Using a yoga mat for yoga may seem to be a necessity, but is this true? The yoga mat developed from the practice originally taking place on grass, then using animal skins for cushioning and grip. However, yoga mats as we know them now were created by a yoga teacher named Angela Farmer in 1967 when she used a piece of foam carpeting underlay to aid her while practicing and teaching. The idea was shared with the underlay manufacturer and developed from there.
Is a yoga mat necessary?
The answer to this question is both yes and no, however it is by no means required as to whether you use a yoga mat or not and the decision is yours. Some people believe the mat’s sticky texture that helps to grip could lead to sprains or other injuries in the joints and over flexibility without sufficient muscle protection. Due to the grip the mat provides, the leg and arm muscles aren’t having to work as hard to keep you balanced which may feel easier initially, however if muscles supporting joints are not strengthened and maintained, this could leave you more susceptible to injury.
Should I use a yoga mat?
It is of course your choice, there are benefits of using a yoga mat. Aside from providing a sticky surface, the foam texture cushions and insulates your body when practicing on solid, wooden floors, like the ones in most yoga studios. This alleviates any harmful and uncomfortable pressure on the knees as well as, helps your body regulate it’s temperature to avoid injury. To many yogis a yoga mat is our personal space; our yoga mat gives us control over the space we occupy during a yoga class and keeps others outside of that space during class. A yoga mat makes us feel ready for practice, it’s part of our ritual to unroll the mat. The choice of design, color and material we choose for our yoga mats is much like our choice of clothing we practice in. Just be sure to do your research when shopping and choosing a yoga mat. Find a yoga mat that will be best suited for you and your needs.
Yoga mats are not mandatory for a yoga practice, but they can make your practice more comfortable than using the floor alone. However, if you practice yoga at home, a carpeted floor can provide cushioning with slightly less grip than a mat, alternatively, you can take your practice outside, and use a grassy area or the beach for a cushioned experience.
Before you get out of bed in the morning to check your email, your social media, or put the kettle on for tea or coffee, try my new morning yoga routine. Each posture is designed to wake up the body and energize the mind. The best part? It only takes about 20 minutes. Rev-up your morning by trying these easy to do moves.
Finish this sequence in Easy Pose (cross-legged) with a few moments of stillness and meditation. Connecting to your breathing not only gives you the opportunity to be in the present moment, but also enables you to watch each gentle breath enter and exit the body. Each deep breath enriches you with oxygen, helping the flow of blood to muscles, tissues cells and bones, while aiding clarity of thought and a sense of calm and focus to start your day.
Begin and end this sequence in a seated position; avoid Savasana in the morning since the idea here is to “wake-up” the body.
Modify the above poses to suit your practice; use a yoga block or blanket if needed.
Oftentimes, practicing yoga at home can be very challenging. It’s easy to become distracted or get busy with life! Taking a class with a yoga teacher may seem like the better alternative, but it cannot compare to practicing on your own. Here are some tips that can help you to establish a home yoga practice:
1. Set a yoga schedule
Make a schedule on when to do your yoga practice, as well as, the amount of times each week. If possible, choose particular days and times that you will practice before the week starts. Aim for at least 3 times in a week, in order to achieve real benefits and progress.
If you intend on practicing more intermediate or more challenging poses and practicing 5 to 7 times a week, try adding some Yin, Restorative or even Gentle yoga that are more stretch-based styles. This will give your body reset. On a side note, practicing yin yoga at least once in a week (which is a stretch-based yoga with long holds to open up the fascia) has proven to greatly improve mobility in a yoga practice.
2. Target thirty to sixty minutes
Most yoga classes last for 75 to 90 minutes. If you try to practice it on your own, you may feel frustrated or discouraged. Without the guidance of a teacher and the collective energy of a classroom, it is very difficult to maintain a longer class. Starting off with a home yoga practice of 30-60 minutes is ideal and you’re much more likely to continue a yoga routine.
3. Have a plan and keep it simple
Before you step on your yoga mat, it is important that you have a specific plan for what you intend to accomplish. For example, maybe you want to work on building strength with chaturanga, or you want to begin practicing yoga inversions. Whatever your plan is, keep it simple.
