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Just Starting Out on the Road to Yoga.
 Author: Rod05/11/2011 00:00:00
If you are new to yoga, or even just thinking about starting yoga, you'll probably have a lot of questions, some of the typical ones are: 'What is yoga?'; 'Where can I find suitable lessons?',; and 'What sort of equipment do I need?' In this article I will aim to answer these and hopefully inspire you to ask new ones yourself. I'll begin with one of the most common questions 'What is yoga?' as yoga means a lot of things to a lot of different people, finding a definative meaning can be quite difficult.

What is yoga?

To most people yoga it is primarily a style of exercising aimed at improving flexibility, and many see it as rather gentle and only for middle aged women and the elderly. Although some styles of yoga certainly do cater to people seeking a more relaxed form of exercise, yoga can be a lot more than sitting down and doing some simple stretches. Styles like Ashtanga and Power yoga require a level of strength and stamina that makes them popular with much younger people of both sexes than would normally be expected of the typical yoga stereotype.

Yoga is a sanskrit word that roughly translates as control or to join. Historically it was practiced mainly by men in the Hindi religion seeking to attain a level of spiitual perfection through physical and mental discipline. Later as yoga began to spread in the 1960's to the western world, the gender restrictions began to change, to such an extent that many men believed yoga to be the domain of women only and was certainly not macho enough for them. Now however, with the resurgence of styles like Ashtanga the balance is becoming more even and yoga is begining to draw in people from all walks of life and all genders. Yoga is now cool!

Although yoga is a great way to attain a healthy and fit body, yoga can be and is much more than that, it is a philosophy and a way of life. Yoga incompasses diet, medicine and health, meditation, breathing techniques and much more all of with studied in a proper manner and environment can lead to great improvements in physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. The ultimate aim of the Yogi is to attain perfection. Yoga can be as much or as little as you want it to be, don't be put off by aspects of it that don't appeal to you.

Where can I find lessons that are suitable to me?

There are now many differing styles of yoga on offer, and gyms, fittness centers and social clubs in most towns will often offer one or more varieties. Choosing the style that is right for you can at first sight be quite confusing, but with a little research you should be able to find the course for you. Below are listed some of the more popular styles, with a brief description of what you can expect.
  • Hatha Yoga - Usually refers to what most people think of as yoga, it is more suitable to people of all abilities and can range from quite gentle classes to those that are lot more challenging.
  • Ashtanga Yoga - Also called Ashtanga Vinyasa or Vinyasa Flow Yoga, this style of yoga is a lot more dynamic requirring a good level of strength and stamina, and to some can be quite daunting especially if you have ever searched YouTube for the words 'Ashtanga Yoga', they really do seem to defy gravity. But don't be put off although the levels shown in some of those videos can seem almost unattainable most classes start off at a beginners level that is not much different to the Hatha Yoga mentioned above.
  • Bikram Yoga - Sometimes refered to Hot Yoga and is named after it's founder Bikram Choudhury. Hot yoga is usually practiced in a room at 37.5C temprature and with a high humidity of around 40%. It is believed that exercising at this temprature results in the muscles and ligaments being warm and supple resulting in less strain or injury. However, be warned most people starting out in Bikram Yoga will experience some dizziness and nausea.
  • Power Yoga - Power Yoga is a modernised version of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, the emphasis is on building strength, and as such can be quite demanding.
Based on your level of fittness and what sort of challenge you are looking for you should be able to find what you are looking for somewhere local to where you are, make use of offers by gyms and fittness centers to try out a class, don't commit yourself to a membership until you know you have found the right style for you. All yoga styles have something to offer and all can be challenging, you may find the best course for you is to start off for a few months on a Hatha Yoga course and then once you have learnt the basics move on to the more dynamic Ashtanga or Vinyasa styles. Whatever you choose take it at your own pace and do it with a smile on your face. Have fun guys and stay safe.

What sort of equipment will I need?

Initially you don't really need much in the way of equipment, most clubs will provide exercise mats and all you really need to bring yourself is some light clothing that gives you free range of movement. As you learn more about your needs and the style of yoga you have chosen to follow you may decide that you want to buy your own mat and maybe some other items that may help you, but in essence for yoga you don't really need anything. That said below is a list of some of the most common equipment you might want to get at some stage.
  • Yoga Mats - There are two main types of yoga mat, ruberised mats and woven mats, the first type is the most common and is suitable for most styles of yoga, but can become a bit slick when used with Power yoga or hot yoga.
  • Blocks 305x205x50mm - These can be used as an aid to sitting postures by releasing the tension on the hamstrings
  • Bricks 230x120x75mm - Similar to the Block but more stable so they can be used for support in some of the standing postures.
  • Yoga Belts - These are usually cotton belts or straps about 2.5m long that are used to help attain or correct certain postures that without the belt would put strain on another part of the body, for example people with stiff ligaments may find it difficult to do forward bends without curving the spine

And Finally...

If you still have unanswered questions, don't be affraid to ask. Talk to your friends go to the local gym and find out what they have to offer and what they recommend, they may even put you in touch with one of their teachers. If all else fails and there is still more you want to know then try the internet, type your question into Google and see what comes back. There's a lot of good yoga websites out there, not to mention this one.

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