Exercise, Spiritual Health

Introduction to Yoga Classes

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In a few weeks, I will be beginning a blog series on yoga! Each post in the series will be a different yoga class with pictures that you can follow along with! They will all be at the beginner level, with modifications for your own personal comfort level. Each sequence will be aimed towards a different part of your body (i.e. hips, shoulders, back, etc.), so you can pick and choose which you would like to do (though I highly recommend you give them all a shot).

To make sure we’re all on the same page at the beginning of the series, I’m going to explain to you some of the basics of yoga! To be clear, I am not going to be explaining the Yoga Sutras of Patañjali, or the Eight Limbs of Yoga, but will instead be focusing more on the physical poses that will be at the basis of the classes I’ll be offering. However, I do highly recommend you do a bit of research on the Yoga Sutras before beginning any yoga practice, as understanding them is crucial to a fulfilling practice.

Until further ado, here are some of the basics of yoga! Practice these for the next few weeks until you’re comfortable with them, and then join me on April 6th for the first class!

  1. Focus on the breath: Pranayama is at the heart of yoga. It refers to the mindful control of one’s breath. The energy of the breath, or the prana, helps clear and balance the chakras, and is both relaxing yet energizing at the same time. Throughout the yoga flows, get comfortable in each pose and then find stillness and focus on elongating and slowing your breath. Never feel like you need to hurry on to the next pose; linger in each one as long as you’d like.
  2. Beginning with Om: Om (pronounced a-u-m) is said to be the sound born at the creation of the universe, and it symbolizes the creation cycle. It is an invitation to begin your practice, and it links you to original creation source. When done correctly, it also creates energy that flows from your pelvis to the crown of your head, and it very beneficial for your throat chakra.  Before beginning the classes, I recommend heading on over to YouTube and looking up the correct way to pronounce the mantra, and then practice it in the comfort of your home. You may feel a little silly at first, but keep at it! It’s so important to use it at the beginning of every practice.
  3. Child’s Pose: This is a restorative pose that will be used as a break in between two slightly more difficult poses. To perform it, sit on your knees on the lower end of your mat. Bring your knees to the outer edges, or as far as is comfortable. Walk your hands out in front of you and slowly lower your head and torso over your thighs. Your forehead should be on the mat or on a yoga block if it doesn’t quite reach yet. Your arms should be stretched out in front of you with your forearms resting on the mat if it’s comfortable. Breathe deeply while you focus on relaxing your lower back.
  4. Butterfly Pose: Nearly everyone is familiar with this pose. Sit on your mat with your feet in front of you. Bring the soles of your feet together and pull them in towards your pelvis. Slowly walk your hands out and lower your torso down towards your feet. Your back should remain straight; if it doesn’t, or if you feel any pinching in your hip creases, walk yourself back up ans re-position your legs a little farther away from your pelvis. Breathe deeply while you hold the pose.
  5. Mountain Pose: This pose is often used as the starter for standing yoga sequences. It is often returned to many times throughout the practice, and is sometimes used as a restorative pose. Stand with your feet together and your shoulders relaxed. Position your head over your heart and your heart over your pelvis. Breathe deeply and raise your arms over your head, reaching your fingertips towards the sky. Alternatively, you can bring your palms together, like you did while chanting Om.
  6. Downward Facing Dog: Depending on the pose performed before this one, there are a few different ways to come into Downward Facing Dog. For the purposed of practicing the pose, begin on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Walk your hands a few inches in front of you and spread your finger as wide as is comfortable to create a good base. Curl your toes under and raise your butt and hips towards the ceiling, pressing the heels down towards the mat. Bend your knees as generously as you need to at the beginning, and don’t worry if your heels don’t touch the mat yet: they’ll get there! Breathe deeply and hold the pose for a few breaths.
  7. Pigeon Pose: This is one pose that will be held for longer than normal, as it is so beneficial for the hips, butt and lower back. Begin at the top of a push-up position. Carefully bring your right knee up to meet your right hand, and place it on the mat. Then bring your right foot next to your left hand. Lower your left knee down, and then slowly lower yourself onto your forearms. If this isn’t comfortable yet, then just stay on your hands rather than your forearms. Relax your lower body completely, and breathe deeply. Carefully bring your right leg back to meet your left. Repeat on the other side.
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