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How to start practicing Yoga?

How to start practicing Yoga?

There is probably not a single person on this planet who has not heard about yoga. Originating in India, yoga has now spread to all parts of the world and became a lifestyle for many people.

What is yoga? Yoga is a complex of both physical and mental exercises. Once the physical asanas are mastered, one can move to more complicated practices - meditation and pranayama techniques.

What to begin with?

The first steps on the path of yoga should commence with exploring Shatkarma techniques (there are six). Beginners should start with physical body purification by means of vegetarian diet and by observation of Yama and Niyama principles (the main ethical rules).

Yama principles teach us:

Non-violence which, of course, includes refusal to eat meat (Ahimsa); Truthfulness and honesty towards oneself and others (Satya); Non-stealing (Asteya); Sensual abstinence, continence (Brahmacharya); Non-possessiveness, non-attachment (Aparigraha).

Niyama principles teach us:

Purity of the body and the thoughts (Shaucha); Acceptance of one’s circumstances and contentment (Santosha); Discipline and austerity (Tapas); Pursuit of knowledge (Swadhyaya); Devotion and surrender to the Higher Being (Ishvara Pranidhana).

Why practice yoga?

Yoga can help us with many negative aspects in life, including the following issues:

Stressful situations and depression: Stress is one of the worst enemies of humanity. Under stress, we cease to control our emotions, anger and lose our ability to sensibly understand and assess daily situations adequately. As a result, stress decreases the quality of our lives. The body reacts to stress by slowing down metabolic processes, early aging of the skin, weight gain. The teaching of yoga is a universal method to relieve this tension, face the stress and learn how to surpass it;

Lack of energy and apathy. Practitioners of yoga notice an improvement in the strength, energy and vivacity. Yoga practices provide essential rest to the body, during which a person sometimes can gain more energy and strength than during an 8-hour sleep. More experienced yoga practitioners only need 4 hours of sleep to fully restore;

Extra weight. Consistent yoga practices result in shedding of extra pounds, slender physical shape, and overall more flexible and healthy body. The visible results come already after about 4-5 months of practice.

Practical Tips for Beginners

In spite of the fact that yoga is a beneficial practice for the body and the mind, it is important to note that there are also contraindications, namely:

Mental illness (eg: schizophrenia); Disease of any internal organ at the stage of exacerbation; Inguinal hernia.

How to choose a yoga teacher?

Perhaps one of the most important steps is to find a yoga teacher who will help you on your path of yoga discovery. How can you find your teacher? You can start by asking your friends. It is possible that one of them already attends yoga classes for beginners and can give you recommendations. You can also search online for the local yoga studios and read their customer reviews on the Internet. Try signing up for classes at several studios and with several teachers. Then you will be able to compare and choose better. There are several things to pay attention to:

You should like and respect your teacher. This is the main criterion as the teacher should not cause any negative emotions in your such as dislike and irritation. It is worth to remember that yoga is not a sport and not a fitness, so yoga teacher does not necessarily need to be the owner of the most beautiful body with embossed muscles. It is best to trust your intuition as it can help you understand with which teacher you have a karmic connection and a kinship of souls. vA competent yoga instructor goes from simple to complex asanas. For beginners, he or she will first offer basic exercises and only when these are mastered the more complex poses will be introduced. A teacher who cares about his students will not show off demonstrating his or her abilities in challenging asanas. The development of students’ skills and practice should be the center of teacher’s attention.

A true yoga teacher is distinguished by calmness and leisureliness. Such teacher is always composed, never shouts, does not become angry and agitated. He or she will not force or push students against their will.

An experienced and knowledgeable instructor will not excessively fixate on the physical aspect. The students’ goal should not be mastering of the advanced asanas, but rather their self-growth and ability to concentrate the mind. The physical aspect will follow as a consequence.

Also, a good yoga teacher is knowledgeable not only about the potential benefits of various asanas, but also about their contraindications. Always speak to the teacher about your health issues, so he or she could help you pick your individual asanas sequences.

Preparation for yoga practice

Once you choose your teacher, you will need to prepare for the first class.

Usually yoga studio have mats available for rent, but you can also buy your own yoga mat. There are no special recommendations on how to choose the mat, except that it should match your height and be durable enough.

The clothing for training should be comfortable for movements, but also not too loose.

