Yoga is something floaty on a mat, isn't it? Oh, and you have to be super flexible for that too! If that's been your previous experience, you've probably ended up at the wrong yoga class. Just like fitness, you also have different shapes and sizes in yoga. But where do you start and what do you need to know about yoga? In this article I would like to take you through the course 'yoga for dummies'.
“Life can be weird. Learn how to take care of youself in the midst of the chaos. Drink good water. Eat real food. Tell the energy vampires to fuck off. Really Breath. Speak up. Go outside. Find your tribe. Face your bullshit. Ask more questions. Make time to do more of what makes you feel alive.” – Brooke Hampton
For starters, yoga is for everyone! Yoga means connecting. This can be between movement and breathing, body and mind or maybe with others. As a result, yoga is not just the workout we practice on the mat. It's a way of life. But to take the first step towards this connection, it is nice to know what you are getting yourself into. With five steps I will help you on your way to the first yoga class.
SStep 1 - Know what yoga is
As I mentioned, yoga is meant to connect with your movement and breath or your body and mind. Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuj, which means to connect, merge and unite. That Sanskrit is not named for nothing. The yoga movement comes from India and is many years old. The Yoga Sutras, ancient scriptures written by the Indian philosopher Patanjali, were guidelines for life, philosophical norms, and physical postures. Yoga did not come to the Netherlands until much later in 1922. It took a while for this hype to get going. But in the late 1960s, in the middle of the hippie era, yoga also became more and more popular in our cold little country.
Where in India yoga is a philosophical lifestyle, in Western culture we mainly practice the physical aspect of yoga. Here we practice different asanas (yoga postures) in a sequence (set of exercises) where the focus is mainly on breathing.
Step 2 - Get the right mindset
To rock your first yoga class you need the right mindset. Start by letting go of your thoughts about yoga first, because yoga is for everyone! If you think yoga is not for you, it will never work for you. Yoga can affect everyone on different levels.
The yoga teacher will expect you to have an 'open mindset'. You're going to experience a lot of things in a class that you've never done and which might feel a little weird. Step out of that comfort zone and take that road into the unknown. Think 'I can't do something yet' instead of 'I will never be able to do this!' Discover where your learning process is and be open to new experiences. "And don't forget...just keep breathing."
Step 3 - Choose your yoga style
You are all set! You go into class with an open mindset and you now know a bit about what yoga stands for. But what class are you going to take? As I said before, you have yoga in different shapes and sizes. I have listed the most well-known yoga forms for you.
- Hatha yoga
Hatha yoga is the most classical form of yoga. This form of yoga is also the most widely practiced in Western culture. Every active form of yoga is derived from this form of yoga. Hatha yoga is all about strengthening and relaxing your muscles with the focus on your breathing. You are not expected to get into all kinds of difficult poses right away and is therefore freely accessible to everyone. It is a nice form to get acquainted with yoga.
- Vinyasa yoga
Vinyasa is also known as Flow Yoga. Think of it as a flow of certain postures on the movement of your breath. In a sequence you practice different asanas, where each sequence can have its own purpose. For example, you can start a lesson with several sun salutations to warm up your body or you can work towards a sequence with a lot of balance and focus. Vinyasa is a bit more physical than hatha yoga because of its flow. Certainly a nice form if you are looking for a more physical lesson.
- Ashtanga yoga
Ashtanga is a dynamic yoga style in which the lesson is built up from a fixed structure of asanas. This yoga style is quite dynamic and active, where it is important that your muscles are active. Just like with Vinyasa classes, it is also about the flow of your breathing. Ashtanga yoga is for the Yogi who is already a little familiar with yoga and who likes a mental and physical challenge. Due to the fast flowing alternation of the asanas, a novice Yogi can experience difficulty with the lesson here.
- Yin Yoga
Yin yoga is all about surrender, relaxation and letting go. This style mainly relaxes the connective tissue and joints. Also, the deep-lying muscles are stretched and the pelvic area loosened. You do this by holding an asana for a little longer. This form of yoga is quite new. It was introduced to Western countries in the late 1970s and quickly became popular. Because the attention in a Yin class is mainly on relaxation and surrender, the lesson is very mindful for most participants.
- Hot yoga
Hot yoga is also called Bikram yoga. And hot yoga is definitely hot! You practice yoga poses for 90 minutes in a room of about 40 degrees Celsius. This naturally makes you sweat a lot and according to the guru Bikram who developed this form of yoga, this has a positive effect on your blood circulation and your muscles. You have to lie down for this form of yoga. For example, can you not tolerate heat well or do you have a completely different goal within yoga? Then this form of yoga may not be for you. guru Bikram who has developed this form of yoga is this positive effect on your blood circulation and your muscles. You have to lie down for this form of yoga. For example, can you not tolerate heat well or do you have a completely different goal within yoga? Then this form of yoga may not be for you.
- Yoga nidra
Wonderful, good sleep yoga! Or not? At least you do all the exercises lying down with the aim of achieving complete relaxation. Most yogis who practice yoga nidra come to class because of mental or physical complaints. With the help of a voice that guides you through the session, you come to that complete relaxation that lies between waking and sleeping.
- Kundalini yoga
I think this form of yoga is the form that most people find "floating". In this class you will practice dynamic asanas that are combined with powerful breathing exercises. So far not soggy. But mantras (prayer), meditations and chakras are also added to this form of yoga. It's really about becoming aware of body and mind. Most yogis who participate in this class already have experience in yoga and want to find themselves more spiritually.
Step 4 – Choose how you start with yoga
You can of course start with some yoga classes on You-Tube. Find a yoga teacher here who appeals to you the most and who makes you feel good. A disadvantage of pre-recorded yoga classes is that you don't get any personal feedback in your yoga journey. As a result, you do not know whether you are performing the asanas correctly and an injury is lurking quickly.
That is why I would opt for a LIVE yoga class where you have a teacher who can guide you through the class. It is important that you feel comfortable with your teacher. It is also important that your teacher takes your body into account. Not every body can just blindly imitate everything and that is not the goal of yoga at all!
So find a place where you feel comfortable and where you are seen as yourself!
Step 5 – Find out what you need for yoga
You only need a small amount for yoga. Namely yourself and a yoga mat. How easy is that! They often have these yoga mats ready at a yoga school. Do you want to go shopping by yourself and buying a mat because you like it better, the choice is rich. When you have scored your mat, it is nice that you put on something that you feel comfortable in. Comfortable leggings/jogging pants with a loose top/shirt are a good basis for this. For the beginning and the end of the lesson it can be nice to bring a warm sweater and perhaps a pair of warm socks.
Oh yes, a lot of men also do Yoga, mainly to increase flexibility and strength. Many premier league football teams use Yoga for their players. But top tennis player Novak Djokovic and actor Robert Downey Junior (Iron Man) can also regularly be found on the mat.
For the yogis who could use a little help here and there during the class, they can use some aids. For example, consider a yoga block, a strap or a meditation cushion.
Like this! You have completed the crash course in yoga for dummies. Above all, investigate what suits you and be open to what comes your way. And maybe I'll see you on the yoga mat with me soon.