Whether you're looking to yoga for a cleansing sweat, to distress, to find spiritual enlightenment, healing, or simply to get out of the house, no matter what you're searching for I promise what you will find is a sense of growth that will be profoundly rewarding.
Before you begin your journey with yoga there are a few things to keep in mind....
Firstly, yoga is a PRACTICE that is solely based on how you feel in the present moment. There are no consequences for not nailing every pose with outstanding vigor or taking modifications to make the practice work with your body. You can't win yoga (but there can be small victories).
With that being said, leave all your self-judgement and doubt behind you. Yoga doesn't care if you're flexible, 80 years old, or not at your ideal weight. Yoga only cares that you show up. You only need the will to do it, and your instructors will guide you through the way. And believe me when I say that the breath work is just as important, if not more, as the asana (postures). If you are bringing awareness to your breath, you are doing yoga.
Yoga's literal translation means "to yoke" from the sanskrit root "yuj", which is to unite or to make one. Based on the ancient Vedas, the intention is to unify the body and mind in a state of pure consciousness, thus connecting with the divine. To exist in absolute harmony. The four paths of yoga are:
Karma Yoga: the yoga of service, mindfulness, oneness with the world
Jnana Yoga: the yoga of knowledge, introspection, contemplation
Bhakti Yoga: the yoga of devotion, compassion, service to the divine
Raja Yoga: the yoga of self-discipline, meditation, transcending thoughts of the mind
The yoga that most westerners know of as the only yoga is Raja yoga because it is the type of yoga that uses the 8 Limbs (which we'll talk about next time) which includes the physical practice of moving through postures. The various styles of teaching include Hatha, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Iyengar, Bikram, Kundalini, Anusara, and Restorative, among many others. Almost all of them include these 3 poses:
Child's Pose (Balasana): Kneeling down on the floor, bring the big toes together and sit on your heels. Separate the knees to about the width of the your hips. Walk your hands out in front of you until your torso rests between the thighs and arms are outstretched in front while the forehead rests on the ground. Child's Pose is a resting pose as well as a deep forward bend to release from the hips. If resting on the knee caps is uncomfortable, place a blanket or towel beneath the knees.
Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana): Keeping the feet about two fists width apart, bend forward from the hips, reaching towards the floor, let the head relax and spine be long. Add a generous bend in the knees to take the pressure off the hamstrings and low back. Press the balls of the feet firmly into the ground.
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana): From forward fold, plant the hands under the shoulders and step the feet back behind you a comfortable distance away. Make sure that the feet are directly in line with your hips, there is a soft bend in the knees (no need for the heels to touch the floor), the glutes are tilting up towards the ceiling keeping the spine elongated, and the shoulder blades are rolled down the back to keep the shoulders pulled away from the ears. Press through the fingertips to alleviate pressure on the wrists. Stay here for 5 breaths.
These poses will prepare you for flowing through a practice and are a great way to get you started. Remember that we all start out as beginners at some point in our lives… go slow, be ok with where you are. It’s a practice. You can only go up from here.