What is Yoga? A Beginner’s Guide

Yoga translates to ‘union’ and is a non-dualist approach, it refers to the experience of oneness with the universe and is referred to as Samadhi; and therefore it follows the belief that the mind and body is one. If the mind is unwell it will be evident in the body and vice versa. The union is attained by any one or a combination of different practices – of which there are several – all based on philosophy and ethics and spirituality.

Hatha Yoga

Recent history of Hatha Yoga in the West stems from Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, who was from a long lineage of Vedic scholars in India. Interested Westerners sought out the best Indian practitioners and took their first training in India, then invited them to back to Europe and America.

Krishnamacharya never left India, however, among many of his students, three are attributed to bringing the Hatha discipline to the West and America and each developed a style, now known as Viniyoga, Iyengar and Ashtanga Yoga respectively. 

Most beginners start practising in order to improve their health, namely daily personal hygiene rituals, exercise regime and a healthy diet. In the West, the majority of us have our first experience at a gym class, with glimpses into Pranayama (breathing techniques), and meditation.

What Are The Health And Fitness Benefits Of Yoga?

The benefits are broad and often not obvious, as much of it is about preventative measures from the yogic lifestyle, which includes cleansing, detoxification, breath control and a clean diet (such as minimising or avoiding processed food). The obvious benefits are cardio styles that help weight management and the isometric styles will develop strength all over your body.

Many also experience indirect weight loss, which improves mobility and reduces the feeling of tiredness and helps you feel more energetic. The increased flexibility with yoga improves athletic performance and the addition of regular breathing exercises and meditation promotes positive mental well being.

What Do You Need To Take Part In a Yoga Class?

Start with loose clothing and a yoga mat (if one is not provided at the class), as well as a willingness to try what may seem strange at first. Yoga is very much about tuning into the sensations inside the body. Some people are not comfortable with this and sometimes are frightened by the new experiences, which is why an open mind is probably the most important thing you could take with you.

This is the only way to truly experience and understand yoga, experiences are hard to explain and shared practises and experiences help to build and create the community.