “New Age” is “relating to a complex of spiritual and consciousness-raising movements originating in the 1980s and covering a range of themes from a belief in spiritualism and reincarnation to advocacy of holistic approaches to health and ecology.” Yoga is over 4,000 years old therefore it’s not “New Age” but “Old Age.” It is not a trend. It has withstood the test of time for one reason, it works.
This can be confusing and challenging, I know. You can either shop around or just try one and see if it is a good fit for you. It is very personal. It is not just the style that matters, it is also the instructor and the way it comes through that particular instructor; each one is unique. You have to find an instructor that you like (you resonate with their voice, pace, style, vibe, energy, intensity, way of communicating etc…), someone that you instinctually trust, that you want to learn from and spend time with. Yoga is a very opening experience you have to find an instructor that you feel comfortable letting in, in a certain way.
Here are some general descriptions for several of the more popular styles today that you might find useful in helping you to discern the best fit for you.
– Hatha Yoga is a general, umbrella term for the physical practice of yoga. Typically it is more gentle and suitable for beginners.
– Vinyasa is another general term for a wide variety of practices. The theme is that the practice focuses on moving with the breath and often utilizes sun salutations to warm up the body. The term Vinyasa also describes sequences of postures linked together. It can also be used to mean variation; as in variations of a particular posture, however this is not as common.
– Iyengar moves at a slower pace and utilizes longer holds than many other forms of yoga. It is very focused on precise alignment, attention to detail and uses a lot of props (such as blankets, blocks, straps, bolsters and chairs). This style is good for beginners and those recovering from injury.
– Ashtanga, also called power yoga, is a very vigorous and athletic form of yoga. It is a continuously moving form at a faster pace. Ashtanga utilizes a set series of postures that is always the same. Power yoga, based on Ashtanga yoga, is also a fast, challenging, athletic practice yet the postures may be different from those in the Ashtanga series and different from class to class.
– Viniyoga is a slow moving, restorative and therapeutic form of yoga. It places great emphasis on the breath and gently moves in and out of the postures, rhythmically, synchronized with the breath instead of long holds. It is usually taught one on one based on the needs and abilities of the student.
– Kundalini Yoga focuses on awakening the Kundalini energy at the base of the spine and moving the energy up the Sushumna (the central energy line of the spine). It utilizes repetitive, fluid movements synchronized with the breath; these movements tend to be faster moving than say those in Viniyoga. There is more emphasis on breath work and chanting than asana.
– Flow Yoga is a newer form of yoga based on sequences designed to move continuously; some of which are very challenging physically that can also push the student emotionally which can help clear out some of the emotional baggage.
– Bikram, also called hot yoga, is a set series of 26 postures performed in a room heated between 85 and 100 degrees. The purpose is to deeply cleanse the body through sweating and to allow for deeper stretching due to the hot, sauna like environment. Some forms of hot yoga are based on the Bikram series yet do not necessarily follow the set format of 26 postures.
– Anusara means “flowing with grace” it is a heart centered, inspirational practice grounded with universal principles of alignment.
Usually I call it Hatha Yoga yet it also has strong influences of Vinyasa and some elements of Iyengar and Viniyoga. Some classes are more fluid and flowing and others are broken down more pose by pose. The Beginner’s Yoga Training has a stronger Iyengar influence because I feel that it is important to learn the basic alignment of the postures before you start linking them together in a fluid way. However, it does break down and teach how to practice Sun Salutations as well which are the foundation of Vinyasa Yoga.
My teaching also has a strong influence of Freedom Style yoga created by Erich Schiffmann. This is a style that (once the basic postures have been learned) starts to explore the postures; to play with the options and choices available within them for the greatest sense of joy and freedom. It develops a sense of intuition, developing the teacher within; feeling the energy and what needs to move and how for the greatest opening and energy flow in the body. It starts to bring the practice home so that it is always fresh and it becomes more your own, and feels less like someone else’s.
Yes. However, if you are a brand new beginner and starting a practice at home, watch and listen to the instructions very carefully many times until you feel like you get it. You don’t want to develop bad habits that are hard to break later. It can be helpful to practice in front of a mirror a couple of times if that is available to you in order to look at your alignment from a different perspective. Most importantly, take responsibility and listen to your own body. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Generally speaking if you move slowly and mindfully and it feels good you are not going to hurt yourself. If you feel any pain (esp. in a joint or sharp shooting pain) back off straightaway, something is not working for your body or you are not practicing the pose properly. Listen to the instructions again, listen to your intuition, make adjustments; if it still doesn’t feel right don’t do that posture.
