Yoga could be those classes that your parents and all their friends used to take together, or the poses that you see on fitness Instagram pages. But what is it exactly? Is it meditation? Is it stretching? Is it exercise? And how do you even start a yoga practice?
It’s not nearly as complicated as some of the twisted poses make it seem.
Megan Hall, the manager of Yoga Sol, speaks on the practice of yoga, covering the health benefits and how to get a practice started.
“It’s not white-knuckling, trying to get through a workout,” Hall said. “It’s like you’re actually tuned in. You tune in and focus your awareness on your body. All the practices just kind of clear the path, clear everything out of your way. You kind of cut through all your bullshit when you’re in a yoga class.”
Hall first started practicing yoga in college when she saw a flyer for a yoga class posted on a bulletin board at Columbia College. She became a certified instructor in 2014. Now, Hall teaches yin yoga classes at Yoga Sol. Yin is a variation of yoga where all poses are done on the floor. It focuses more on the motion of the joints during the poses than the muscular exercise component.
Besides fluidity of motion, yoga is a type of exercise that provides other health benefits. The combination of meditation and muscle stretches allows you to focus on the mind and body. It all starts with awareness of posture and focused breathing.
“Better posture serves so many things, like low back pain is affected by bad posture and breathing is affected by posture,” Hall said.
Breathing itself is another key component of the health benefits of yoga, Hall said.
“The practice of yoga, any style of yoga, yin or yang, should work with calming your nervous system,” Hall said. “We seal off the lips and breathe through the nose. Just breathing through the nose calms your nervous system. The benefits to your nervous system go to your digestion, to your sleep habits. Many people use yoga meditation to bolster anything they’re doing, to battle addiction or depression, anxiety, anything.”
On beginning yoga, Hall advises new students to reach out to their yoga teachers before the class and talk about any apprehensions or concerns they have about yoga in general. This should also be a time to ask any questions about the class. Open communication between the student and the teacher is key.
Hall also said that persistence is also important when starting a yoga practice.
“Be open to it,” Hall said. “Try things out. Not everybody finds their favorite yoga the first class they go to. Sometimes a teacher’s personality gets on your nerves, or the music they use you don’t like, or it was just too fast. I encourage people to try lots of different kinds of yoga with lots of different kinds of teachers because I think that it’s for everybody.”
She also reminds newcomers to yoga that there is a self-conscious component about it, and to not worry about how your yoga practice looks or compare yourself to others.
“Everybody has to go through that time, whether it’s your first time in any yoga class or just your first time in a different style or with a new teacher, everybody has to go through a period of, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing,’ and just kind of grappling with their own ego,” Hall said. “Everybody thinks that everything has to look perfect and be perfect, and that’s just not the way yoga is. It’s not a perfection, it’s an ongoing, refining practice.”
Edited by Katherine White | email@example.com