What is Yoga? A Beginner-Friendly Explanation

Last Updated: May 7, 2024By

If you’ve ever seen someone gracefully flowing through poses on a colorful mat or heard friends rave about how yoga makes them feel, you might be curious: What is yoga, exactly? Is it exercise? A spiritual thing? Do I have to be super flexible to even try it?

Let’s break it down in a way that makes sense, especially if you’re a total beginner.

Yoga: It’s Not Just About Fancy Poses

The most visible part of yoga might be the poses (called asanas). You know, Downward-Facing Dog, Warrior poses, or those where people seem to twist themselves into pretzels. While the physical side is important, yoga is much deeper than that.

Here’s a simple way to think about it: Yoga is about uniting your mind, body, and breath.

  • Mind: Yoga teaches you how to calm your busy mind, focus on the present, and manage stress better.

  • Body: The physical poses of yoga improve flexibility, strength, and balance.

  • Breath: Through specific breathing exercises (called pranayama), yoga helps you tap into the power of your breath for relaxation and energy.

Okay, But Where Did Yoga Come From?

Yoga is an ancient practice that originated in India thousands of years ago. It was traditionally seen as a path towards spiritual enlightenment. And while that aspect is still important to many, here in the West, yoga has become incredibly popular for its physical and mental health benefits.

Do I Need to Be Flexible/Spiritual/Fit to Do Yoga?

Nope, nope, and nope! Here’s the awesome thing about yoga: there’s a style out there for everyone. You don’t have to be strong, flexible, or have any particular beliefs to reap the benefits. Yoga is about meeting yourself where you’re at today and gradually progressing.

What Actually Happens in a Yoga Class?

Most classes follow a similar flow:

  • Warm-up: You’ll start with gentle movements and stretches to get your body ready.
  • Yoga poses: Your teacher will guide you through a series of poses, often linked together in a flowing sequence.
  • Breathing exercises: Some time will be dedicated to specific breathing techniques to help you focus and relax.
  • Meditation or deep relaxation: Classes usually end with a few minutes of guided meditation or a relaxing pose like savasana (corpse pose).

Benefits of Yoga (Why You Might Want to Give It a Go)

There are countless reasons to try yoga, and science backs many of them up. Here’s just a taste:

  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Improves flexibility and strength
  • Boosts mood
  • May help manage chronic pain
  • Improves sleep

I’m In! How Do I Get Started with Yoga?

  1. Find a beginner-friendly class: Look for classes specifically labeled “Beginner Yoga” or “Gentle Yoga” at studios or gyms near you. Online classes are also an excellent option!

  2. What to wear: Comfy clothes you can move in. Leggings, yoga pants, shorts, and t-shirts are all good. You’ll practice barefoot.

  3. Grab a mat: Studios may provide mats, but you’ll eventually want your own.

  4. Be open-minded: Don’t worry if you feel awkward at first; everyone starts somewhere!

Ready to Dive Deeper?

If you’re intrigued to learn more, stay tuned for future articles on basic yoga poses for beginners, different types of yoga, and how to get the most out of your yoga practice. Who knows, this could be the start of a whole new journey for you!

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