First and foremost we are really working with the mind. The physical postures are tools that we use to focus the mind. The physical benefits are there, yet they are really the side effects to the real purpose: which is a steady, alert, focused mind and a grounded, connected, relaxed state of being. When this state of being becomes more integrated into your life off the mat your whole life experience changes as you are able to deal with life and the stress of life in a much more gracious way. It is really something that has to be experienced and felt to be fully understood.
In one sense yes it is and in another, no. The origin of the word aerobic comes from Greek: aero – “air” and bios – “life”. The word aérobie was coined 1863 by Louis Pasteur meaning “living only in the presence of oxygen.” The medical dictionary also defines aerobic respiration as “living only in the presence of oxygen” and aerobic exercise as an activity “which increases the body’s demand for oxygen thereby resulting in a marked temporary increase in respiration and heart rate”.
In yoga we are increasing the oxygen intake by slowing the breath down not by speeding the heart rate up. Generally speaking, I work with slowing the breath down to a count of five (inhale to a count of five and exhale to a count of five). As a beginner, the poses can be very challenging (depending on one’s level of fitness) so the heart rate may speed up especially in standing poses. However, the goal we are working towards is performing the postures with more ease and less effort over time. So with practice, and as one becomes more fit, this becomes possible and the heart rate does not increase, it actually decreases.
Just start; go slowly; listen to your body and take breaks when you need to. Accept yourself where you are. Do what you can and be gentle with yourself; it is not a race. It is about enjoying the process, loving yourself and accepting what is.
Yes, you can. Just start where you are, do what you can and listen to your own body. Make adjustments when necessary. The main purpose of yoga is to still the mind (this does not make one dull or stupid; on the contrary it is a heightened state of consciousness). The physical benefits are secondary. Originally the physical postures were designed to help people sit comfortably in meditation for long periods of time without the body disturbing them. You will become more fit and flexible as you practice; go slow and steady; progress not perfection.
Those with previous injuries can still practice yoga. Depending on the severity, the type of injury and the style of yoga being practiced modifications may be necessary. It is always advised to consult your doctor first and if you can, let your instructor know of your injuries/limitations so that they can help you modify the postures. Always take responsibility for your own body. Listen to your body and your intuition. If something hurts or doesn’t feel right don’t do it. Be extra mindful of instructions and proper alignment. Pay extra attention to the area of injury and make sure it feels right as you go through the movements. Be gentle with yourself and go at your own pace. Yoga, if practiced properly and mindfully, has the ability to help one heal from injury.
It can, just as performing any new activity and using muscles you are not used to using can make you sore. Be gentle with yourself. Go at your own pace. If you are sore the next day doing another practice session (full or short) or just some simple stretching can help. Epsom salt baths are also great for sore muscles.
It has been shown that yoga (even the more vigorous styles) does not burn many calories. However, calories burned are not showing the whole picture. Yoga is a completely different approach to health and vitality; we are getting more oxygen to the cells (which makes everything function better) not by speeding up the heart and the breathing rates but by slowing them down. Yet there is still much more to the whole picture of weight reduction. Yoga will tone and strengthen the muscles, which increases the body’s ability to metabolize food while resting. All of the organs will function better which also helps with the metabolization of food. Yoga gets the life force energy (chi or prana) moving which is essential to feeling healthy, alive and vibrant. Yoga also helps us deal with stress and brings more mindfulness to all aspects of our lives so that we are less likely to overeat and make poor food choices.
So therefore, I believe that yes, yoga does help with weight reduction and is a helpful adjunct. However, that being said I have found that a healthy attitude trumps all and a healthy diet is on par with a healthy attitude. If you are practicing yoga yet are very unhappy in the rest of your life or eat a very SAD diet no amount of yoga will help you lose a significant amount of weight. I have learned that excess weight = waste in the system. So releasing weight is a process of releasing waste from the system by going on a cleansing diet i.e. upping the quality of the diet to be cleaner than what you have been previously putting in it. To learn more about weight reduction I recommend two books by Natalia Rose: Detox 4 Women and The Raw Food Detox Diet.
Of course! In fact, in India where yoga originated it was mostly men who practiced and taught. It is only here in the West where women have dominated the scene. However, as yoga becomes more understood and more people realize the benefits, more men are getting involved. In fact, many sports teams are adding it to their training protocols and it is even being taught in some military units.
Every woman experiences their moon time differently. For some women it is very intense and they need to rest in bed with hot water bottles and others barely even notice. If your experience is more intense I recommend a very gentle, restorative practice using props like bolsters and blankets where you rest in simple, supportive postures for 3 minutes up to 20 or 30 minutes specifically for menses. If you barely notice menses, you can do your normal routine just modify it to be a little less vigorous (i.e. skip the backbends, vigorous standing poses etc…). If you are somewhere in between, you can focus on practicing sitting postures; forward folds and twists are very supportive at this time.
