How to Start Practicing Yoga
What is yoga?
The word yoga means union or communion. The union between powers of the body, mind, and soul to God.
There are eight limbs of yoga. Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dhārana, Dhyāna, and Samādhi. In this post, I will be focusing on the Asanas and how to start your practice. Asana, which means a posture or a pose. Asanas keep the body healthy to help control the mind and therefore, getting closer to the soul.
Yoga is suitable for everyone regardless of their age, size, flexibility, or physical condition. If you have a certain ailment, ask your doctor first or practice with a knowledgable teacher.
“An asana is not a posture which you assume mechanically. It involves thought, at the end of which a balance is achieved between movement and resistance.”
Benefits of practicing yoga regularly
- Balances the hormones, therefore, balancing your metabolism
- Strengthens the muscles, joints, and bones
- Keeps the body healthy from the inside and outside
- Keeps your organs healthy and functioning well by supplying them with fresh blood.
- Regulates the nervous and digestive system
- Tones the body
- Keeps your blood pressure in control
- Can heal certain ailments with regular practice
- Improves your lung capacity
- Improves the cardiovascular system and respiratory system
- Improves Stamina
- Keeps the body flexible
- Help lose excess fat
- Improves posture and keeps the spine healthy
- Eliminates back problems and relieves chronic lower backpain
- Keeps the reproductive system healthy
- Regulates the menstrual cycle for women
- Improves concentration and balance
- Brings vitality
- Reduces stress levels
- Calms the restless mind
- Brings eternal joy
“You will learn to access levels of yourself that you were unaware existed. The asanas connects you to the inner world within you"
How to start practicing yoga
- Find a private teacher in your area (best option).
- Attend different yoga classes and try different types of yoga. I tried most and at the end I found Iyengar yoga to be the most suitable for me. There are Hatha, Iyengar, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Kundalini, Yin yoga, and many more types.
- Try different teachers and question your teacher's knowledge and experience. As Iyengar says, it's your responsibility to make sure that the teacher is a good teacher.
- If the above two choices are not attainable for you, you can start with online classes but you have to be careful. In my case, when I was doing yoga online I was making a lot of mistakes without knowing even though the teacher was somewhat detailed.
“Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.” - B.K.S. Iyengar
Correcting your alignment when practicing alone
- Since you don't have anyone checking your form, I suggest filming yourself and practicing next to a mirror so you can increase your awareness of your alignment. Only do this occasionaly as these two can distract you.
- Get to know your body and the common misalignments you tend to do.
- Use the wall and props such as blocks, belts, bolsters, a lined mat, and chairs.
- Buy books and read about the poses in details in between your practice.
Advice for a deeper and safer practice
- Practice every day by turning it into a habit. Remember “Through discipline comes freedom” -Aristotle
- Dedicate a certain time and place to practice every day
- Practice early in the morning while your body is energized and mind is clear. You can also practice in the evening in case your muscles are very stiff in the morning.
- Practice on an empty stomach. Wait at least one hour after a small snack and at least four hours after a meal.
- Always practice barefoot. No socks or shoes.
- Shower before and after your practice to refresh your body and mind
- When you are in the final pose, bring your awareness to every part of your body and extend your breath.
- Your practice should be suitable for your physical condition, mental state, age, and time of day
- For females, avoid inversions when you are menstruating.
- In every pose, check your alignment and engagement. I like to start with the toes, ankles, shins, knees, and all the way to your forehead
- If you experience any pain, know that you're doing something wrong. Go to the doctor, a chiropractor, or contact a knowledgeable yoga teacher for help.
- Online classes should be your last option. However, I still believe that something is better than nothing
We usually expect to see results and progress immediately after practicing yoga. However, please keep in mind that yoga deals with the root cause of the problem. Therefore, it takes longer to notice results. But as K. Pattabhi Jois said, “Practice and all is coming"
Through yoga, you will get to learn more about your body. Challenging yourself and your body will surprise you with what it can do once you dedicate your time to practice. However, remember that yoga is a spiritual journey and the poses you aim to reach are only tools to help us be free and reach a meditative state.
“We are often pulled in two opposite directions. On the one hand, our mind is attracted by the external world and our attention irresistibly drawn towards it. On the other, we learn to look inward, to discover the core of our being and our inner self. This conflict entangles us in a web of desire, dissatisfaction, and anger, and manifests itself in feelings of anguish, exhaustion, and breathlessness.”
The Path to Holistic Health - B.K.S Iyengar