A Beginner’s Guide to Yoga

yogaSo everybody in your life, including your pregnant friend, 65-year-old mom and teen-aged niece, are all doing yoga. After listening to them extol the benefits that this ancient Indian practice has had on their stressed out minds and seeing the proof in their new lean yoga bodies, it is time that you discover firsthand what the yoga buzz is all about.

But before you lift off into a headstand in the middle of your kitchen, read our Beginner’s Guide to Yoga so that you’ll be in the know-how as you roll out your mat and join the millions of Americans practicing yoga.


The word “yoga” is Sanskrit for “to yoke” or “to join,” most specifically referring to yoga’s ability to connect the mind, body and spirit.

In understanding the true definition of yoga, the benefits of this spiritual practice can therefore be experienced on these three levels of the human experience. From reduced stress to improved strength, balance and flexibility, and to greater sense of life’s purpose, the benefits of yoga are far-reaching.

In fact, it is not just your friend or cousin who can attest to yoga’s rewards, but the medical community is listening as well. For instance, the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), is investigating how yoga might help a variety of medical conditions including high blood pressure, chronic low-back pain, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, HIV and multiple sclerosis. And yoga’s benefits have already been shown in those suffering from back pain, depression and weight issues.

The benefits of yoga may depend upon the consistency, frequency and style of your yoga practice. But in general, yoga offers these benefits:

  • Improved strength, flexibility and balance
  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Improved body image
  • Healthier methods to reacting to stressful situations
  • Weight loss, weight control and appetite control
  • Improved concentration and focus
  • Improved awareness of how behaviors affect how we feel, look and act

What to Wear

As if the benefits of yoga aren’t enough, the cute clothing is also a powerful lure. The yoga fashion industry is almost as thriving as the yoga industry itself. But until you know that yoga is a practice you want to stick with, don’t blow your paycheck on yoga attire, even if those $80 bootcut yoga pants rock your world. Yoga wear can be pricey but the good news is that many mass retail chains like Old Navy and Target offer comfortable and stylish yoga clothing for reasonable prices.                                                                   yoga

Show up to your yoga class wearing comfortable but not too comfortable clothing. Yoga pants, capri-style workout leggings and shorts will all work just fine. Fitted tank tops, sports bras and for guys, T-shirts will work well for top selections. Avoid wearing super tight or overly loose clothing. Your instructor will want to check out your alignment and that is tough to do when you’re layered in sweatpants and a baggy T-shirt from a 1988 Poison concert, or too stiff from head-to-toe spandex, to move.

Types of Yoga

Perhaps the toughest decision you will have to make as you begin your yoga journey is deciding upon what kind of yoga to try. Even though the selection of yoga classes look more like the drink menu from your favorite coffee spot, you can take advantage of all the offerings by testing out a few and seeing which styles jive with your style. Even the calories burned in yoga will vary by style.

Here is a look at some of the most popular kinds of yoga:

Ashtanga: One of the oldest forms of yoga, Ashtanga, is a dynamic form of yoga that involves practicing a set sequence of  asanas, the Sanksrit name for yoga postures, to a deep rhythmic breath known as ujjayi pranayama. Madonna, Sting and Gwyneth Paltrow are Ashtanga yoga devotees.

Bikram: Sometimes called “hot yoga,” Bikram yoga involves performing 26 specific postures and two breathing exercises in a room heated to 105°F (40.5°C) with a humidity of 40 percent.

Iyengar: Iyengar yoga is characterized by its precise focus on alignment, technique and detail. Iyengar yoga classes rely on props like belts, bolsters and chairs to perform the variety of asanas.

Anusara: One of the newer forms of stylized yoga, Anusara was created in 1997. It was developed under the Tantric philosophy of intrinsic goodness in combination with the Universal Principles of Alignment.

Good luck with beginning your yoga journey!

And it is a great day to take a yoga class since just this past Saturday, January 23 was Yoga Day USA.

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