The practice of Yoga has been around for thousands of years, however, in today’s day and age, we see Yoga classes pop up everywhere. There are so many different styles, teachers and strengths of the practice, and often we see Yoga portrayed by those on social media and the internet who are young and bending themselves in ways hard to imagine! Being a Yoga teacher for the last two and a half years, I have heard many questions and misconceived comments regarding the practice by those of all ages. Let me share with you five top questions regarding Yoga:
- ‘I’m not flexible enough to do Yoga.’
Heard this one before? Maybe you’ve said it yourself. Yoga does involve moving, holding and practicing certain postures (Asanas) however there is so much more to Yoga than the poses themself. Did you know that Yoga is an eight-limb system? Eight-limbs meaning that there are eight components within the practice itself. Can you guess where postures (Asanas) sit? The practice of postures sits at number three on the list! Pranayama (Breathing) is number four and plays an extremely important part of the practice. If you can breathe, you can practice Yoga. Having the ability to move your body smoothly with your breath, to be able to withdraw from your senses, practice concentration and meditation, allows each limb of the practice to merge, holistically letting your body, mind and emotions be connected.
Maybe you are not yet flexible in your physical body, but through practice of all aspects of Yoga, flexibility might just become a byproduct…
- Is Yoga a religion?
Yoga traditionally comes from the Hindu tradition, however it is greatly practiced in a very secular way. Yoga teachers, students or those interested do not have to adopt certain beliefs to practice. The practices of postures, breathing, meditation to clear the mind, don’t necessarily have religious meanings, however they can have spiritual connection, to which even those with no faith can practice. People of all faith, religion and or those without belief systems can practice Yoga and reap the benefits, with many of these groups utilising different Yogic practices. There are always different levels of how in depth some teachers will dive into the philosophy and spirituality of the practice, however the philosophies taught can enable you to enhance your own beliefs, thoughts and outlooks without conflict.
- What does ‘OM’ mean and why is it chanted?
OM is the sound that is often voiced at the beginning and end of Yoga classes; the ancient scriptures of Yoga describe it being the original universal sound and energy in which all other sounds and creations derive from. On a physiological level, chanting the sound OM has shown improvements in mental alertness with physiological rest during the practice, with heart rate and breathing rate reduction seen also. If chanting this word makes you feel uncertain, tell your teacher and discuss your thoughts, or maybe just sit, listen and observe the beautiful vibrational sound.
- Why do you lay on the ground at the end of class?
Ah huh! Savasana, AKA final resting and relaxation. This posture, also known as Corpse pose, is often the hardest to do, however it is by far the most important! The main benefit of Savasana is to shift from the usage of our sympathetic nervous (fight or flight) to our parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) to deeply absorb the practices undertaken in the class. This time allows for our whole body to completely slow down, to balance our autonomic controllers and develop greater awareness of our proprioception (spatial awareness) and interoception (internal awareness) within our own body.
- ‘I find it hard to get up and down off the floor, will Yoga be too hard?’
As previously mentioned above, Yoga is much much more than the posture’s themselves. However as we age, gain injuries or due to our chronic conditions, getting up and down off the floor is a real barrier to many daily tasks. As an Exercise Physiologist, I love to make all modes of movement accessible for everyone, and modification in my Yoga classes is something that I love to do; there are always ways to adapt and modify to best suit your body. Below are three handy tips to allow you to still practice Yoga if you find it difficult to get up and down off the ground:
- Use a chair! Did you know that you can complete all postures on a chair? From downward facing dog to tree pose, having a chair gives you the extra support you need while still letting you be involved in the practice.
- Start with the standing postures. All standing postures help to greatly strengthen the muscles within your legs, abdomen and back therefore assisting you when you wish to get down to the floor.
- Be honest, accepting of modifications and open minded. While your version of Yoga might not look like the version of Yoga you envisioned, you are still practicing, moving your body and lapping up all the benefits for the brilliant practice that Yoga is.
If you want to practice Yoga and don’t know how or where to start, let’s start the conversation. The practice of Yoga is to really just connect you; your mind, physical body and emotions into one holistically content person. Let’s get you there.
Accredited Exercise Physiologist