De-Mystifying Yoga

by Denise Druce | October 9th, 2013 | Fitness Expert

Dandasana YogaMy husband laughs at me and my evangelical approach to yoga.  If someone tells me at a dinner party that their arthritis is bothering them I ask if they’ve tried yoga.  If someone has back pain, ‘have you tried yoga?”  If they’re having marriage problems, “have you tried yoga?”  I’m convinced that there is something for everyone on the yoga mat.  But starting out can be daunting, especially if you don’t speak Sanskrit or spend a lot of time drinking green juice and humming.  Here are some basic yoga terms and poses to help you become more familiar with this thing I call the “fix all”.

The word Yoga means ‘union, to yoke, to join’.  So the physical practice of yoga is an act of joining.  We’re joining mind and body, movement and breath, our physical body with the energy of the Universe.

Hatha Yoga is a general term for all of the physical practices of yoga which are designed to improve health.  Bikram, Ashtanga, Anusara, Iyengar, Baptiste are all examples of Hatha Yoga.

When you hear the term Asana, that means the physical practice of yoga.  Typically we use the word Asana to mean a yoga pose, or technically ‘seat’. At the beginning of most classes, you will be sitting in a pose called Sukasana, which means easy seat. It’s a simple cross-legged yoga pose.

You’ll start in this pose as you take some deep breaths through your nose.

The active breathing and the focus on breath in yoga practice is called Pranayama, which is another basic yoga term that you’ll hear a lot.  As you sit and focus on deep breaths, you can take your arms up overhead and bring your hands back to your heart, moving with your breath.  Now you’re practicing a Vinyasa, which means to flow, or ‘to place together in a special way’.  Inhaling as you lift your arms, and exhaling as you lower them is a simple Vinyasa.

Another common yoga pose is Baddha Konasana, or butterfly with the soles of the feet together. You can just gently put your weight on your legs and this is a great way to stretch your hips. As you continue your pranayama in this asana, see if you feel your muscles relaxing and stretching more.

One more common yoga pose is called Dandasana, or staff pose. You will often hear teachers say “clearing the flesh from underneath” which just means reach down and move your bottom out of the way so you can feel your sitting bones on the floor. For a great hamstring stretch, take your legs straight out, bring your hands to your sides and just sit as tall as you can. This is a great way to begin working flexibility in the back of your legs, lengthening your spine and improving your posture.  Continue working ton your pranayama or breath.

Probably the most common yoga term that you’ll hear is the word that we use at the end of every yoga class, Namaste. This is a greeting. We bring our hands to our heart center and when we say Namaste, we’re greeting the light or the greatness in one another.

So, Namaste!

(Photo courtesy of Ervin Bacik)

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All health and fitness information is provided for educational purposes. Please consult with your physician before beginning any exercise regimen.