“Isn’t Yoga just stretching?!”
Thankfully, it is so much more than stretching. According to the National Institutes of Health, Yoga is a popular physical exercise discipline defined as a “meditative movement practice”. Take from that what you will, but I think that it has, and still is, evolving to be something everyone has to try at least once! Consistent practice usually leads to a plethora of benefits such as:
- Improves balance, strength, flexibility
- Helps alleviate body aches
- Reduce inflammation in the body
- Helps to keep you relaxed, leading to better sleep
- Increase energy & better mood
- Helps you manage and deal with stress
- Helps you connect with others
- Promotes healthy self-care/-love
With all those benefits, how could you not want to try it?
Here’s a little bit of information about the history of this bendy practice:
- Over 5000 years old (pre-classical, classical, post-classical yoga, the modern period – in Northern India
- The word ‘Yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘Yuj’, meaning ‘to join’ or ‘to yoke’ or ‘to unite’.
- Only men were allowed to participate in yoga. Historically, if women practiced it, they were mostly invisible or sexually objectified.
- The aim of Yoga is Self-realization, to overcome all kinds of sufferings leading to ‘the state of liberation’ or ‘freedom’. Goal: achieve perfect harmony between mind and body, Wo/Man and nature.
- Modern yoga began in the late 1800s and early 1900s
- The move from post-classical to modern meant that yoga evolved from a mental teaching to a physical teaching in order to explore physical-spiritual connections.
- In the 1920s, yoga started to take off. Indra Devi opened her own studio in Hollywood in 1947 (the very first!)
- It is now practiced by everyone: stiff/flexible people, young/elderly people, slim/curvy people, men/women/other people, rich/poor people, non-/spiritual people… I think you get where I’m going here. It’s for everyone!
Maybe you’ve never tried because it seems boring, or hard, or time-consuming, or even impossible! Starting anything new for the first time can be challenging. If it is something completely out of your comfort zone, it can be even more difficult to get started! In my experience training clients of all levels, I’ve noticed that it is important to offer clients options. This gives them the opportunity to try out different movement styles and exercises, which can help them figure out what works best for their body and what they enjoy most.
So, you want to try yoga, but you don’t know where to begin…
Studio memberships cost a fortune, and all you have is a yoga mat. Often, classes are overcrowded. You might feel like everyone is a seasoned veteran, meanwhile, you feel like you can’t touch your toes. This should not stop you from attempting your own practice. You can do this in the comfort of your own home, either with or without the guidance of an online instructor.
Equipment you’ll need:
You can get away with practicing on the floor or on a rug. Otherwise, we recommend a yoga mat!
These extra props can be used for assistance or for an added challenge:
1 or 2 blocks (or a Hardcover book), a blanket, a strap (or belt, or towel), a chair, a pillow. And a dog for an added challenge!
In general, most yoga classes will follow a general sequence.
- Centering: meditation or breathing (standing, seated, lying down)
- Preparation: warming up the body for the theme of the practice
- Work: sun salutations are popular and might be the base of your class.
- Standing postures: includes balance and anything in a standing position
- Seated postures: usually around the end of the class to focus on both sides of the body individually
- Backbends: tailored to suit everyone’s skillsets and to strengthen posterior chain muscles
- Savasana: also known as corpse pose. Final resting posture.
There are no credentials to being a yogi. Here are some of the misconceptions of yoga that I hear most often:
- You need to be flexible
- It’s slow and boring
- You need to be spiritual
- Yoga is a quiet practice
- It encourages detoxification by sweating out toxins
Getting started doesn’t have to be difficult or intimidating. Becoming flexible is not a simple task, nor is it necessary to be a yogi! There are all different kinds of classes you can join, and it may take time to find the one that is right for you. It can be used as a stand-alone workout, or you can complement your sport by practicing yoga on the side. With that being said, you can make your practice as restorative or challenging as you’d like. I’ve seen great results in clients who have a consistent practice, meaning they get on their mat 3-5 times a week for a varied practice (change it up!).
Yoga, in my opinion, is a blend of stretching and strengthening. In order to progress in any type of exercise, you must add load! If you only stretch but don’t become stronger, your chances of getting injured in the future are much more likely. Find a practice that suits you. The possibilities are limitless: Hot Yoga, Hip Hop Yoga Flow, Iyengar, Yin Yoga. You can work up a sweat or focus on your breath; maybe you can do both! The end goal is up to you. Recognize that this can change depending on your energy on any given day. Give it a try and let us know how it goes!