4. If you can’t do it, don’t do it
In a yoga class setting, a trained yoga teacher can give you guidance in order for you to move forward to poses you have not yet learned on your own. This is very important especially for poses that could harm you if not done properly. It is important for you to know that if you are not comfortable in a pose or are not sure of the alignment, then it’s best to skip it.
5. Be consistent
One thing about yoga is that it delivers benefits after practice. If you want your body to be more flexible, and also strong by making use of yoga, you have to commit the time; days, week, months and years. You will discover that each time you come to your yoga mat, there will be a sign of your body changing and evolving.
The best way to enjoy maximum benefits from yoga is to practice it regularly.
Travelling (especially internationally) has become more exciting and fulfilling. More and more yogis are exploring new places, practicing yoga in nature and spending more time with themselves. Are you excited or even curious to join a yoga retreat? Perhaps you need to plan everything first, so that your retreat will be a successful one, or perhaps you have questions and don’t know where to start.
Here are some FAQs that will guide you in planning your next yoga retreat.
1. Why join a yoga retreat?
One of the best things about retreats is that you give yourself an ultimate treat. A yoga retreat is intended for all of us who want to have a stressful vacation while doing the activity you love, yoga. It's a learning experience where you can relax, unwind and renew your sense of health. Also, it is an opportunity to connect and share with other people with similar experiences and explore the exciting nature adventures. A yoga retreat allows us to go more deeply into our yoga practice in its different aspects: postures, breathing, and meditation.
2. Who goes on a yoga retreat?
Yoga retreats are usually designed to progressively introduce the practice of yoga giving anyone the opportunity to learn on their own pace and ability. It is offered not only for yoga professionals but also to yoga students of any level. Even other people who are looking for a transformative and memorable vacation experience enroll to a yoga retreat.
3. Where to spend the retreat?
Yoga retreats are offered all over the world. So, you need to decide on a particular place. You can choose a place you’re interested in exploring. Any relaxing place that is ideal for yoga. The venue can be in the mountains, in the countryside or near a relaxing beach or sea.
4. Do I need to get a yoga instructor prior to going?
It would be beneficial if you have attended a yoga class with an instructor prior to going on the retreat. This is so you have a better understanding of the yoga teaching style and an approach that will meet your needs. The yoga retreats provide the opportunity for the instructor to get a better sense of your strengths and weaknesses. In this way, he/she will have the idea on how to guide you.
5. Do I need to know someone else on the retreat to get the most from it?
Absolutely not, it’s normal that some of you don’t know the other. One of the good things about the retreat is that you’ll have the chance to work with other people. These people would be your best source of information, and make new friends too.
6. What to wear during the retreat?
Casual, comfortable clothing would be best. But if you are traveling somewhere unfamiliar, you can check with the retreat organizer to ensure you on the appropriate clothes to wear. However, in some cases clothing requirements are likely defined once you sign-up for the retreat.
7. What to bring on the yoga retreat?
Yoga retreats vary, some are like camping, in hotels, and others are closer to the resorts. Therefore, it's always best to ask your retreat organizer about what you should bring. You might be advised to bring some special items like flashlights, bathing suit, yoga mats, etc. Be sure to inquire about necessary passports and visas if traveling internationally.
So, are you ready now for the breathtaking experience of attending a yoga retreat? Book Yoga Retreats has some amazing places to visit, check them out and see for yourself! Enjoy your yoga retreat; relax, learn and have fun!
Dandasana may look like a simple pose, but it's important to make sure that you're doing it the correct way because it is the foundation of all seated poses. Dandasana comes from the Sanskrit words Danda – meaning “stick”, and Asana – meaning “posture”. This pose is best known as the base of all asanas in seating position, forward bends and twists.
It's easy for your everyday posture to slump forward since most of us suffer from poor posture, and staff pose helps correct us. When the spine is straight and the shoulders back, our breathing naturally becomes deeper and more regular. The nervous system relaxes and the mind and body become in alignment and harmony.
Caution: People with high blood pressure should not perform this pose. In case of any wrist or lower back injury avoid this pose.
Routine is important, especially when it comes to maintaining or improving our health and wellness, but it can be hard to create. Creating and maintaining a routine that is supportive of your wellness can be a challenge, and deviating from your routine can be very easy. When you have a routine you’re less likely to make a decision that isn’t supportive of your wellness. When you begin to implement yoga as a daily habit, you’re much less likely to procrastinate.