Traditionally women avoid doing inversions (having the head below the heart) during menses, such as headstands and shoulder stands. Intuitively this makes sense to me as the natural energy of this time (for the blood flow) is down and out. They say that you can run into problems if you reverse the flow for too long. Mainly I feel that this refers to more “advanced” practitioners who are holding headstands for ten minutes or longer. A short time in downward facing dog or some similar posture will probably not do any harm. However, more than anything you need to trust yourself, common sense and your own intuition. If it doesn’t feel right to you, in your body, respect that and don’t do it. If you barely notice your menses and you still want to participate in a class you can always modify by doing child’s pose instead of downward dog in a sun salutation and half forward fold instead of a full forward fold.
Yes, many pregnant women practice yoga yet it is best to find pre-natal instruction. Many women, if they have been practicing for a while and are very in tune with their bodies, continue to practice as they have for the first few months, just modifying as their intuition guides them (i.e. not doing belly down postures like cobra if it doesn’t feel right). However, if you are new to yoga you should consult your doctor before beginning any program.
The first trimester you want to focus on containing the energy in the uterus (drawing the energy in). After that, you want to focus on hip and pelvis opening postures (like squats and bound angle) to assist the body with preparation for the birth. You also do not want to do any twists or abdominal tightening poses; i.e. anything that will press into the belly.
This is very individual. Everyone is immersed in a different life experience with different amounts of time available to them as well as different levels of commitment and goals. I have had many students say they get tremendous benefits from 1 class a week. However, I would say that if you practice more frequently (even for short periods) you will see even greater results. Even just 10-20 minutes a day can bring great results. Practice gently, frequently.
No. The Yamas and the Niyamas are the first two limbs of Raja Yoga (the eight limbed scientific path to self-realization) which have to do with ethics (how we treat others and how we treat ourselves). The first Yama is Ahimsa which in non-violence. Many have taken this to mean being vegetarian. However, being vegetarian does not seem to work for everyone and not everyone is ready for it. While taking on the practice of non-violence one must first begin with oneself. It might be more violent to try to force yourself to be vegetarian when you are not ready for it. Listen to your body, what it wants to eat and observe what foods feel best in your system.
You should wait 2 hours after a light meal or 4 hours after a large meal before practicing yoga. If you have food in your stomach and you start to practice your body will not digest the food as well. Many of the postures (particularly twists) give the organs a massage and work with the glands and you will not receive as many benefits in this area if the body is also trying to digest food. In addition, the body may feel heavy and you may feel less alert mentally if much of your energy is going to your stomach. Ideally yoga is practiced first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.
Yoga can help you feel more connected, centered and grounded. It will help you develop your intuition so that you know where to go and what to do, or not do, in any given circumstance. It helps you deal with stress so that there is less anxiety, better sleep and a calmer disposition. Yoga helps you to release tension so that you will feel more at ease in your own skin. It will also help you be more focused so that you can enjoy everything that you do more fully and be more efficient at it. You will have less obstruction in the body and a better flow of life force energy (prana/chi) so that you will feel more energy and vitality. It can help you walk through the world with a deep sense of well-being and peace of mind. You might find yourself feeling more light hearted and joyful for no reason at all.
Do enjoy it. Don’t force it.
First thing in the morning on an empty stomach is ideal. However, life for modern people is very busy and fast moving. The best time to practice yoga is the time that is going to work for you and your schedule. If mornings don’t work you could also try a class at mid-day before lunch, late afternoon or early evening before dinner, or before going to sleep at night. If practiced in the morning it can set the tone for your whole day and you will feel the benefits of it all day long. Mid-day can re-energize you and center you for the rest of your day and practicing later in the day can undo the stress that was created earlier and help you prepare for a restful nights sleep.
There is no age limit. Whatever the age one should practice in a manner that is suitable to the individual and his or her ability.
All you really need is some good, basic instruction and a yoga mat which helps stabilize you in the standing postures and cushion your bones and joints in many of the other postures. After a yoga mat the next two most helpful tools especially for beginners and those who are less flexible are at least 1 yoga block (2 is better for stability and balance in certain postures) and a strap (8ft. is recommended). Both of these tools extend your reach and allow for a more enjoyable and safer practice. They help you to get into the correct form of the postures at an easier, modified stage. If you are very tight or do not have the money to invest in props right now you can make due with a sturdy chair in place of the block(s) and a bathrobe belt, long scarf or old tie can all substitute for a strap.
