What is Yoga?

Your friends are all doing it, but what is it?

If you’re new to yoga, no worries, everyone starts out new to yoga at some point in their lives. To someone who is fresh to yoga, saying the word alone can be an awkward endeavor. As it becomes more and more popular globally it can both peak your interest and make you feel left out of a group. Fret not. Yoga is available to everyone at any stage in their life.

What is yoga?

Yoga is whatever you put into and take out of it. There are different depths or levels you can take your yoga too, but honestly, if you want it to be a 60 minute workout you do to lose weight, it can be that.

On a basic level it’s stretching and holding poses. If that’s all you ever get out of it, that’s fine. At its very least yoga is physical activity that makes your body feel good and in the time you’re doing it, takes the cares of the world off your shoulders. It’s hard to stress about the world at large when you’re trying not to fall on your face or learning to move your body in an entirely new way. This is doing yoga.

At the next level is practicing yoga. What that means is you’re moving through poses (asana) on your mat, or whatever you have available to you. You’re practicing getting a little better at pairing your breath with your movement and enjoying the journey into and out of each pose. You practice yoga because you can never perfect yoga. Although, you can get really good at it — far better than you can ever imagine. Trust the process.

Some days you’ll show up to the mat and feel like it was the most awkward hour of your week. Other days you’ll be filled with simple joy that your heel almost touched the mat during downward dog or beaming when you see muscle definition in the mirror.

Then there will be days you experience yoga off the mat when you’re in a frustrating moment and reflexively take a deep, calming breath. There will be pleasant surprises when you discover how light and free different breathing techniques can make you feel. Oh, and there will be days when you realize there is yoga for your feet and you’ve secretly been wanting it all your life.

If you choose to go deeper there are different styles of yoga, there are spiritual components and there is also a beautiful meditative component. All of that is available to you, but not required. You can reap the core benefits of yoga at any level: healthy weight, better posture, decreased pain, improved immune system and even better sleep.

Get a simple mat to begin with and wear something comfortable. Try a few different styles and instructors until you see what is a good fit for you. Your best friend may love one style that makes you miserable. Don’t take that class then. Do keep going back. As with anything new, it takes time to honestly decide if it’s for you. It’s like a new job. You feel out of place and unsure if you love it or hate it. After a couple of weeks you feel like you belong and decide to stick around. Give yourself 8 to 10 tries before forming any opinion.

Group classes are great for getting you to do more than you thought you could because you’re trying to keep up with everyone else. As long as you’re being mindful of your own body and safety, that’s a great thing. Individual lessons can give you confidence in both your own practice and in practicing in a group setting in front of other people. Online yoga classes can provide privacy to learn, stumble and fall on your own time in your own space. They are great to support your group and individual sessions — like practicing the piano at home between piano lessons.

Another great way yoga can benefit you and you can benefit your yoga, is learning a few stretches and poses you can do when you first get out of bed in the morning and before you go to bed at night. This helps with aches and pains, as well as energy levels and sleep quality. 2 to 5 minutes of going through your range of motion can work wonders.

Regardless of how long you’ve being doing yoga, what type of yoga and how deep you want to go with it, the hardest part for anyone is showing up on the mat. Anything after that is a sweet, happy bonus.

Sheila Amir is the owner and author of NutritionSheila.com, where she gives people information in order to help them live happier, healthier and well-nourished lives.

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Originally published at www.wellwoodhealth.com.

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