This guest article by M. Grazia Francesconi is the first in a new series of articles explaining the basics of hobbies, in this case yoga.
It’s easy to assume everyone knows what hobbies are, how to get started and what’s involved, but often it can be hard to find out if you don’t know. We want to simplify things, with a series of basic guides written by people who do the hobby.
What is yoga
Yoga is an integrated system of physical, breathing and mental/spiritual practices that originated in India and have been practised for approximately two thousands years. The human body is considered a vehicle for the soul, hence yogic practices include exercises, breathing techniques, meditation and relaxation.
The physical exercises, called “asanas” in the original Sanskrit language, provide stretching and strengthening for the muscles, ligaments and joints. Most yogic breathing techniques (pranayama) involve slow, deep and focused breathing, which help nourishing the body with oxygen, essential for life. Meditation techniques help achieving a clearer, more focused and calmer mind and relaxation techniques help the overworked and overstressed body to relax and recover its natural strength.
Yoga is not synonymous of acrobatics and it is not a requirement to be extremely flexible or very thin to practise yoga. Yoga is for everybody and improvement will follow consistent practice, only a bit of patience is needed.
It is advisable to practise yoga under the guidance of an experienced teacher that can instruct the execution of all the practices appropriately and adapt the postures to individual needs, if necessary.
What happens in a yoga class
In general, a class starts with a short relaxation lying down on the mat in the “corpse pose” with conscious breathing. Then the body is warmed up with preparatory exercises, then the practice of individual postures follows focusing on strength, flexibility and balance. Coordination of breath with the body movement is practiced. Each main posture is followed by a counter-pose to ensure the body stays in balance. Towards the end, a guided relaxation, generally in the corpse pose (Savasana) allows the body to assimilate the benefits of the yoga practice.
Thank you Grazia for this excellent post. If you have any questions about the basics of yoga or want to share your experiences of yoga, please leave a comment below.