Here are my 5 tips for creating a yoga routine:
1. Don’t focus on the numbers.
Don’t focus on how many Sun Salutes you did or how long you held Bakasana. What matters now isn’t how much you accomplish. What matters is that you show up to your mat every day. When you spend your energy worrying about the numbers, it’s easy to forget that you were present in the moment.
2. Make a commitment.
Tell yourself you’re going to practice daily. Yes, I know, a daily practice may seem impossible but it is doable. At the end of the week, make a commitment to practice for another 6 days. Before you know it, you’ll have practiced yoga for an entire month, without having thought about it.
3. Practice with a friend.
Go to a yoga class with your partner or your bestie. Make it a date. When practice yoga with a friend or go to class with someone you enjoy spending time with, yoga becomes a social activity, making you more inclined to keep practicing. Yoga becomes a chance to see someone you care about, and a way to strengthen your bond and friendship.
4. Treat yourself.
A treat doesn’t have to be something unhealthy like a donut or cake; it should be something you enjoy that you wouldn’t normally do for yourself. How about a new yoga mat, that pair of leggings you’ve been wanting to buy, yoga blocks, a yoga book? Whatever you feel like treating yourself to, remember, it doesn’t have to be an expensive treat, it could be something as simple as a yummy green drink or a matcha tea after yoga class. Get creative with your treat. When your treat is something that is satisfying you’ll look forward to it, without slipping back into unhealthy habits.
5. Practice even on the bad days.
When you’re having a bad day or just feeling blah, that’s when you need yoga the most. When you’re tired, run down, sad, depressed, angry, there is nothing better than a good yoga practice. Yoga will ground you. Yoga will help you find your center. Yoga will help you find your balance. It’s easy to let a bad day takeover and not practice yoga. I have been there. I can recall when I was having a bad month and all I could bring myself to do were Sun Salutes and Savasana. Yoga is what kept me grounded throughout that experience. What people often don’t tell you is that when you show up for your yoga practice, your yoga practice shows up for you. It supports you; it comforts you. Show up on your yoga mat not just on the good days but, especially the bad days. When you use yoga as a tool to find your peace, your serenity, your sanity, and your strength, creating a yoga routine takes care of itself.
Wide-Legged Forward Fold comes from the Sanskrit words Prasarita meaning separated. Pada meaning legs or feet. Uttana meaning intense stretching. The literal translation is “wide-stance forward bend’. This pose can also be translated as “spread out feet intense stretch”. When practiced with compassion, inversions such as this pose, can be very beneficial to your well-being. They reverse blood flow, which usually has to fight against gravity on its way back to the heart, thus improving circulation. Similarly, they help to move the lymphatic system, which runs parallel to the vascular network but doesn’t have a pump. Flushing that system means increased immunity and decreased illness.
The best beginner's tip for Wide-Legged Forward Bend is to place a soft padded yoga block or a soft folded blanket in front and place the crown of your head on the block of the blanket. Since beginners are usually not able to bend completely and place their crown on the floor, this helps maintain balance while still improving your stretch.
Do not hold this asana for more than 1 minute, especially if you are a beginner.
If you have low blood pressure or vertigo avoid this pose for longer times and perform for 2 to 3 breaths only. Come out of the pose gradually to avoid dizziness. Pregnant women should not perform this pose at all, especially during the 3rd trimester because of the excess belly weight..
People of all ages can enjoy and benefit from practicing yoga. As people age, their joints become less flexible and they usually get less physical activity. Specially designed yoga classes can help counter some of the effects of aging. It is estimated that the senior population will double from now through 2050, to 80 million adults. There are numerous benefits of yoga’s effectiveness on aging and below are just a few:
While yoga can be practiced as a solitary, meditative experience, many senior yoga classes are more social. Participants may be on mats, or sitting in chairs in a circle, interacting with each other while participating in the class. Seniors living alone thrive on the social interaction provided by their yoga classes. Many who would not venture out to regular exercise classes can be coaxed into trying yoga, for its physical and mental benefits.
Chair Yoga for Seniors
Most people, unless we remain active, become less flexible and limber with age. Chair yoga classes have been designed to allow seniors to remain upright, and in their comfort zone without needing to move down to the floor and back up, repeatedly. Traditional poses are modified so that they may be accomplished for the benefit of the practitioner, while remaining seated.
