Beginning Yoga Practitioners Should Take It Slow

Beginning Yoga pic When people begin practicing yoga, they may desire to push themselves harder than they really should. With phrases like “no pain, no gain” a part of common culture, beginners frequently look at more advanced students and attempt poses they are not ready to master. Doing so puts stress on the body and can cause real injury. In yoga, when the muscles begin to strain, the body should take that as a sign to stop. Slowly, beginning yogis will build the strength and flexibility needed to achieve more advanced poses. In yoga, it is important to listen to the body and respect its limits.

All yoga postures are integrated, making it imperative to master fundamental poses before attempting more difficult ones. The fundamental poses build the stability and flexibility needed for more complex poses.

For that reason, beginners should stick to introductory classes rather than taking whatever class fits their schedule. Practitioners can always talk to an instructor about their level and decide when they are ready to advance to intermediate classes. Taking an intermediate class too soon can encourage yogis to attempt poses that they are not ready for, especially when most other students in the class seem to flow into them without much of a struggle. This flow results from practice and dedication.

Bringing Mindfulness to Your Forward Fold

Forward Fold pic Standing forward fold, or uttanasana, is not a pose that we typically think much about. One of the first asanas of a typical sun salutation, this pose is often performed while on “auto-pilot.” In this article, we’ll break down how to bring a bit of mindfulness to your next forward fold.

Lead with the heart. Many of us developed poor “toe touching” habits thanks to years of youth sports team and P.E. warm-ups. In uttanasana, it’s important to dive forward with a flat black and to lead with the upper chest. This mindful movement will help you avoid rounding in the back and will provide you with a deeper stretch.

Activate your core. Don’t think about forward fold as an opportunity to just bend over and let gravity do the work in stretching out your hamstrings. Instead, engage your abdominal muscles and use them to help pull your heart closer to your shins and your hands flatter to the ground beside your feet.

Take a moment to look inward. While you’re settling into your forward fold, look up toward your belly button for just a second (but be careful not to round your back). This can help you connect visually with the powerful muscles you’re using to pull deeper into the pose.

A Survey of a Few Popular Forms of Massage

Massage Types pic Because every person is a unique individual physically, physiologically, and emotionally, no single massage modality will be the right one for everyone. A skilled massage therapist will possess experience in more than one type of massage and should be able to advise each client on the optimum method or methods suitable for his or her situation.

The traditional type of massage you are likely to encounter in most Western-style spas is Swedish massage. This modality promotes calm and relaxation but also boosts circulation and aids in reducing tension throughout the muscles. Swedish massage features a set of five basic touch techniques: the kneading motions of petrissage; the gliding, drawn-out strokes of effleurage; the tapping motion of tapotement; friction; and vibration.

Trigger-point massage concentrates on painful areas of tightened muscles using cyclical motions that alternately apply pressure and release.

Deep-tissue massage aims to reduce inflammation and pain and to relieve chronic tension, through connecting with underlying muscles and connective tissue.

Sports massage focuses on the special needs of athletes and other active individuals. Rather than concentrating on relaxation, it attempts to utilize a mix of massage techniques to promote increased fitness, build the body’s ability to withstand injury, and treat sports-related injuries.

Thai massage may be a good choice for people who love yoga. This ancient modality, often called a kind of passive yoga, is performed on a mat resting on the floor. The therapist combines deep stretching of the body with gentle motions designed to compress the muscles along a set of energy lines. A skilled practitioner will tailor each Thai massage to the individual client’s current physical condition and wellness goals.

A good massage therapist will learn a variety of techniques over the course of his or her professional career and will provide increased value to clients by adding new forms of massage to any basic repertoire.

Jivamukti Yoga

Jivamukti Yoga pic Jivamukti Yoga blends physical challenges and meditation. The style draws on the original definition of asana, a Sanskrit word that refers to a connection to the Earth, and by extension, all life. In the Jivamukti tradition, a person should ensure that his or her relationships to others benefit both parties and emerge from an ongoing state of happiness and joy.

