Living in such a technologically advanced society, access to information regarding health and wellness is literally at the push of a button.
People are becoming more health-conscious and proactive not only about their physical health but about their emotional wellbeing as well.
Yoga – the ancient Hindu discipline of breathing practice and bodily flow – is becoming increasingly popular in Western cultures and has been made completely accessible to anyone with a pair of stretchy pants.
You can find yoga classes on your local gym schedule, boutiques sprawled across town, and public classes bringing communities together around the world.
One common misconception about yoga is that, like many sports, there is only one form of practice.
From soft, easy flows like Vinyasa to more intense asanas like Bikram and even trapeze inversions, yoga offers something for every type of person.
But before you roll out your yoga mat and stand on your head, there are a few things you should know about sport and health yoga.
1. Mind Over Matter?
In almost every variation of yoga, there are two essential components which should be given equal importance: the mind and the body. Most experienced yogis will tell you that the greatest foundation to build your practice upon is learning to master the art of breathing. – That’s right. That thing you do subconsciously every day – you’re doing it wrong. Yoga centers itself around mindful breathing (ujjayi) – in other words, control of the breath which allows you to sink deeper into the poses all while soothing the mind. The Sanskrit word for this pillar of Yoga is Pranayama (prana meaning breath, ayam meaning to control). When this comes together with the physical poses known as the Asana, you can achieve inner balance and improve your athletic abilities.
2. Which Style of Yoga is Right for You?
Before purchasing an expensive yoga membership and signing up for your next class, it’s important to decide which style of yoga is best for you. Here are some of the more popular classifications:
Ashtanga yoga is composed of six physically-demanding poses practiced over and over again in a series. You alternate through each pose with an inhale and exhale – making ashtanga a very Pranayama-centered flow. One of the most popular ashtanga sequences is the Sun Salutation. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys consistency and rapid progress, this yoga variation might be right for you.
Originally an adaption of ashtanga, vinyasa or “power’ yoga centers itself around a more athletic approach and the sequences often depend on the teacher since there’s no strict technique. Vinyasa classes can be a throw of the dice sometimes since your experience will really fall back on the instructor. Overall, vinyasa yoga is great if you’re more interested in the exercise than the spiritual practices.
If you’ve ever taken a yoga class in LA, it was probably a hatha yoga class. This modern yoga practice is most commonly taught in the western hemisphere and is actually one of the best forms of yoga for beginners due to the fact that it takes a classical approach to breathing and physical flow.
When you think of Bikram yoga, the first thing that probably comes to mind is a hot, smelly room full of sweaty people. While this may be the case sometimes, Bikram – in and of itself – is a sequence of 26 of the most basic yoga postures; although, it is often practiced in a 105 degree room (not for the faint of heart!).
On the other end of the spectrum is restorative yoga. This slow-paced style of yoga only features about 4 or 5 different poses which are held for up to 15 to 20 minutes each! The idea is that you’ll sink deeper and deeper into each position while practicing your meditation. Restorative yoga is ideal for someone more interested in the emotional benefits of yoga.
3. What to Bring to Your First Yoga Class
Stepping into a room full of flexible and spiritually-enlightened yogis might seem a little daunting at first.
When attending your first yoga class, you want to be dressed comfortably, bring a yoga mat (unless one is provided for you), a water bottle, and a towel (especially if it’s a Bikram class).
When purchasing your own yoga starter kit, you want to make sure you’re buying a high-quality mat – one that is firm and comfortable – along with durable equipment.
Jade Yoga Mats are great for beginners and experienced yogis all the same. These environmentally-friendly yoga mats are non-slippery and resistant – for more challenging sequences – yet smooth and comfortable – great when you’re sat still in a pose for long periods of time. Jade also plants a tree for every mat sold.
Sport and health yoga are amazing ways to combine physical and mental wellbeing. Set your personal goals and begin your practice at your own pace – after all, there is no set of rules when it comes to yoga.