Yoga is an all encompassing way of life. It involves the practice of what is known as the eight limbs. They are yama (morals or principles of right living), niyama (personal attitudes and mind-body purification practices), asana (postures), pranayama (breath control and consciousness), pratyahara (sense integration), dharana (single-minded concentration or focus), dhyana (meditation) and finaly samadhi (absorption). However, not all styles of yoga incorporate these limbs in the workout. A lot of them focus mainly on one or all three of these areas, that is, asana, pranayama and dhyana.
If you’re an athlete, yoga can help you. It helps with breathing, concentration, balance, flexibility and improves your core muscle strength – a good way to prevent those joint problems. For expectant mums, there are special yoga classes available that can help you maintain your shape in the long run and which teaches to help ease the birthing process. Special care should be taken when doing these exercises and always make sure you are guided properly. This is also an ideal exercise to involve children. It will not only help to improve their attention spans but it will teach them early on the ways to focus and deal with stress and anxiety (especially during examination time).
So before choosing a class, ask this yourself these questions. Is this your first time and do you know what to expect? Have you had a few classes previously, know something about yoga but for reasons of your own not pursued it? Are you currently taking yoga but the class is not satisfactory for you? Whatever the reasons, talk to people and do some research through your family, friends, the instructors, or even your colleagues. They may be able to point you in the right direction.
The next question becomes ‘which style of yoga is right for you’. What works for some may not necessarily work for you. People have different reasons for taking yoga. Some because they want to relax and de-stress. Others because they want a good workout without stressing the joints or just plain enlightenment which is the ultimate focus of yoga. Others do it to help with health problems like sinus related conditions, to realign themselves after physical or mental trauma or for the feel good factor on the spirit.
The best way to decide is to actually experience the different types of classes available. Accompany people you know to their classes or ask around and see which instructor or centre will allow you to experience a class or two to help make up your mind. Ask about the different styles of yoga. Match it to what you want to achieve personally. If you want to have a really good workout, try Ashtanga yoga or Power yoga. Or maybe Iyengar yoga if you are looking for alignment. There are plenty of choices out there.
An important consideration is how big a class would you feel comfortable in. Would you prefer a one-on-one session or a group session? If you want to be with a group, how big of a group would you be comfortable in? In a group environment, it is always good if the instructor can keep an eye on your postures for corrective purposes or to meet the pose on your level. In a large group this may be difficult. Then again, perhaps you’d like to be able to just follow along without that kind of guidance.
Pay attention to the pace of the class. If it is too fast or too slow for you, consider a different style of yoga or a different class. Again, the choice is yours. If you’re looking for a one-on-one situation, but can’t find what you need, then perhaps you could choose a few instructional DVDs or books. There are many available in the market today. These options however have their drawbacks. The instructor can’t keep an eye on you as you move from pose to pose to ensure you don’t hurt yourself.
A little forewarning here. Sometimes the postures you have to do can seem embarrassing. Don’t let that stop you. Each pose in yoga serves a purpose. If you find that you lack the flexibility to follow through on the postures, don’t give up. Keep at it. Nothing comes without practice. Take your time, this is not a race. You will eventually get there. Most of all, when you begin, remember to have fun. Yoga does not have to be a sober, intimidating exercise.
In accordance to your goals and your personality, choose your instructor carefully. Ask questions about their experience and training, whether or not they still practice and train in yoga. If there is an affirmative to these questions, you know your potential instructor is in touch with his art and that he loves it. Remember, the person you are going to train with is someone you need to like, trust and respect. When you decide on which instructor is right for you, remember to inform them of any health concerns you have. This way he can help you with your postures more effectively and temper them where appropriate.
When you practice yoga, there are a few things you should bear in mind. The first is never practice on a full stomach. Wear loose clothing, preferably cotton. Don’t wear shoes. If you can’t hold your poses for too long, don’t worry about it. Just come out of it. Your stability will improve over time with practice. Always bear in mind the famous saying, “You are as good as your stretch”. Remember, you are not competing with anyone. Be aware of your limitations, so that you can work gradually to overcome them. Take your time.
Do not allow anyone to pressure you into taking a particular class if it does not feel right for you. At the end, let your heart be your guide. Your inner voice will ultimately point you in the right direction. If you aren’t ready to make that kind of commitment yet, hold off. Whatever you decide, make a commitment to yourself. Set your goals and follow through. Stay focussed on what you need to achieve. Leave your daily problems behind for that hour or so, in order to be in the moment. This applies mentally as well as physically. And as a cautionary step, always consult your doctor before starting any kind of exercise.