What is yoga?

 

Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj, meaning “to yoke” or “to unite”. We practice yoga to unite the body, mind, and spirit. This is attained through mindfully strengthening and stretching the physical body with breathwork and physical asanas, cultivating the mind and spirit with meditation, focus, and ethical practices outlined in the first two limbs of yoga, the yamas and niyamas.  The Yoga Sutras say, “Yoga is the ability to direct the mind without distraction or interruption.” Another interpretation is that yoga means to be in harmony with a higher power, the universe, or your highest self.

 

Do I need to be flexible to practice yoga?

Absolutely not! More often than not, people don't show up to their first yoga class already bendy. By practicing full body stretches, yoga will help you become flexible. There's a saying that you don't need a flexible body to practice yoga, only a flexible mind. So show up with an open mind, and the rest will follow!

 

Is there a conflict between yoga and my religion?

Not at all! Yoga is not a religion, it is a philosophy that began in India approximately 5,000 years ago. It is not necessary to surrender your own religious beliefs to practice yoga. The spiritual side of yoga focuses uniting your mind, your body and your breath. Practicing yoga helps us recognize how our thoughts, words, and actions affect everything that happens around us. It is about seeing our connection to every other living being on the planet. Having any one particular religion, or no religion at all for that matter, does not exclude you from practicing yoga.

 

What should I wear/bring to class?

Wear comfortable clothes that allow you to move and stretch easily. Stay away from anything too baggy, as you will probably find yourself upside down at some point. Breathable fabrics will work best when practicing yoga. Shoes are not permitted in the studio.  Most practice in bare feet, but you are welcome to wear socks if this is more comfortable.

Bring your yoga mat, and a towel.  You are welcome to bring a journal with you to class for questions and inspirations.  We provide yoga mats in the studio for students to borrow during class, as well as all of the other recommended props for yoga. If you borrow a mat, we ask that you clean the mat after use, and donations are always welcomed. It is not recommended to drink water during your practice. No bags, purses, phones permitted in the practice space.

 

What are the benefits of yoga?

The benefits of yoga are truly endless.  With regular practice, the body quickly becomes stronger and more flexible, increasing lung capacity, circulatory health, and focus all at the same time.  This leads to better health, stamina, disease prevention and reversal, and increased mental capacity.  Yoga and meditation are widely used today in most medical models to treat diseases in the body, such as heart disease, diabetes, various injuries, immune disorders, and other degenerative diseases.   Additionally, yoga is widely used to treat psychological and emotional disorders associated with stress, anxiety, depression, and trauma.  The many benefits of yoga are available off of the yoga mat, as well.  The stronger, more flexible self shows up stronger in different aspects of relationships, occupations, families, and spirituality.  

 

What are the benefits of practicing hot yoga?

A heated yoga practice brings with it many additional benefits.  Hot yoga can mean different things.  In this studio, it means having a vinyasa (flowing) yoga practice in a room that is heated at 90-95 degrees.  The heat and asana practice alone will encourage sweating, which detoxes the body and mind of impurities ingested through diet and the environment.  The higher temperatures encourage greater expansion of the lungs, and greater flexibility in the muscles, allowing tension to release in various ways.  Twisting through the mid-body is often part of a hot yoga practice, further massaging and detoxing the internal organs and systems.  The idea of tapas, or the burning away of impurities, in life and in the body, is encouraged in a heated practice.

 

How often should I practice yoga?

We encourage practicing yoga as often as possible. A regular practice provides amazing benefits, both physically and mentally. We suggest that you commit to a routine that works for you and your lifestyle. We encourage at least three classes per week, with the goal of creating a daily practice. Take your time and enjoy the process. Yoga is a practice and will be a perpetual and changing journey.

 

Why do we OM and say namaste in class?

Om is everything.  Om is nothing.  It can be chanted and received in a spiritual capacity, a connective frequency, or simply a breathing exercise.  Om is personal, and does not require a fixed sound or definition.  It's meaning comes with practice, as does the rest of yoga.  It can be practiced and refined, observed or passed.  There is no right or wrong, and little instruction.   Also spelled aum, is typically made up of three sounds, “A, U, M,” which can represent the following triads:
        - earth, atmosphere, and heaven
        - birth, life, and death
        - creation, preservation, transformation
        - body, mind, and spirit
It is also referred to as, “The sound from which all other sounds arise,” or “The sound of the universe.” By chanting we lengthen the breath cycles, and set the stage for long, deep breaths throughout the practice. Chanting also creates a resonance in the body and in the room. It’s a way of coming together at the beginning or end of our practice.

Namaste is a recognition of oneness.  Some translate it as, “I bow to the light in you, that is the same light in me.”

 

What is asana and pranayama?

Asana is the physical practice of yoga.  One of the eight limbs of yoga.  An asana is a pose. 

Knowing the names (english or sanskrit) of all of the poses is not necessary to practice yoga.  It is important to pay attention to how the asanas resonate in your body, listening for and utilizing alignment cues, modifications, and being mindful as you transition from asana to asana.  You should be able to breathe deeply in each pose.  If a posture causes pain, please speak with an instructor, as there are many options to make different asanas available.

Pranayama is the breathing portion of yoga which comes from the sanskrit words "prana" (life force) and "yama" (control). This is another limb of yoga.  Controlling your breath through various breathing techniques creates a bridge between the body and the mind.  Breathwork increases lung capacity, vitality, detoxes the respiratory system, tones the abdominal walls, increases mental stamina, and is useful in lowering the blood pressure, and dealing with stress and anxiety.  We use them to bring the body into balance. By observing the breath, we cultivate awareness. Cultivating awareness helps us live in the present moment, which can lead to increased clarity and decreased stress. For more information on the benefits of pranayama, check out Kirpalu's article "Why Do Pranayama?"