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Stretching or spiritual practice? Understanding the basics of yoga

May 17, 2021 3 min read
Stretching or spiritual practice? Understanding the basics of yoga

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    Yoga is something that has not only become trendy in the fitness world but a staple for so many of us confined to our homes during the pandemic. With most basic forms of yoga not needing any kit apart from a mat, it is a super-adaptable practice that helps with flexibility, mobility and so much more. 

    But what actually is yoga? Yoga is more of an umbrella term; encompassing physical, mental, spiritual and philosophical practices and beliefs. All sounds a bit complicated, right? We agree. So, in this article, we’ll give you a brief overview of the history of yoga, what to expect from a class and how you can incorporate some of its practices into your exercise regime. You’ll then be up to speed with everything you need to know to get your yoga on! 

    A quick history of yoga 

    ‘Yoga’ as we know it today has much deeper roots than you might think. Derived from an ancient system of practices, principles and philosophies in India and the Himalayas over 2500 years ago, yoga is truly an ancient practice. Taking heed from the Vedic tradition, yoga was once, and to some still is a whole lifestyle - not just a type of training or stretching. 

    The focus of yoga is on the multidimensional components of the body - the mind, body and breath. All of the variations which have since grown outward from the core tradition continue to focus on these three elements. Each type of yoga has different goals, levels of intensity, speed and breath patterns. So there truly is a style of yoga to suit everyone. 

    What to expect at a yoga class 

    There are plenty of ways you can get involved with yoga. As we said before, all you need is yourself and a mat - so it’s a great way to stay active and flexible at home. There are lots of brilliant teachers on Youtube who offer free lessons. 

    If you’re a first-timer and what to get your technique on point, we’d recommend joining a class. Teachers will be able to explain, assist you into positions and have some additional useful pieces of kit such as blocks, bolsters and straps. They’ll also teach you all the terminology you’ll need to know during the class. 

    Depending on the class you attend, you may need to take your own mat and/or yoga towel. However, be sure to get in touch with those running the class first as they’ll be able to advise you on what you need and a class to suit your ability level. 

    What yoga can be great for :

    • Stretching/flexibility: this seems like the most obvious benefit as a lot of yoga does focus on flexibility. Doing yoga regularly can be really helpful, especially if you’re someone who rarely sticks around at the gym to stretch after your session. 
    • Strength: your body is your resistance when it comes to yoga. So many yogis are super strong - able to hold their bodies in unholy positions and tricep push up until the cows come home. Don’t underestimate the power yoga can have when it comes to strength. 
    • Mobility: with the flowing movement of yoga, mobility is something that naturally improves over time. This is great for almost any sport: from powerlifting to swimming. 
    • Injury recovery: as a low impact form of exercise, yoga can be a great way to work with an injury. Of course, if you are injured please consult a professional before engaging in any exercise regime. 
    • Core strength: no crunches needed. Yoga naturally depends on your core to do a lot of the work (especially floor work). In addition, teachers will often chuck in a few more challenging exercises which target your abs specifically. 
    • Mental health and anxiety reduction: a calm way to move and breathe. It’s well known that exercise and movement can help generally with mood and anxiety. Yoga takes this to the next level, controlling and focusing on the breath helps to slow down your pace of breathing and focus on the present moment. Something which is often a difficulty for those struggling with anxiety. 

    You should now have a more of a rounded perspective of what yoga is and what it has to offer. Whether you're going to go full yogi or just give it a go, be sure to invest in a good yoga mat and sign up for a beginners class if you’re totally new to it. 

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