What Is Yoga?
Yoga is a vast collection of spiritual techniques and practices aimed at integrating mind, body, and spirit to achieve a state of enlightenment or oneness with the universe. What is normally thought of as “yoga” in the West is really Hatha Yoga, one of the many paths of yoga. The different paths of yoga emphasize different approaches and techniques but ultimately lead to the same goal of unification and enlightenment.
Hatha Yoga attains the union of mind-body-spirit through a practice of asanas (yoga postures), pranayama (yoga breathing), mudra (body gestures), and shatkarma (internal cleansing). These physical practices are used to purify the body and cultivate prana (life-force energy). Modern Hatha Yoga does not emphasize many of these esoteric practices and instead focuses more on the physical yoga postures.
Regardless of what your goals or intentions are for starting, just the yoga poses themselves is a fantastic form of mental and physical exercise.
What Is the Best Yoga for Beginners?
If you are out of shape or extremely inflexible, we recommend you begin with a gentle practice until you have built up the strength and flexibility for more challenging sequences. If you are a relatively fit and flexible person, you should be able to jump right into a regular hatha yoga class. Once you are familiar with the basic postures, you can explore a vinyasa or flow class. We recommend you avoid Ashtanga, Bikram, or hot yoga until you have built up some physical strength and endurance. It is always best to error on the side of caution and safety and approach yoga slowly and carefully. The best way to know if yoga is for you is to give it a try!
The Benefits of Practicing Yoga
The benefits of yoga are almost endless! Practicing yoga helps build healthy virtues and good values, such as discipline, honesty, devotion, self-inquiry, mindfulness, and non-attachment. Yoga empowers you to make conscious choices toward living a more healthy and fulfilling life. Yoga also helps you:
- Keep your mind healthy and strong
- Reduce stress and promote relaxation
- Get a better night’s sleep
- Boost your immune system
- Help heal common aches like back pain
- Increase happiness and well being and reduce depression
- Lose weight and change your body shape
- Improve and maintain the health of muscles, joints, and organs
- Prevent conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and auto-immune disorders
- Improve flexibility, strength, stamina, mobility, range of motion, and balance