Yoga, yoga, yoga… the practice formerly seen as something hippies did in the 70s seems to be everywhere these days. It’s being done by people from all walks of life, including hard-core athletes. Maybe you have heard that yoga is good for you but wondered about the spiritual aspects of yoga, as well as all the different types.
Maybe you’ve asked: Is yoga a religion? How do I find the type that is right for me? What do I do in class?
Maybe this will help: Yoga means “union” so think of it as a union of mind, body and spirit. However, the yoga that is practiced in most studios in the United States focuses on one aspect of yoga- the poses, or asanas.
You don’t have to espouse any religious belief in order to practice yoga–or even be religious at all. However, it will provide you with the opportunity to learn how to focus mentally and breath better, and improve your physical health and well being.
Yoga poses promote strength and flexibility. As a Sisters Tri-ing athlete, you know that strength helps you in your workouts and events. Stretching your tight body in new ways will help you become more flexible, bringing greater range of motion to muscles and joints. The emphasis on breathing in yoga will help your while swimming, biking, and running.
Each style of yoga is based upon the asanas but different styles emphasize a different focus. Finding the right yoga style for you is of the utmost importance. Here’s a primer:
* Hatha is a very general term that can encompass many of the types of yoga. Typically, Hatha is slow-paced and gentle; it provides a good introduction to the basic poses.
* Like Hatha, Vinyasa is a general term used to describe many different types of classes. It means breath-synchronized movement, and these classes tend to be more vigorous , utilizing a series of poses called Sun Salutations, in which movement is matched to breathing.
If you’ve never done yoga, start with a beginning class. Even if you are in top shape, a beginning class will be helpful. And you’ll get a great workout. Yoga classes at gyms or recreation centers will focus primarily on the physical poses and may or may not do a flow style (vinyasa).
Yoga studios usually offer one type, such as Iyengar (uses props, such as belts, bricks or blankets), Birkram (hot), Kundalini (spiritual, as well as physical), Power Yoga, or Ashtanga (Indian influenced, popularized by K. Pattabhi Jois. Some studios will generally, but not always, have trained instructors in order to help you with the poses.
If you have had any injuries, the Iyengar style is highly recommended as the focus in on alignment.
No matter what style you choose, here are a few things to help you ease into your first class.
1) Wear comfortable clothing that you can move in. You will be upside down (or close to it) at some juncture so make sure your top won’t obstruct your breathing (a loose t-shirt can create embarrassing problems).
2) Make sure to have a mat. Some studios have mats already; call and ask. Others rent mats and you can always bring your own.
3) Be prepared to be barefoot. all yoga is practiced barefoot. Studios/gyms have places for your shoes/socks but all yoga.
4) Some classes may start with a chant, an ohm, an inspirational reading etc, and end the same way. Participate only in what you feel comfortable.
5) The saying of “namaste” is the traditional ending to class. Literally, it means “I bow to you.” It is used as a respectful greeting and also to mean thank you.
Enjoy yoga, it will only enhance all the training you are doing!
Here are some great resources: http://yoga.about.com/index.htm?terms=yoga , http://yoga.about.com/od/beginningyoga/a/30dayquickstartguide.htm