All About Yoga and Why It’s Good For You
Yoga’s popularity is on the rise. No matter where you live, it is likely a new yoga studio (or two or three) has popped up in your city in recent years. Yoga is a great addition to anyone’s health and wellness routine, but it can be intimidating to start if you have never tried it before. Even if you feel nervous, there is nothing to be worried about when stepping onto a yoga mat for the first time.
What is Yoga?
Yoga is an ancient practice that originated years ago with the purpose of forging a closer relationship with oneself. According to the original practitioners, the true meaning of yoga is simply “to completely know yourself and to be at peace with yourself.”
The yoga that these ancient gurus practiced would look very different from what you see today. Though they did practice some “Asanas,” or standing postures, yoga was largely an internal practice. The only reason these yogis practiced Asanas in the first place was to simply prepare their bodies to sit comfortably in a meditative seat. Though some of these initial principles still hold true in yoga classes today, the practice has evolved to look very different.
Yoga classes today are a combination of stretching, strength training, and mindfulness practice. Instructors will guide you through a series of traditional Asanas that challenge your balance, help you build strength, and improve your focus and concentration. There are many different styles of yoga, including traditional vinyasa flow, slow and stretchy yin, and challenging power flow. While the classes will feel very different, for the most part they are all different takes on the three main principles of stretching, strength training, and mindfulness.
Physical Benefits of Yoga
Yoga has countless benefits. The most apparent is what it does to your body. Some people do not see yoga as a “work out,” but ask them how their abs feel after a class of vinyasa flow and they may answer differently. Though yoga is typically a series of slow movements, holding Asanas leads to a serious strength building workout. Over time, regular practitioners of yoga will notice a distinct change in their muscle mass.
Also, your flexibility and balance will greatly increase after practicing yoga regularly. Even the most basic postures involve these two skills. Essentially every Asana practiced in a class will invoke your strength and flexibility, which will lead you to generally feel better in your own skin in your daily life, not just when you are at the yoga studio.
It is important to note that all poses can be modified to suit the needs of even the most inexperienced beginner. You should never be scared to start a yoga practice due to a lack of strength, flexibility, or balance. There will be props you can use to help you through the poses, and a knowledgeable instructor can offer you modified poses more suited for your current level.
Internal Benefits of Yoga
The physical benefits of practicing yoga are just an added bonus. As discussed above, yoga is an internal practice more than physical. At its core, yoga is all about what goes on inside your mind.
Though you move physically throughout the entire practice, there are many points during a yoga class in which you will stop and breathe. Throughout the class, the goal is to stay focused on your breath and live in the present moment. These two things are far more important for yoga than any physical posture.
Those core ideas can make a big impact in your life off-the-mat, too. Today, there are more distractions than ever. You may find the practice of living in the present moment during yoga translate into your daily life. You may look at your phone a bit less, or find yourself more conscious and engaged in a conversation with your friends. Yoga affects everyone differently, but if you practice consistently, you will begin to see changes in your mind that are apparent in your daily life.
Yoga and Wellness
Though traditional yoga was very internal and spiritual, there is no denying that today’s practice is very physical. Many people do consider yoga exercise, and there is nothing wrong with that. Whether you practice an intense power flow style or soothing restorative yoga, yoga is a great addition to any health and wellness routine.
Yoga is a great exercise to incorporate in your life because it is strengthening and low impact. Plus, the stretching better prepares your body for your other favorite workouts, such as running.
But, of course, exercise is not the only piece of the puzzle when it comes to being healthy. The food you eat is even more important than how much you work out.
The traditional yogis ate a vegetarian diet because they believed that doing so helped them live a life of non-harm. Though vegetarianism is by no means a requirement to practice yoga today, many yogis still like to eat a vegetarian diet. If you are new to yoga and would like to experiment with vegetarianism, we can help ease the transition with our personalized meal planner. My Diet Meal Plan allows you to fully customize your meals, so you can choose how many meals and snacks you want to eat a day, and can designate vegan or vegetarian foods only (or other dietary preferences like low carbohydrate).
Still, you certainly do not have to become vegetarian in order to be a “good” yogi. Plenty of people practice yoga and still eat animal products in their diet. Yoga is extremely beneficial for both mental and physical reasons, and can add value to anyone’s life. If a lack of time is holding you back from exercising or practicing yoga, consider using our meal plan generator. We will construct customized weekly menus for you, including grocery lists, so you can spend less time planning and more time doing what you love.
Yoga may seem intimidating at first, but it is really the farthest thing from it. Taking the first step and trying yoga can make a huge difference on both your mental and physical health, and become a valuable component of your overall healthy lifestyle.