The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit root word yuj,
which means to join or to yoke. Yoga means union, the practices of yoga unite us with ourselves, bringing all the parts of our being into balance and harmony.
There are many paths of yoga, but the path probably most familiar to us is that of Raja Yoga. Often described as the Eight Limbed Path, it is within these eight limbs that we find the practices of Asana, Pranayama & Meditation, the practices we will see and experience in most Yoga studios around the world today.
Yoga is absolutely experiential, we can talk about it, read about it, think about it, but until we get on our mats and actually do it we cannot know the deep riches that Yoga has to offer us.
In the words of Sri K Pattabhi Jois - "Do your practice and all is coming"
Yoga will strengthen and stretch your body, and will calm and balance your mind. Yoga will enhance your health and wellbeing, balancing and rejuvenating your whole being.
For a great article on yoga for beginners please click here.
Below is a general guideline for your yoga practice:
Asana – There should be no strain while holding the postures, do not use excess force, always move into and out of the postures with full awareness, paying close attention to how your body feels in that moment. If the breath becomes laboured, or there is pain while doing the asana, adjust your body untll the posture feels comfortable. Always respect your body and your intuition keeping in mind the yoga sutra "Sthiram sukham asanam" - the posture should be steady & comfortable. We do not have to push or strain in the postures to receive the full benefits of the practices.
Breathing – always breath in and out through the nose, unless specific instructions to the contrary are given.
Awareness – Keep the awareness on the body, and the breath, if the mind wanders, bring the attention back to the breath.
Place & Time – It is best to practice in a warm well ventilated room, but, you can practice yoga anywhere. its wonderful if we can have a dedicated yoga space for our sadhana, but we can practice in our bedrooms, our lounge, in the garden (not in direct sunlight) at the airport! Anywhere there is space for you and your mat, you can practice. Early morning and early evening are the best times to practice, but all yoga is good yoga, and the time must be suitable for you. We can also practice yoga throughout the day, we do not have to do a complete practice all in one go, we can practice tree while waiting for the jug to boil, squats while on the phone, the joint freeing exercises in bed before we get up. You can have an effective practice in small increments, 10 minutes a day, is better than 1 1/2 hours sporadically, consistency gets the best results.
Clothing – should be light, warm and comfortable, layers are great.
Cleanliness - It is good to shower before your practice, or if you do not have time, ensure that the body is free of strong odours, this includes strong perfumes and deodorants.
Diet - There are no dietary restrictions, and you do not have to be a vegetarian to practice yoga, however, when practicing regularly, many people find that their diet changes to a lighter and healthier food intake.
Eating – It is best to do yoga on an empty stomach, 2-4 hours after a main meal and 1/2 to 1 hour after a snack.
Relaxation - It is really important to complete the relaxation at the end of the class, the practice of Savasana is one of the most important practices in Yoga, when we lie in Savasana our body and mind can assimilate and integrate the practices we have just done. Our whole body-mind can rest, relax and fully rejuvenate.
Inverted Asana – Do not practice these asana if pregnant or menstruating or if there is heart disease or high blood pressure.
Contraindications – Everybody can practise yoga, there are no age, gender, size, or religious restrictions. If you are suffering from a serious illness or disorder, or if you are taking medication to manage an illness or imbalance in the body, you must seek medical advise before beginning any exercise programme, and ensure you discuss with your yoga teacher before you begin a yoga practice.