Do not come to class with a full stomach (this applies to water as well). It is better to practice with an empty stomach or several hours after the last meal intake.

Before starting the yoga training, try to learn how to breathe and relax the body by yourself. Later, the teacher will teach you how to relax and concentrate at the same time.

Please note that it is almost impossible to master asanas without applying any effort. Although it is necessary to avoid injuries in every possible way, the feeling of slight discomfort is acceptable in yoga.

Most importantly, remember that by enrolling in group sessions with a teacher, you should try to observe the class schedule. Yoga teaches discipline.

Asanas for beginners

“Tree” Asana. Stand up straight. Very slowly inhale raising your arms up and pulling them as high as possible. Open your chest area, by taking your hands behind your head, keeping your arms straight. To master balance in this pose, try to do this exercise with one raised leg bent at the knee, with the foot placed onto the hip of the other leg. This asana, if done correctly, is very beneficial for posture and spine;

"Child" Asana. Sit down on the mat by placing buttocks on the heels. Fold forward to the thighs with your whole body, relax your arms and stretch them in front of you. The main benefit of this posture is relaxation of the back and neck muscles; v“Downward Dog” Asana. Fold forward and put your hands in front of you on the floor. Step backward raising the pelvis up. Try to spread the weight evenly between your feet and palms. Head and neck should be relaxed. The benefit of this posture is in relieving tension of the back and shoulder. This asana also helps to firm leg muscles resulting in slimmer figure;

“Forward Bend” Asana. Inhale. On the exhalation, lift your arms and fold forward. The bend should be felt in the lower back. This pose stretches the hamstrings and increases muscle tone of the whole body;

"Bow" Asana. Lie on your stomach. Reach and grab your ankles with your hands. Try to lift both the lower and upper parts of your body. This posture will result in slender hands and strengthening of the press muscles.

Choosing a yoga style

One you decided that yoga is really what you need, you should research different styles of yoga to find the one suitable for you. There are many styles of yoga with the main ones outlined below:

Hatha Yoga. Generally, this is the basic style for all newcomers. The main principles of hatha yoga are as follows: maintaining the healthy joints and spine, achieving flexibility of the body, massage of internal organs and stimulation of hormonal glands;

Ashtanga Yoga. This style is aimed to develop core strength, ability to concentrate and relax, as well as mastery over the respiratory techniques;

Iyengar Yoga. This style differs by an individual approach to each student. Iyengar yoga employs various additional aids, such as rollers, pillows and so on;

Kundalini Yoga. This is a style that incorporates basic asanas with pranayama and meditation techniques;

Bikram Yoga. This style is based on 26 asanas of hatha yoga combined with two breathing exercises. Its aim is to improve the flexibility of the joints, the spine and strengthening the whole boy overall.

Jivamukti Yoga. This style combines asanas, dancing, mantras signing, listening to relaxing music, meditation and pranayama techniques to allow students to concentrate on their inner practice and self-growth.

Certainly, this not an exhaustive list of all the features and advantages of each style. In addition, each of these styles has its own level of complexity with asanas that can be difficult to perform without the experienced teacher's instructions.

Here are general recommendations for yoga self-practice:

Keep consistency of practice;

Proper food diet (and no overeating before the practice);

Gradual transition from simple postures to complex ones;

Proper breathing during the practice;

Tranquil environment and relaxing music;

Comfortable clothes;

Comfortable temperature in a room where yoga is practiced;

Positive attitude: have fun learning.

If, for some reason, you are not able to master any particular posture, do not give up, but keep cultivating patience and continue to train. Patience, tranquility, acceptance of ourselves and the world surrounding us, a balanced harmonious approach to everything - this is what yoga practice is all about.

It is very important to understand that yoga is a way of life. It should not just be practiced within the walls of a yoga studio, but rather it should be continuously practiced in our everyday lives. For example, yoga practice also means a healthy diet and fighting bad habits (smoking, alcohol and other addictions).

Often, the question about how to become a yogi is asked by beginners, who decided to comprehend the yoga doctrine on their own. Naturally, if you have enough patience and dedication to study a lot of yoga textbooks and watch many video lessons, you will be successful. However, it might be more effective and safer to seek help of an experienced and competent teacher, with whom you will achieve faster results and enjoy the process. Also, once you enter the path of yoga, you will understand that it is possible to learn yoga during your whole life. As they say, there is no limit to perfection.

Yana Romanenko