There’s a common misconception in the fitness community about yoga being gentle, and therefore easy to master.
As an ancient practice of self-discipline, it carries generations of wisdom and knowledge pertaining to the human mind, body and spirit. In doing so, it outlines specific techniques to align the three for mental, physical and spiritual harmony.
So, gentle as it may be, yoga can be complex and largely misunderstood thanks to stereotypes and lack of accurate knowledge regarding the several types that exist.
Your Yoga Questions Answered
The truth is, if you’re new to yoga, you’re likely to feel underwhelmed or overwhelmed, depending on which style you opt for!
In particular, “hatha yoga” refers to a series of postures or asanas that activate your energy centers or chakras and allow you to experience spiritual and physical equilibrium. This is achieved through a guided session that allows you to exercise, focusing on the “8 limbs of yoga”:
- Yamas (restraints)
- Niyamas (observances)
- Asana (postures)
- Pranayama (breathing)
- Pratyahara (sense withdrawal)
- Dharna (concentration)
- Dhyani (meditation)
- Samadhi (absorption)
The subtle movement and flow of energy through each energy center helps you become more aware of your body. The more you explore the body’s connection with your social and psychological behavior, the more rewarding your journey.
Newbies, however, beware! The world of yoga is full of sweeping generalizations and dogmatic ideas. Today, we’ll answer 3 common questions to help you find stillness amidst the chaos.
1. Do I have to start following a vegetarian diet?
Dharma & Greg may have been a great sit-com back in the day, but it also spurred some stereotypical views regarding practicing yoginis and militant veganism.
One of the fundamental principles of yoga is the concept of ahimsa or non-harming. Many people consider this to be a blatant rejection of animal-based food and products.
As any list of guidelines, the Yoga Sutra is open to interpretation. Going vegan is a personal choice which may affect your health differently, depending on your medical history.
Bottom line: Whatever diet you choose to follow, do not impose it with aggression on those around you. This, in itself, is contrary to the principles of ahimsa.
2. Do I have to be flexible in order to do Yoga?
Another misconception that steps from pop culture is that yoga is only for naturally flexible individuals. This is usually because practicing yogis are generally known to be in excellent form, though we often overlook the fact that they may have been practicing for years!
Bottom line: Flexibility is not a pre-requisite for yoga. If anything, it teaches you to be more agile and flexible with a better sense of balance and co-ordination.
3. What’s the difference between Yoga and stretching?
Stretching is a crucial component of yoga, but on its own, it’s just a set of physical postures to warm you up. With flexibility forming the cornerstone of yoga practice, each exercise is designed to align the movement of your body with the rhythm of your breath as you continue to experience heightened states of self-awareness.
Bottom line: Unlike stretching, yoga affects the fluctuations of your mind, allowing you to be, both, physically and mentally agile.
As with any form of exercise, however, practice makes perfect.