Thanks to the west and Instagram, yoga has become the new cool. Even athletes are adding yoga to their routines to prevent injuries and maintain flexibility. Although our ancestors recognized the benefits of yoga way before Instagram came along, the new age yogis we see on the internet can make it appear overwhelming for a beginner. Don’t your muscles yelp each time you see that yogi you’ve been following posting an aesthetic picture of herself doing a stunt-like posture on the mountain like it is no biggie? Well, there’s more to it than meets the eye.
When someone tells you they practice yoga, you instantly assume that they are calm, composed and self-aware. However, every yogi will tell you that’s not true. If practicing yoga on and off since the last 7 years has taught me anything, it is that yoga is more of a journey than a destination.
You do become more aware with every session on the mat, but there’s always room for more growth. Even yogis who’ve given a lifetime to their practice will not tell you that they feel like they have arrived.
That’s what draws me to the mat, the fundamental essence of it – a journey which is all about accepting our own flaws, limitations. It is about embracing all that I am, and coming home to myself.
In Sanskrit, yoga means “union”, implying the connection between the mind and body as if they were one and not detached from each other. For those who practice yoga regularly, it is about creating space not just within your body but also in your mind – space to breathe, let go and just be.
Yoga teaches you that you don’t live outside in, but inside out. The science of yoga is established on the belief that the world reflects our energy, not the other way round. It is quite similar to the lines of Karma, we have the power to put out good no matter what we are currently receiving.
Learning yoga demands persistence and patience. Yoga is not simply an exercise or a means to become fit. To become a true yogi, you have to practice what yoga teaches you outside of the mat, too, because it is literally a way of life and it begins with a change in mindset, attitude, and beginning to realise the power of your consciousness. Given the rise in mental health issues in our generation, regular practice of yoga has also shown to help people keep their mental health in check.
So how and where do you begin? There are many types of yoga classes, apps, teachers, and then there are fads like beer yoga. The industry may have gone a little too all over the place but the fundamentals remain the same and all you need is a little research before you decide where to begin.
Though Google will tell you otherwise, I speak from my personal experience. There are primarily four conventional types of yoga or a hybrid of them that most studios offer. YouTube classes are great but as a beginner, if you have access to a class then please visit one because a teacher will help you with the correct alignment of postures.
Here’s a brief guide of the four styles:
1) Hatha yoga: Commercially, Hatha yoga is known to be a more gentle and practice of yoga. However, the Sanskrit term “hatha” refers to any form of physical asanas (postures). According to a study published in the Journal of Nursing Research, just one 90-minute hatha class significantly reduced women’s stress levels. Hatha yoga is great for beginners and for more advanced yogis. The classes are focused more on breath and alignment and cleansing the mind, rather than on pushing the body’s flexibility.
2) Iyengar yoga: Founded by BKS Iyengar, this form of yoga focuses on alignment and deeper asanas by using props like yoga blocks and straps. Iyengar demands you to focus and hold each pose for longer, in an attempt to open up the knots in your body. It is great for people with injuries but beginners need to be careful around their initial few classes as it can get a bit intense.
3) Ashtanga yoga (Sanksrit: eight limb path) is a challenging sequence of asanas. It starts with sun salutations and its variations, then moving on to a series of standing and sitting asanas. Beginners should best stay away from this class as it can be quite daunting and unwelcoming for them.
4) Vinyasa yoga (Sanksrit: to place in a special way) is a dynamic, dance-like flow of asanas that are coordinated with breath. It is quite fast-paced and athletic, and requires constant flow or movement through the class. Vinyasa is great for developing agility, strength, flexibility and balance. There are also inversions in the class like shoulder stands and headstands, but one can slowly work their way towards them with variations for beginners.
Regardless of which style you chose, each session on the mat will leave you rejuvenated and re-aligned. Practice, practice, practice. Let’s roll ‘em mats out and get bending.
Author : Nida Aziz