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6 frequently asked questions about yoga

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

Practicing yoga can offer many science-based benefits. Among them, improved strength and flexibility, reduced inflammations, stress relief, and a better mental health. When practiced regularly, yoga helps with anxiety, depression, and burn-out.

Although these are somewhat well-known facts about yoga, there is much more to know. Here are answers to some of the questions I am asked the most as a yoga teacher.

What is yoga?

The word yoga means union and sometimes is also translated or understood as alignment. Yoga teaches us that this union already exists - it happens within and around us, among all things and at all times. Once we calm the mind, we can perceive this more clearly - like a lake of calm waters, without ripples. The definition and explanation of the yoga philosophy can be found on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

Which are common yoga practices?

There are several ways to practice yoga and, little by little, reconnect with this union. One of them is the physical practice (hata = physical strength) of postures (asanas) together with breathwork (pranayama) and meditation. This combination is usually practiced in a yoga class. Other activities like mantra chanting, and the study of the yoga philosophy (Yamas and Niyamas) are also considered forms of yoga practice.

What are the different styles of yoga?

Hatha yoga is the most traditional style of physical yoga practice - it includes more breaks, more time to feel and work on the postures. Derived from the hata style are vinyasa (more fluid), ashtanga (more active), yin (more restorative), among others.

Which yoga style is the best for me?

If you are new to yoga, a hata class is probably easier to follow. Because of its slower pace, the teacher has more time to explain the poses and the students have more time to try them out. Vinyasa can also be beginner friendly if you don't mind going with the flow. It is a great practice to enjoy a more creative and dynamic approach to yoga. Ashtanga is a great style to try out when you want to be challenged. And yin is recommended for when you need something more meditative and gentler to the body. In summary, all styles have their benefits and all of them contribute to a deeper body-mind awareness. It's up to you to experiment, understand your needs and what fits you best on each moment of your life.

Do I need to know some yoga before starting to take classes?

No. Yoga is an open door to both beginners and more experienced yogis. If you are a beginner, try to tun-in and follow the teacher's instructions. At first, you might experience new sensations and feel muscles that you didn't realize were there before. This is part of the process of getting to know yourself and exploring your mind-body connection. With time and practice you will become more familiar and comfortable with the dynamic of the classes and how your mind and body navigate the practice. Once you are more experienced, you will find even more freedom and room to dive deeper into it. And still, you won't need to worry about doing things "right" or "perfect". It's all about getting to know yourself and connect with your center.

Are there any restrictions to the physical yoga practice?

Yoga is for everyone. It embraces diverse age ranges, genders, and body types. Even so, in some cases, some conditions may affect the practitioner's experience. For instance, if someone is recovering from an injury, is pregnant, or having their period. In these cases, the yoga instructor will guide the student on how to conduct the practice in a safe and healthy way. Still, it's important that you see a doctor or get advice from a physiotherapist if your case requires further care.

Although a yoga instructor can support you during the yoga practice, in most cases they won't be able to prescribe diagnostics. And remember, yoga is not supposed to hurt. So, if you feel any warning pain make sure to gently come out of the pose, rest, and take care of yourself. This is also yoga - ahimsa, the ethical principal of not injuring any living being whether by body or mind, including yourself.


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