The next props of importance are a firm blanket and then a bolster. The firm blanket (such as a wool blanket or a cotton Mexican style blanket) helps with sitting postures as well as restorative postures and can also be used for support or warmth in the relaxation pose at the end of each class. The bolster can also be used to aid in sitting (for meditation), restorative postures and low back support during Savasana. The chair can also substitute for a bolster or firm blanket in the sitting meditation.
These are the basic props that I use. There is a wide variety of prices and quality. Just like anything… you get what you pay for. Yet even the most basic of props, if cared for, will support you for many years to come. Additionally, if you have a cool/cold practice space you might like a little space heater as it is safer and more enjoyable to practice in a warm space.
Many new yoga mats have a thin film on them that needs to be washed off to make them “sticky”. Put it in the shower or bathtub and wash it with warm water and a gentle soap (such as Dr. Bronners castle soap). Lay it on top of a large beach towel, roll them up and press down to squeeze out the excess water, then hang it to dry (this can take a while, up to a few days depending on conditions). Make sure it is thoroughly dry before rolling it up and storing. If just the surface is dry, if there is still moisture inside, and you roll it up, the next time you pull it out it will feel wet and slippery.
Comfortable, form fitting clothing that allows your body to breathe (like cotton) and doesn’t restrict movement in any way. Layers are always good so that during the warm up and cool down you will stay warm enough and during the more active parts of the class you can shed a layer if necessary. Yoga is usually practiced with bare feet so that you feel stable in the postures. However, in cooler months it also is good to have socks to wear at the very beginning and at the end of class.
Emotion comes from the root word to emovere “to move out”. Emotion needs to be expressed; moved out. If it does not, it can get lodged in the body in certain places until it has the opportunity to be expressed/moved out of the system. We are working with all levels of ones being in yoga: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. As we work with the body sometimes emotion can come up, particularly in deep hip opening postures or backbends, which expand and open the heart area. Just know that this natural, it is an opportunity to move out the emotion that we didn’t allow the first time around so that we can be freer, clearer. If something does come up, if you are able to, allow it to move through without judgment. There may be images, words or memories that come with it and there may not. Just observe, allow, release and let go. If something big comes up that you feel you cannot handle on your own please find someone you feel comfortable with, that you can trust, to talk to about it: a friend, a family member or a counselor.
If you feel pain you are not practicing correctly for your body. We are not here to endure pain. If it hurts, don’t do it. If it feels good, it is right. As we gain sensitivity we begin to realize that there are different kinds of pain. There could be sharp, shooting pain in a joint, in which case you want to back off immediately. Never compromise your joints. There is also the dull, slow, steady type pain from stretching tight muscles. If this sensation is in the belly of a muscle like the middle of the hamstring muscles you are not going to do as much damage as say that sharp, shooting pain in a joint. However, there are better ways. Go slowly; work with your body, not against it. Don’t try and force your body to do things it is not ready for. Begin where it is easy, where you just start to feel the sensation of stretching, spend some time there, as the sensation eases up that is your body’s invitation to move deeper. This is the safest way to practice.
The Beginner’s Yoga Training is designed for brand new students, those who want a refresher course or those new to my style of teaching. It goes slower and breaks down the postures one by one to give an overall starting point to the basic postures practiced in yoga. For some of the more challenging postures it just teaches the first stages of the pose to get you started working in the right direction, building a foundation of strength and flexibility to prepare for the next stage of the pose. It also teaches the basics of Sun Salutations (which help to build endurance and is the starting point for linking postures together in a fluid way) as well as the core concepts of asana practice, philosophy, breathing and meditation. The Beginner’s Yoga Training sets a solid foundation for continuing with the ongoing classes.
The ongoing Level I Class is for students who have gone through the Beginner’s Yoga Training or who have already had instruction in the basic postures, philosophy, breathing and meditation. These classes are not necessarily harder or more challenging. They just don’t give quite as much detail to some of the basic mechanics of each pose. They may move a little faster by linking the postures together in a more fluid way. These classes tend to be more playful with the postures; encouraging each student to be more intuitive (by connecting with their own inner teacher) while exploring the options and choices available within the basic shapes of the poses. These classes have a more creative sequencing and go on to explore some more advanced stages and variations of the postures. However, beginners can always continue to work with the earlier stages of the postures even in the ongoing classes. In every class students are encouraged to go at their own pace, listen to their own body and work at the level that is appropriate for them.
The Gentle Class is geared toward relaxation and rejuvenation; it is a great way to unwind from stress and tension. It focuses more on stretching (less on strengthening) and the restorative aspects of the practice. All the movements are slow and fluid; most are done either sitting or lying down. This class is suitable for all levels.
All classes end with 10-15 minutes in Savasana (the relaxation pose) and a short meditation. Participating in any of these classes will help cultivate greater health, vitality, focus, flexibility, clarity and ease.