Beginner’s Yoga: What is yoga and what can it do for you?
So, what’s all this yoga lark about anyway?! Everyone’s heard of yoga, and most people know it’s supposed to be good for you, but beyond that it can all seem a bit mysterious and intimidating. And when you see some of the amazing photos of super-toned, tanned women, twisted into impossible looking poses on tropical beaches, it’s easy to think that yoga isn’t for ‘real life’. But that actually couldn’t be further from the truth. Honestly! Yoga is totally achievable for pretty much everyone, and is one of the best things you can do for your mind, body and, yes, even spirit!
Yoga has been around for over 5000 years – to have endured that long, there must be something special about it. It’s basically a total body and mind workout that can have some amazing and unexpected benefits in everyday life, never mind toning, strengthening and stretching pretty much every part of your body!
What is yoga good for?
Yoga is good for so much stuff!! In fact, it can seem like a better question is what is yoga not good for!
First off, one of the more obvious benefits – yoga is great for improving your flexibility. Loosening up in this way often leads to an improvement in general aches and pains. Do bear in mind though, that you don’t have to be flexible to start yoga – whatever stage you’re at right now in terms of flexibility and fitness, it’s fine for getting started with yoga, just jump right in and don’t worry about it!
Yoga is also amazing for improving muscle tone and strength. And that doesn’t just look good, it can also help to protect against conditions like arthritis. And feeling strong can also be very empowering!
The combination of improved strength and flexibility will also improve your posture, which is something that can really suffer in everyday life. Whether it’s due to sitting at a desk all day long, being on your feet for long periods, or too long spent walking round with a toddler on your hip, improved posture is something we can all benefit from. Better posture means less aches around the neck and shoulders, and better back health.
Yoga is often not considered to be aerobic, but some forms can really make you get a good sweat on and push your heart rate up to the level of aerobic exercise. Some studies have even suggested that the non-aerobic forms of yoga can significantly lower your resting heart rate and have the same health benefits as aerobic exercise.
Finally, yoga is amazing for releasing tension in the body and relaxing the mind. Which is something we can all do with these days! This in turn will help you to sleep better, and mean that you’re naturally reducing your stress levels. And, as you probably know, lowering stress can automatically mean lowering your risk of a whole host of medical conditions.
In addition to these specific benefits of yoga, there’s also a ton of indirect benefits that can come out of regular yoga practice. For example, there have been studies suggesting that practicing yoga helps you to feel generally happier, and even improves your IQ! It can also act as a catalyst to encourage an all-round healthier lifestyle, for example you may find that you begin to eat more mindfully and feel more inclined to opt for healthier foods to put in your body. Which often means that you’ll naturally lose weight if you need to.
And one final good thing about yoga? It can be completely free! Use Namaste & Cake to help you to get started and find some great inspiration along the way, (like some excellent free YouTube tutorials)! If you want to splash out just a little, you can also invest in a good yoga book or DVD to help you out. You might also like to kit yourself out, but I suggest that to get started you just pop on some comfortable clothes (no need for trainers, just bare feet), and get to it! Just one thing – if you don’t have an non-slip carpeted floor, you should get yourself a yoga mat to avoid injury.
The bottom line here? Yoga is an amazing form of holistic exercise, that is pretty much guaranteed to help improve both your body and mind if you stick at it!
Different types of yoga
There are tons of different types of yoga. Hearing people refer to the different types can be confusing, so here’s a basic idea of what the most common types involve…
Hatha yoga – ‘hatha’ is actually a generic term and covers all types of yoga, but the word is generally used to describe basic movements performed gently, in synchrony with breathing. Hatha yoga is particularly suitable for beginners.
Vinyasa – also referred to as ‘flow yoga’, because it involves a series of poses which flow into each other.
Ashtanga – similar to vinyasa, but always involves the same poses, performed in the same order.
Power yoga – a high intensity adaptation which is particularly good for improving strength.
Bikram and hot yoga – yoga performed in an extremely hot room! This (obviously!) encourages sweating, which is said to help eliminate toxins from the body. Since the body and muscles are warm, it can also be possible to stretch the muscles go deeper into poses.
Lyengar yoga – uses props like blocks and straps to assist you with poses.
Restorative yoga/yin yoga – a low effort form of yoga which focuses on relaxation and rejuvenation.
As you can see, the intensity varies between the different types, and different forms have different objectives. Many yoga classes will incorporate different types of yoga so that you get to experience lots of benefits!
So, now that you understand what yoga is and what it’s good for, are you ready to jump in? Let’s get started with 7 Essential Yoga Poses For Beginners!…