To help students achieve that state, Jivamukti teaches five tenets of equal importance. Ahimsa stresses a compassionate lifestyle of nonviolence. Bhakti sets a goal of self-realization in devotional practices. Dhyana encourages connection to an unchanging internal reality. Nada promotes the development of mind and body through listening. And Shastra incorporates the study of the ancient teachings of yoga.

Students learn Jivamukti Yoga in one of six class types, including the four-week journey of the basic class, which teaches a new theme each week. Other classes include the Spiritual Warrior, designed for people with only a little time for yoga and a desire to get in shape, as well as vinyasa classes that teach the basics of a practice in which yoga forms flow into one another in sequence. More information on Jivamukti Yoga can be found at

The Benefits of Regular Yoga for Weightlifters

Restorative yoga pic Football players and other athletes who lift heavy weights and train frequently can benefit greatly from regular yoga practice. According to the Mayo Clinic, yoga aids the body in flushing excess lactic acid from muscles. Since lactic acid is primarily what leads to soreness and stiffness, yoga can alleviate a great deal of the pain sometimes associated with weightlifting. In addition, flushing lactic acid can make the next workout more effective, as the athlete will meet with less soreness, which can inhibit the ability to lift more weight. By pulling oxygen into muscles, yoga helps them perform better. Ultimately, yoga can help individuals become stronger.

Restorative yoga is designed to rejuvenate tired and sore muscles. More traditional forms of yoga can reduce the tension in athletes’ bodies. Even if weightlifters do not want to dedicate a significant amount of time to yoga practice, simply performing a few yoga stretches in between sets can have an immense impact on the session. When stretching, individuals should aim to hold a pose for a minute or more to maximize rest and repair time.

The Benefits of Pranayama

Pranayama pic The practice of yoga involves physical postures designed to enhance the body’s flexibility, endurance, and suppleness. However, practitioners who choose to focus only on the physical fitness aspect of yoga are missing an important way to gain calmness of mind and a feeling of inner peace and overall well-being.

To reach the true yogi’s goal of samadhi, or spiritual liberation and union with the divine, the practice of pranayama is key. Pranayama, or the study of controlling the breath, is one “limb” of the traditional yogi’s eight-fold path. It involves focus on the cycle of inhalation, retention, and exhalation. Through the correct practice of pranayama, a student of yoga is said to be able to span the gap that exists between his or her soul and the spiritual source of the universe.

The great teacher B. K. S. Iyengar taught that the practice of pranayama promotes energy, growth of the spiritual self, and an awareness of the divinity within each living being. He instructed his students that through the deliberate regulation of the breath, they could better organize their thoughts and direct energy from the outer world inward.

Both Iyengar and the ancient teacher Patanjali considered pranayama an advanced practice, one best developed after a student has become comfortable with the physical practice of the yogic postures, or asanas.

However, for those who undertake it, pranayama can reduce stress, improve focus and the ability to concentrate, mitigate stormy emotional states, and promote deep and restful sleep.

Brush Up on Your Sanskrit for Yoga

meditation pic If you practice any form of yoga, you have probably heard some of the basic Sanskrit words associated with the discipline, but do you know exactly what they mean? Many yoga instructors use both Sanskrit and English terms for poses and concepts, so if you’re new to yoga, you may be struggling to build your language skills at the same time you are learning a new routine. The definitions below may help both beginning and intermediate students become more comfortable with mixing one of the world’s ancient languages with their physical workouts.

To begin, there’s asana, which to most practitioners of hatha yoga means simply “pose” or “posture,” as in bhujangasana, or cobra pose. Literally, the word means “seat.”

Namaste is a word used as a respectful greeting, to begin and end a class. Usually said with the hands together at heart level with palms facing inward, it acknowledges the light and divinity that lives within each of us.

A mudra is a hand position, such as anjali mudra, the heart gesture. Mudra, which literally means “seal,” can also refer to a whole-body position.

The word prana refers to the energy or life force that flows through every living being. It can also refer to the breath as the physical manifestation of that life force. Pranayama is the practice of learning to control the breath by consciously inhaling, holding, and exhaling.

