What is Yoga?

What most people mean when they talk about “yoga” is actually Hatha Yoga. This is the type of yoga that is most widely practised in the West, and employs a combination of physical postures (called asana), breathing exercises (pranayama), cleansing processes and awareness of the body and mind to prepare for contemplation and meditation.

There are many layers to yoga; some of us come to yoga for the physical benefits and to help with our aches and pains, others are drawn to yoga for the spiritual benefits. In either case, yoga is a safe and effective way to increase physical activity, especially strength, flexibility and balance, while helping the practitioner to relax.

Where does yoga come from?

Yoga is a branch of Indian philosophy, and is a discipline that has been practised for thousands of years. The Sanskrit word ‘yoga’ has many meanings, among which is ‘to yoke or ‘to unite’, referring to the union of the physical body, mind and spirit as a method of transcending the limitations of the ego to reach enlightenment.

Ha means ‘sun’ and tha means ‘moon’ in Sanskrit, and Hatha Yoga looks to create a balance between the body and the mind. This particular system of yoga is the most popular one, and it is from which several other Styles of Yoga originated including Iyengar Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Power Yoga and Kundalini Yoga.

What should I expect from a Yoga session?

Every class is different, and is tailored to the needs of the students attending. But each class consists of the following sections:

  • Limbering: a gentle warm-up to prepare the body for the physical practice.
  • Structural yoga poses (asana). These can be as strenuous or as gentle as you wish to make them. Yoga is not a competitive activity; you should be guided by your own body.
  • Breath-awareness exercises (pranayama).
  • A yoga relaxation.

What equipment do I need to practise yoga?

  • A yoga mat.
  • A yoga block or a cushion.
  • A blanket to keep warm during relaxation.
  • Loose comfortable clothing – layers are a good idea.
  • Yoga is practised in bare feet but please bring socks to keep your feet warm during relaxation.

What if I have health problems or pre-existing injuries?

Yoga can be beneficial for many ailments and injuries. But please always advise your teacher of any specific problems. They will then be able to advise you which postures are inappropriate for you and suggest suitable alternatives or modifications.

Should I have a meal before my Yoga class?

It is advisable not to practise yoga for at least 2 hours after a light meal and 4 hours after a heavy meal.

Yoga etiquette

Please arrive for the yoga session at least 10 minutes before the class is due to start. If you arrive late then please enter the room as quietly as possible

Am I flexible enough for yoga?

It is a common misconception that you have to be fit and flexible to practise yoga. This is far from the case; in fact you have more to gain if you are not already flexible as yoga will help you to improve your own fitness and flexibility. Yoga is not about being bendy or flexible, it’s more about how flexible your mind is. In my yoga sessions I will help you regain your natural flexibility safely but also balance that with increasing your strength.

Why should I practise Yoga – what are the benefits?

People often ask me “Why should I practise Yoga?” What do I say, how do I explain what yoga means to me and why I really believe you should try yoga?

Yoga is a wonderful form of exercise, and works on so many levels; it has an impact physically, physiologically and psychologically.

The following are just some of the benefits that most students experience:

  • a sense of well-being and calmness
  • reduced stress and tension
  • improvement in concentration
  • improvement in posture
  • an improvement in circulation
  • a boosts to the immune system
  • increases in self-esteem and self-confidence
  • an improvement flexibility, whatever your starting point
  • increased strength, developed gradually without over-straining
  • increased relaxation, helping you to sleep better and lowering blood pressure

The list is endless so don’t take my word for it, come and try for yourselves.

Yoga is a mirror to look at ourselves from within“.
BKS Iyengar