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A Beginner's Guide to Yoga

What is Yoga?

Yoga is a practice, philosophy, and way of living based upon several ancient texts including the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and  the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Listen to An Introduction of the History and Philosopy of Yoga.The physical practice of Yoga, called Asana, often constitutes the majority of the practice for most Westerners, but it is actually just one aspect within the much broader and encompassing system of Ashtanga Yoga or Eight-Limbed Yoga ( Ashta - Eight, Anga - Limb). The eight limbs are: Yama - Universal Ethics, such as non-harming, non-stealing, and moderation; Niyama - Personal Ethics such as cleanliness, contentment, and self-study; Asana- Physical Yoga Poses; Pranayama - Breathing Techniques;  Pratyahara -Withdrawal of the Senses; Dharana- Concentration; Dhyana - Meditation on the Divine; and Samadhi- Union with The Divine. Think of the Limbs like a Tree, as the Founder of Iyengar Yoga, BKS Iyengar, describes in his book, The Tree of Yoga. Each part is a composite of the whole.

Why Do People Practice Yoga?

The definition of Yoga given in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is "Yogas Citta Vritti Nirodhah", translates as "Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind." The ultimate goal of yoga is to make us peaceful, contented, connected, and more balanced beings. The practice of Yoga has a dramatic effect on the physical body, making us stronger and more flexible. It also has an effect on our breath body, by making our breathing more efficient and effective in either cooling or warming the body. And it has an effect on our mental body, by making us less reactive and hot-tempered and more calm in our interactions with other beings.

Just the simple practice of linking the mind with the breath or the movements of the body with the breath will have an effect.

Try it!

Sit comfortably on your chair.

Place the soles of your feet on the ground and sit back in the chair so your spine is erect and supported by the back of the chair. Place your hands comfortably in your lap.

Close your eyes OR take the gaze of the eyes down towards the floor.
(This will help to calm the mind.)
Begin taking slow, soft, steady breaths through the nostrils.
See if you can inhale and count to 3. And then exhale and count to 3.
Do not force the breath. Try 3 cycles of this breath.

Take a moment to notice the effects. Do you feel calmer? Clearer? More Grounded?

How Do I Find a Yoga Teacher?

There are many teachers of yoga and many various styles of yoga, each with their unique emphasis and approach, so finding a teacher you feel comfortable with may take a little bit of searching. Relax and Enjoy the Journey. First, consider what it is you hope to achieve by practicing yoga.

Would you like to focus on detailed alignment within the poses?

Try Iyengar Yoga.

Are you interested in a purifying physical workout?

Try a Vinyasa Yoga class or a beginning Ashtanga Yoga class.

Are you looking for a meditative gentle class?

Try Deep Relaxation or Yoga Nidra.

Start by asking your friends and colleagues who study yoga to give you some references and then go take one of the classes they recommend. Take a few from the same teacher and listen to your intuition. What feels right for you at this time? Download one of our beginner yoga videos to get comfortable with some of the poses before going to a public class. Often there are also inexpensive yoga classes at your gym or local YMCA. Try a few to find something that really feels good for you.

What is A Yoga Practice?

A Yoga practice is a very personal experience. For some people it may include meditation, breathing (pranayama) and/or physical poses (asana). For some it may consist of 2 - 3 hours of very vigorous asana. Your yoga practice is a gift that you give yourself every time you reconnect with your body and breath. It is recommended that you start with a competent teacher. Begin to learn the foundations of the asana and pranayama.  Once you feel comfortable, after a year or two, you may have the discipline to practice on your own. Start simply but be consistent. If you practice a few poses at a time, you will still receive the benefits of a yoga practice without feeling discouraged that you are not doing "enough." A Yoga Practice is a consistent discipline of going to your yoga mat and connecting with your body and your breath. It does not need to be complicated or difficult.

Here is a playlist of several standing poses taught by Iyengar Yoga Teacher John Schumacher. Standing Poses are foundational yoga poses. Once you learn the standing poses, you will begin to understand the actions present in all yoga poses.

What if I am not flexible or strong?

Yoga is not about being flexible or strong, although this is how it is often portrayed in the main stream media. Yoga is about starting from where YOU are, not where other people are. The more you practice yoga, however, the more flexible and strong you will become, but more importantly you will connect with your true essence. You will discover things about yourself that you never knew were possible. Yoga is a gift you can give to yourself every time you choose to practice. Enjoy the journey.

Why is my teacher speaking in another language?

The language is called Sanskrit and it is the ancient spiritual language of India. It is similar to latin in that no one really speaks it anymore but it contains the roots of modern languages and was the language used to describe the poses and the philosophy of Yoga. We use Sanskrit to honor the ancient tradition of origins of yoga. You can listen to the correct pronunciation of the Yoga Poses via the Online Sanskrit Pronunciation Guide.

What is the History of Yoga?

We created iHanuman as an bridge for the ancient teachings of yoga to travel upon. We have created several FREE features for you to listen to and learn from. Below are a few of our features which discuss some of the fundamentals. Explore our site, there is lots of information available. Enjoy!

 

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