“Om” is the most commonly chanted mantra, used as a means of focusing the concentration and attention.

Ahimsa, yoga’s supreme doctrine of non-violence, refers to the practice of refusing to harm any living thing. According to the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, ahimsa means more than simply refraining from killing; it encompasses the notion of refusing to harm another through thoughts, words, or actions.

How Certified Yoga Instructors Can Build a Client Base

Yoga Entrepreneurship pic With yoga more popular than ever in the United States, many individuals choose to complete teacher training programs, which offer instructor certification. After securing certification, however, instructors have to develop a client base, which often involves teaching friends, family, and others for free out of their homes. Teaching for free allows individuals to gain experience as a teacher, receive invaluable feedback, and create connections that could lead to a paying job.

Budding teachers who do not yet have studio space may need to get creative with their locations, especially in cities. While an apartment may not provide adequate space, parks, rooftops, and other unique locations can attract more adventurous practitioners.

To get the word out, instructors need to learn how to use social media to advertise. Websites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and even LinkedIn offer excellent networking and personal branding opportunities.

Many new teachers can find work leading sessions in nontraditional forums. For example, some companies hire teachers to lead lunchtime or after-work yoga classes. These opportunities can build a following of individuals who would attend classes in a more traditional setting, such as a studio. Once a new teacher has established a client base, private lessons can prove very lucrative as well.

How the Brain Functions During Meditation

meditation pic Several forms of meditation exist, until now, little research has examined if and how these variants affect the body. Recently, researchers from the University of Oslo, the University of Sydney, and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology have teamed to study exactly how different forms of meditation affect the brain.

The researchers have initially divided meditation into two techniques. Concentrative meditation involves intense focus on breath or mantra while suppressing other thoughts. Nondirective meditation is the term for meditation that involves focus but also allows the mind to wander. The team tested 14 experienced meditators in an MRI machine while they undertook both forms of meditation.

After the tests, the team found that nondirective meditation led to higher levels of brain activity than were seen in subjects at rest. Brain activity was especially high in the parts of the brain that process thoughts and feelings. Concentrative meditation, on the other hand, caused virtually no increase in activity in these parts of the brain.

These results were surprising because they show that brain activity goes down when one focuses. In addition, the results demonstrate how nondirective meditation can actually increase space for processing memories and emotions. Typically, the area of the brain involved has its highest level of activity during rest, making it remarkable that nondirective meditation increases activity levels even more.

What Equipment Do You Need to Practice Yoga?

Yoga Equipment pic Yoga is among the simplest fitness disciplines around, in that it requires little or no investment in costly props, accessories, and equipment. Your own body and its capacity to stretch and relax, and your own mind’s ability to achieve a state of focus and calm, are at the center of any yoga practice. Yet that doesn’t mean you can’t use a few helpful items that can enable you to achieve your exercise goals.

Most yoga practitioners make use of some sort of mat. If you frequent a yoga studio with hard floors, this may be your most essential fitness prop. Avoid slips by getting one with a sticky rubber base that allows you to affix it securely to the floor’s surface. For around $20, you can get a good, all-purpose mat suitable for most situations. Or you could pay more and buy increased adhesiveness, resistance to sweat damage, or deeper cushioning. Eco-friendly models, made from biodegradable or sustainable materials, start at around $40.

You will also likely want a towel to absorb perspiration as you work out, or to serve as a rest for your head.

Foam wedges or blocks can assist you in aligning your body in better form. Some studios provide them, although you can purchase your own for about $10 each. Different sizes of blocks will assist you as you develop your flexibility; for example, if you can’t reach all the way to the floor at first, use a block as a handrest. And cotton straps can additionally be very helpful to secure your legs as you hold stretches. Expect to pay another $10 apiece, and if you are very tall, look for straps at least 8 feet in length.

Some yoga practitioners will want extra equipment for comfort or style, including sandbags for increasing stretches, or folding chairs that facilitate sitting meditation.