Since Humble Warrior Yoga came to town (15 Franklin Street, Wrentham MA), there have been many questions about yoga, which is only natural. I’ve taken some of the most common questions that I have heard and tried answering them below.
One of the things that I truly love the most about the practice is that it is like layers of an onion being peeled away slowly. The more you practice, the more your body feels open, and therefore your mind feels open – less focused on elements of the body that may be deterring you.
Yoga is a practice that happens not just on a mat, in a studio, but teaches you grace, mentally, and physically, that you can take with you each and everyday.
Here are some of the questions that may be on your mind, hopefully, after reading these, you will be one step closer to trying a class, or if you are already taking class maybe find something below that you intrigues you to peel away another layer, and do some research on your own.
1. What is yoga?
The word yoga, from the Sanskrit word yuj means to yoke or bind and is often interpreted as "union" or a method of discipline.
The Indian sage Patanjali is believed to have collated the practice of yoga into the Yoga Sutra an estimated 2,000 years ago. The Sutra is a collection of 195 statements that serves as a philosophical guidebook for most of the yoga that is practiced today. It also outlines eight limbs of yoga: the yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyani (meditation), and samadhi (absorption). As we explore these eight limbs, we begin by refining our behavior in the outer world, and then we focus inwardly until we reach samadhi (liberation, enlightenment).
Today most people practicing yoga are engaged in the third limb, asana, which is a program of physical postures designed to purify the body and provide the physical strength and stamina required for long periods of meditation.
2. What does ‘vinyasa’ mean?
The word Vinyasa means “breath-synchronized movement.” In other words, the teacher will instruct you to move from one pose to the next on an inhale or an exhale. This technique is sometimes also called Vinyasa Flow, or just Flow because of the smooth way that the poses run together and become like a dance.
Vinyasa’s strength is in its diversity. There is no single philosophy, rulebook, or sequence that teachers must follow, so there is a lot of room for individual personalities and quirks to come through. This makes it essential that you find a teacher you enjoy and can relate to. If your first Vinyasa class doesn’t rock your world, keep trying different teachers. If you enjoy having things a little loose and unpredictable and like to move, Vinyasa is probably right for you.
3. Why do we Om in class?
Om is a mantra, or vibration, that is traditionally chanted at the beginning and end of yoga sessions. It is said to be the sound of the universe. What does that mean?
Somehow the ancient yogis knew what scientists today are telling us—that the entire universe is moving. Nothing is ever solid or still. Everything that exists pulsates, creating a rhythmic vibration that the ancient yogis acknowledged with the sound of Om. We may not always be aware of this sound in our daily lives, but we can hear it in the rustling of the autumn leaves, the waves on the shore, the inside of a seashell.
Chanting Om allows us to recognize our experience as a reflection of how the whole universe moves—the setting sun, the rising moon, the ebb and flow of the tides, the beating of our hearts. As we chant Om, it takes us for a ride on this universal movement, through our breath, our awareness, and our physical energy, and we begin to sense a bigger connection that is both uplifting and soothing.
4. How many times per week should I practice?
Yoga is amazing—even if you only practice for one hour a week, you will experience the benefits of the practice. If you can do more than that, you will certainly experience more benefits. I suggest starting with two or three times a week, for an hour or an hour and fifteen minutes each time. Don't let time constraints or unrealistic goals be an obstacle—do what you can and don't worry about it. You will likely find that after awhile your desire to practice expands naturally and you will find yourself doing more and more.
5. How is yoga different from stretching or other kinds of fitness?
Unlike stretching or fitness, yoga is more than just physical postures. Patanjali's eight-fold path illustrates how the physical practice is just one aspect of yoga. Even within the physical practice, yoga is unique because we connect the movement of the body and the fluctuations of the mind to the rhythm of our breath. Connecting the mind, body, and breath helps us to direct our attention inward. Through this process of inward attention, we learn to recognize our habitual thought patterns without labeling them, judging them, or trying to change them. We become more aware of our experiences from moment to moment. The awareness that we cultivate is what makes yoga a practice, rather than a task or a goal to be completed. Your body will most likely become much more flexible by doing yoga, and so will your mind.
6. I'm not flexible—can I do yoga?
Yes! You are a perfect candidate for yoga. Many people think that they need to be flexible to begin yoga, but that's a little bit like thinking that you need to be able to play tennis in order to take tennis lessons. Come as you are and you will find that yoga practice will help you become more flexible.
This newfound agility will be balanced by strength, coordination, and enhanced cardiovascular health, as well as a sense of physical confidence and overall well-being.
9. What do I need to begin?
All you really need to begin practicing yoga is your body, your mind, and a bit of curiosity. But it is also helpful to have a pair of sweat pants, leggings, or shorts, and a t-shirt that's not too baggy. No special footgear is required because you will be barefoot. It's nice to bring a towel to class with you. As your practice develops you might want to buy your own yoga mat, but most studios (including Humble Warrior) will have mats and other props available for you.
10. What does Namaste mean?
The gesture Namaste represents the belief that there is a Divine spark within each of us that is located in the heart chakra. The gesture is an acknowledgment of the soul in one by the soul in another. "Nama" means bow, "as" means I, and "te" means you. Therefore, Namaste literally means "bow me you" or "I bow to you."
At the end of each yoga class most teachers bring their hands together in front of the heart, bow their head and say "Namaste" and the students bring their hands together and respond in kind.
For a teacher and student, Namaste allows two individuals to come together energetically to a place of connection and timelessness, free from the bonds of ego-connection. If it is done with deep feeling in the heart and with the mind surrendered, a deep union of spirits can blossom.
Ideally, Namaste should be done both at the beginning and at the end of class. Usually, it is done at the end of class because the mind is less active and the energy in the room is more peaceful. The teacher initiates Namaste as a symbol of gratitude and respect toward her students and her own teachers and in return invites the students to connect with their lineage, thereby allowing the truth to flow—the truth that we are all one when we live from the heart.
We always welcome questions at Humble Warrior Yoga, you can contact us via email @ Lauren@thehumblewarrioryoga.com.
If you are looking for further resources, Yoga Journal is a great one.