What is yoga?
Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word Yuj meaning yoke or bind interpreted as “union.” A man practicing yoga is called yogi and a female practitioner is known as a yogini. The practice has been here for around 2,000 years. There are eight limbs of yoga: the pranayama (breathing), yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), asana (postures), dharana (concentration), samadhi (absorption) and dhyani (meditation).
Nowadays, people practicing yoga are mostly engaged in one of the eight limbs – asana (postures). It basically covers some physical postures to purify your body alongside providing you the physical strength and stamina.
What is OM?
‘OM’ is the most commonly used mantra in yoga, which is enchanted at the beginning and end of the yoga sessions. It is believed to be the sound of the universe.
Our ancient yogis knew what scientists are now telling us – the entire universe is moving. Everything that exists pulsates and creates a rhythmic vibration which the ancient yogis acknowledged with OM. It may be difficult to hear this sound in daily life, but it comes from the rustling of autumn leaves, inside of the seashell and the waves on the shore.
The syllable has a sacred place in different religions. Chanting it can fill you with calmness, tranquillity, peace and serenity. It is a primordial sound and it is believed that our universe is the manifestation of this mystic sound. The sound represents the cosmic prana or the vital energy and the air we breathe.
What do you mean by hatha?
It means wilful or forceful. In yoga, it refers to a set of asanas which are formed to align your skin, muscles and bones. The postures open several channels of your body – especially the main channel spine – to let the energy flow liberally.
It can also be translated as – ha meaning “sun” and tha meaning “moon.” This denotes the balance of masculine aspects like hot, active and sun; and feminine aspects such as cool, receptive and moon in the human body.
Hatha yoga is a practice for creating balance and uniting opposites. In your body, it creates strength and flexibility. This yoga is an ultimate tool that leads to self-transformation. It brings your attention to your breath and helps to control the fluctuations of mind making you focus on the present.
How many times per week one should practice yoga?
The power of yoga is amazing – so even if you practice just one hour a week, you will experience the change. And, if you happen to practice more, then certainly benefits will be more. Generally, for beginners, two to three times a week for an hour or so regime is great. Initially, even if you do 20 minutes it is fine. But, do not let time constraints and unrealistic goals come your way – do everything that you can. Once you start to take the poses easily, the desire of practicing more will develop naturally in you.
Is it mandatory to be vegetarian to practice yoga?
This is a topic of big debate among the yoga community as the first principle of this soulful activity is ahimsa – which means not harming to self and others. Some people also relate it to not eating animal products. However, some people also think it a personal decision to eat or not non-vegetarian products when practicing asanas. If you choose to take vegetarian or non-vegetarian food, consider all the aspects. Also think how it will affect your life and of those with whom you live.
Is it a religious matter?
This is not a religion, but a philosophy that began in India thousands of years ago. Patanjali is said to be the father of classical ashtanga yoga or the eight-limbed path, and the writer of Yoga Sutra. With these scriptures you get a framework for spiritual growth. In addition, you also gain mastery over the physical and mental body. It sometimes mingles with other philosophies like Buddhism and Hinduism, but it is not religious by any means. You need not to surrender your own religious beliefs in order to practice this holistic asana.
Is it different from other kinds of fitness practices and stretching?
It different from other physical practices – it is more about physical postures. Even within this physical practice, yoga is unique because it allows you to connect the fluctuations of mind and movement of the body with the rhythm of your breath. Connecting your body, mind and breath it directs your attention towards inward. It cultivates a sense of awareness that makes is a practice rather than a task. Your body becomes immensely flexible with the regular practice of yoga, and so do the mind.
Is there any specific requirement for beginning yoga practices?
You don’t need anything specific – you require your body, mind and of course a zeal to practice. However, having a pair of leggings, comfortably fitting t-shirt will help. No special footwear is needed as most of the asanas are practiced barefooted. It is a good practice to bring a towel, mat and other props with you.
Can I practice yoga even if I am not flexible?
In fact, yoga is made for people like you. Many people think that they need to be flexible to begin which is not true. In real, it is for people who are not flexible. Yoga practices improve flexibility and help you stay healthy. Additionally, you also get a great mix of strength, coordination, and improved cardiovascular health, alongside overall well-being.
Why I should not eat before and after yoga classes?
Yoga practices make you turn upside down, twist from side to side or bend forward and backward. If you arrive with stomach full with meal, it will become uncomfortable to practice these asanas perfectly. You will not the benefits as you expect. In case, your digestive system works fast and you feel afraid that you will be hungry after sometimes, you better eat yogurt or nuts 30 minutes before practicing the asanas. Never come with full or empty stomach for practicing – both the situations can be difficult.