Yoga practice has exploded with popularity in recent times, but what exactly is this practice and why does everyone seem to love it?
Yoga has been in existence for thousands of years but what we know as yoga today is not quite the same thing as what it was traditionally in its birthplace of India.
But through yoga practice, you can gain many benefits to your body, mind, and soul. Below I will provide some basic introduction to the practice of yoga and discover some of the best poses, tips, and tricks into the yoga journey!
I have teamed up with a professional Yoga teacher that has provided many references and tips throughout the article
The History of Yoga
Yoga originated in India but it is now practiced around the world. Traditionally, yoga practice was reserved for monks, saints, and sages who would hide away in Himalayan caves performing the various yogic techniques in search of enlightenment also called moksha or nirvana.
But in the early 1900’s, yoga was introduced to the West and since then the practice has changed and grown in popularity. Although yoga practice still contains some elements of its traditional roots, yoga in the West is mostly used as a form of exercise, to promote stress relief, and to improve concentration.
Modern postural yoga is essentially the practice of specific body positions or poses that are often done in a sequence in combination with the breath. Some yoga styles focus on flowing between different poses, like in Vinyasa Yoga, and some styles of yoga focus on long static holds of poses and relaxation, like in Restorative Yoga or Yin Yoga.
But the key component that bridges all styles of yoga is the focus on body awareness, the deepening of the breath, and overall relaxation. Yoga primarily became popularized as it was taken up by many celebrities, but when anyone goes to a class, they often experience the benefits for themselves. That post-yoga high keeps people coming back for more every day!
The Benefits of Yoga
Yoga provides many benefits physically, emotionally, and spiritually. See below for the top 10 benefits from practicing yoga!
1. Improves cardiovascular health
2. Promotes weight loss
3. Builds lean muscle
4. Improves strength and flexibility
5. Promotes stress relief and relaxation
6. Reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression
7. Enhances sleep
8. Improves self-awareness
9. Increases empathy and compassion
10. Promotes inner peace
Yoga practice strengthens both the mind and the body, and the benefits of this practice are much more than just a regular exercise class.
Although yoga shares many of the same benefits as going to the gym or doing Pilates, the primary benefits of yoga are due to the focus on breathing exercises and the incorporation of meditation.
Breathing exercises, in particular, help to calm down the nervous system and shift you out of fight-or-flight mode and into the rest-or-digest mode. Through this process, you can release any inner tension and relax your body and mind.
Breathing exercises also help you to bridge the connection between the body and the mind, improving your self-awareness and giving you the tools to release any emotional reactivity.
The Best Yoga Poses for Targeted Issues in Beginners
Many new students of yoga come to practice it in search of pain relief or to loosen tension in their body and mind. Research has shown that yoga practice can also be a very powerful therapeutic tool. By engaging in some specific yoga poses, you can target any pain in your body and gradually release it. See below for some of the best yoga poses for the common issues of back pain, shoulder pain, and digestion.
- Back Pain: Any back-bending poses are great for relieving back pain because they both stretch and strengthen the muscles and joints in the spine. Some of the best yoga poses that target this bodily region are Cobra Pose, Bridge Pose, Sphinx Pose, and Wheel Pose.
- Shoulder Pain: Yoga can help to reduce shoulder pain by relieving tension in the shoulders and increasing range of motion. To reduce shoulder pain, the best yoga poses to try are Puppy Pose, Cat and Cow Pose, Thread the Needle Pose, and Locust Pose.
- Digestion Issues: One of the primary benefits of regular yoga practice is improved digestion. Yoga twist and turns the body in many different directions, helping to stimulate the colon and get any blockages moving within you. Some of the best yoga poses to improve digestion are Revolved Triangle Pose, Half Gas Releasing Pose, Supine Twist Pose, and Garland Pose.
Pros and Cons of Yoga
Like everything, there are both pros and cons to yoga practice. See below for a few of the top positives and negatives to consider before you start your next yoga class.
- Gain many benefits to the body, mind, and soul
- Meet like minded people
- Engage in a holistic health and healing practice
- There is a potential for injury if not practiced correctly
- Can be expensive at some studios
- For beginners, it is hard to learn initially
But at the end of the day, each person has their own pros and cons to the practice. The best thing that you can do is just give a few classes a try and see for yourself!
Useful Facts & Tips for Yoga
The great thing about yoga is that there is so much variety. So, if you attend a class that you don’t like, just try a different style of yoga! You are almost guaranteed to find a style of yoga that you connect with more.
Yoga practice is also great because it is accessible to people of all ages and abilities. In fact, there is even a yoga teacher who continued to practice until she was 101! Yoga truly is for “every body”.
Before you attend your first yoga class, make sure that you go to a class with a qualified yoga teacher. Seeing a teacher can help you to make sure that you are not risking injury and are engaging in the practice correctly.
YouTube is definitely a good place to start, but if possible, try to attend an in-person class so that you can get some assistance in your alignment.
The number one tip for any newbie to yoga is to try to keep an open mind and practice self-acceptance. You probably won’t be able to put your foot behind your head on day one, and that’s OK! In fact, in traditional yoga that wasn’t even a common posture. So, be compassionate with yourself and stay open to the possibilities. With some time, you will be enjoying your next yoga class with ease!
If you have any question or comments, please leave below and I’ll be sure to help you out. Thank you!