Yoga for Beginners

Chances are good that you've heard of yoga, or know someone who practices it. You've been thinking about trying it yourself, but you'd like to know more about it. Is it meditation? Is it exercise? Will it improve your posture or help relieve stress? The answer is that yoga is a little bit of all of these things and more.

Yoga is the harmony of mind, body and spirit. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word "union." It is a discipline that started in India. People who practice yoga do so to achieve balance within the body by gaining strength and flexibility. This is done by performing different poses. Almost anyone can do yoga, even if you are not very strong or coordinated. The longer you perform the movements, the more your strength and flexibility will improve. 

Yoga is not about trying to be better than everyone else: it is about doing the best you can and using it to improve your life.

There are many benefits to practicing yoga besides getting stronger and more flexible. It can improve sleep, reduce symptoms of asthma, and decrease anger and stress. Regular practice helps to improve feelings of anxiety and moodiness more than jogging or walking. It gives you greater feelings of well-being and increases your quality of life.

Yoga is so powerful it has even been shown to help people who have problems with addiction. It has been studied extensively in medical science and found to be an excellent form of mind-body exercise. And you will see the benefits quickly.

It is fairly easy to get started in yoga. The first thing you will need to do is decide what type of yoga you want to practice. Once you've decided on the style you're interested in, find a place that teaches a class in that style. There are good resources to help you with this: the internet, local newspapers and fitness magazines. If you live in an area that doesn't offer any classes, you can find
yoga videos online to help you learn. If at all possible, however, go to a class. Learning directly from a teacher is the best option for beginners.

Your instructor will tell you on the first day of class what you will need to bring with you. On the first day wear comfortable clothing in a fabric that breathes easily. A T-shirt and exercise pants or shorts are fine. Most yoga is taught and practiced barefoot, so you won't need to worry about having a certain type of shoe. You'll probably need to buy or rent a yoga mat. They can be purchased for as little as $20.00. There are other items you might use depending on the type of yoga you've chosen to study.

During the study of yoga, you can expect to learn breathing exercises and stretching techniques. Then you will progress to learning poses. There will be warm-up poses to start, followed by progressively difficult ones. If a pose is too hard for you to achieve right away or you are getting too tired, you can rest in what is known as Child's Pose, with your knees spread and your body leaning forward until your forehead touches the floor. After the poses are finished, there is a cool down period and the final relaxation. Depending on your level of fitness you could be mildly or severely sore a day or two after your first class.

There are many different kinds of yoga, each with a different focus. The basic poses will be nearly the same no matter what style you decide on, but each style has a different emphasis:

Hatha: is a slow-paced style that is very good for beginners to learn basic poses.

Vinyasa: is a more vigorous style where poses are matched to your breathing.

Ashtanga: is very fast-paced with constant movement from pose to pose.

Iyengar: focuses more on body alignment and holding poses for long periods of time.

Bikram: is practiced in a room where the temperature is between 95 to 100 degrees so that you can be cleansed through sweating.

Anusara: is a light-hearted form good for students of different abilities that emphasize the goodness in all beings.

Sivananda yoga: focuses on core principles such as proper diet and positive thinking.

Yin Yoga: concentrates on sitting still for long periods of time to stretch connective tissue.

Yoga is great for children and adults of all ages to improve physical, mental and spiritual well-being. It can fit easily into your schedule and requires little equipment and no prior experience. As you progress, the movements will become easier and you will feel more relaxed and confident performing them. No matter where you learn or which style you study, yoga is an excellent path for a healthier, more relaxed life.

Nathan Joynt writes for, a leading lifestyle media company and world leader of quality yoga products and fitness videos online.