Yoga Poses for Seniors
Certain yoga poses work better for people with limited flexibility or mobility. Some recommended poses for seniors are: Easy Pose, Lateral Sitting twist, Bridge Pose, Seated Forward Bend Downward Dog, Half spinal twist, Warrior II, and Tree Pose are all great poses for seniors. As with all exercises, practitioners need to monitor their own bodies and stop or ask for assistance if a pose does not agree with them.
Health Benefits for Seniors
Social interaction in yoga classes is as beneficial to mental health as the poses themselves are for physical health. Seniors participating in yoga classes report that they are happier, overall, and have a higher sense of well-being. They also have more self-confidence, as they regain strength and flexibility. Other physical health benefits include increased circulation, and better ability to sleep.
Yoga can benefit people throughout all stages of their lives. The mental and physical benefits of yoga extend to everybody at every age! The most important thing to remember when starting yoga is to go slow and know your limits. Seniors who have not exercised in a while should seek out gentle beginner's classes. Look for classes in styles such as Iyengar, Yin, or Hatha. Seniors with limited mobility may enjoy chair yoga or water yoga to take pressure off the feet and joints.
Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose) is named after the great yogi Matsyendranath. The name, Half Lord of the Fishes Pose, comes from the Sanskrit words ardha meaning half, matsya meaning fish and, indra meaning ruler and asana meaning pose. Ardha Matsyendrasana is a pretty deep spinal twist in its full expression, but it’s how we approach and prepare for the posture that really makes the difference in how we feel in it.
This yoga pose usually appears as a seated spinal twist with many variations, and is one of the twelve basic yoga poses (asanas) in many systems of Hatha Yoga and part of the Ashtanga Yoga Primary series. When we mindfully twist our bodies we restore circulation, begin to correct posture, and rejuvenate the spinal column. Practicing twists in yoga also compress the internal organs and glands of the torso, forcing out toxic waste. When pressure is released, fresh blood rich with oxygen flows back to the organs which aids in digestion.
Half Lord of the Fishes Modifications:
Caution: People suffering from severe back or neck pain should practice with caution, and with close supervision. Those with slip disc problems should avoid this pose completely. Those with internal organ issues may find this pose difficult and painful. Should be avoided by pregnant women as it can press the fetus.
While yoga has been around for centuries, it has surged in popularity over the last two decades. There are currently 37 million people in the United States who practice yoga; and I’m sure that the number of people who practice worldwide is even higher! People practice yoga for a variety of reasons such as gaining physical strength and flexibility, recovering from an injury, or to relieve stress and have more inner peace. Yoga is a practice that’s intended to meet you where you are physically and spiritually; to create balance, harmony, and a sense of connection in your life.
What you see on social media can be misleading and can cause many people to think that yoga is primarily about creating a “perfect” picturesque pose (like on a beach), or contorting the body into extreme ranges of motion. While there are some that do place an emphasis on the aesthetics, it’s more important to find yoga classes that will focus on developing body intelligence and guiding students to cultivate a safe and sustainable practice to enhance your overall well-being and bring a lasting benefit to your life.
Below are some common questions and misconceptions to help prepare you for the practice of yoga.
Are there classes for beginners?
There are definitely yoga classes that are open to all levels and abilities, including those that have never set foot on a yoga mat. It’s always best to do your own research to see what’s available in your area. Ideally you want a yoga teacher that is skilled at instructing those in the room, giving good cues as you move between poses. As a beginner, you shouldn’t have to buy yoga flashcards, memorize names of poses or understand Sanskrit before you go. A good yoga teacher and class should offer plenty of options to make the physical practice appropriate for you.
I’m not flexible!
This is the most common remark a yoga teacher hears. If you happen to be someone who believes this, consider that maybe your “tightness” has nothing to do with not being able to get your hands to the ground or bend your body like you’ve seen other people do. A functional yoga practice can guide on you how to work with your body type. Your mat becomes not only the place to practice asanas (poses) but also a tool where you can acquire knowledge and make discoveries about YOUR body. A good yoga teacher will guide you toward a deeper understanding of your body thus allowing you greater understanding and joy for the practice.
How do I know what class is right for me?
How should I prepare before class?
Hopefully this guide has helped to answer any questions or concerns you may have and sets you up for an optimal experience for your journey into yoga. See you on the mat! 😊
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