Yoga classes follow sequences determined by the style of yoga practiced or by the instructor. What many of them have in common is the hands joined together; “Namaste” between instructor and student at the end of class. Those new to yoga may find the closing salutation somewhat “odd” or new to learn and say; others may say the word without thinking about it. But Namaste has a rich meaning and long history and can sum up the work of your entire yoga practice.
Definition of Namaste
Namaste is a conjoined Sanskrit word consisting of “nama” meaning bow, “as” meaning I, and “te” meaning you. Literally, it means “I bow to you.”
What Does Namaste-The Gesture Mean?
The gesture of joining the hands, palms together, over the heart is a yoga pose known as Anjali Mudra. Anjali means “offering.” A mudra is a hand gesture. The Sanskrit meaning of mudra is “seal” or “sign” and the gestures referred to as mudras are sacred symbols for some aspect of the divine or the inspiration for a feeling of reverence. Mudras are found in Indian culture in classical dance, ritual and yoga poses. They may be spontaneous hand movements in experiences of kundalini energy known as “kriyas.” Anjali Mudra connects the “offering” of spoken Namaste to an action that brings both hands together over the heart, joining the right and left hemispheres of the brain, completing the unification of yin and yang and centering the self in the light-filled core of yoga practice.
The Significance of Namaste
The significance of the Namaste is complete surrender or devotion to the divine spark in another. When offered in gratitude or in greeting, Namaste recognizes that all beings are sacred and that, as an equal, the devotee may partake of the merit and knowledge of the teacher. According to Nitin Kumar, a Sanskrit translator, and Vedic scholar, the sound of the Namaste is equivalent to a sacred chant, a mantra that aligns the speaker with the resonance of universal harmony. In Kumar’s interpretation, the spoken and gestured Namaste is a brief meditation, an opening between the individual spirit and the divine.
Alternatives for Namaste
Not every yoga class ends with Namaste. In India, the word can simply mean a casual greeting similar to saying a “hello.” Closing a shared practice with Namaste is a choice, and some teachers choose different ways to honor the connection. Chanting “Om, Shanti, Shanti, Shanti,” calling upon the heart of creation for peace, brings the energy of purpose to the work just completed.
In Iyengar yoga, classes end with an invocation to Patanjali, sage and author of the “Yoga Sutras.” Teachers may prefer to close with a mantra like “Om Namah Shivaya,” which honors Lord Shiva, the master of yoga and the symbol of creative energy. And others, mindful of adaptations to Western sensibilities, simply say- “Thank you,” as often as not accompanied by the Anjali Mudra that silently communicates Namaste.
Whatever way you wish to express respect and gratitude at the end of your yoga class is fine, remember that it is a shared experience offering peaceful energy signifying the light and understanding that can only be found in the heart.
You want to start a yoga practice, or perhaps you’ve been practicing on your own at home and you don’t know how to pick a Yoga teacher. I understand, I’ve been there myself! This “CALM” check list will help you to find the right Yoga teacher for you.
The following is the “CALM check list.” This checklist is a basic criterion that your Yoga teacher should meet before you continue on to a second Yoga class with them. C.A.L.M gets its name from four main factors: Communication, Assist, Listen, and Modification. For the right Yoga teacher, you should be answering with a “yes” to all questions.
Communication: Does your Yoga teacher talk to you, and other students, in a manner of mutual respect? Can you ask a question during class time? Does your teacher show compassion for you and other students? Does your Yoga teacher take the time to lead you through a guided meditation or relaxation? Meditation and relaxation are major aspects of Yoga practice. There are Yoga teachers who just want to get “their workout” done. Beware of Yoga teachers who are so busy that they don’t have time for you. If you want to learn Yoga, you need an open line of communication with your Yoga teacher.
Assist: Does your teacher care about your form? Will your teacher give you a verbal or physical assist during your Yoga class?
Some students never have major problems with alignment and some do, but if your teacher doesn’t give verbal cues, what does that tell you?
Listen: Does your Yoga teacher take the time to listen to your feedback? Is your teacher “in the moment” with the class?
Once in a while, there is a Yoga instructor who runs, “The-it’s-all-about-me-show.” You are not going to learn anything from this type of teaching. Beginners will be put at risk, trying to keep up with a seasoned Yoga teacher who doesn’t explain anything.
Modification: Does your Yoga teacher allow modifications and props? If your teacher discourages props, you are in the wrong place.
Some students will need props, especially so for some beginners and those who have limited range of motion. Just because a teacher can do a posture without props, doesn’t mean every student can.
Some students crave “the stern, but loving parent” types. They will push you harder, but how much pushing do you really need? You want a Yoga teacher who encourages you out of your comfort zone, without being overly pushy that could cause unnecessary injuries.
Respect is a two way street, and you deserve as much respect as your Yoga teacher does. Let common sense be your guide. You should feel good after a Yoga class, and you maybe even feel muscle soreness days after a vigorous class.
A home practice is a great way to go deeper into your yoga practice as well as build your understanding and knowledge of yoga. Home practice can be defined as your own yoga practice outside the class setting, without a teacher guiding you. You essentially become your own teacher when you learn yoga at home.
Developing your own yoga practice at home can be challenging and even scary! It forces you to be comfortable in your own skin. Many people find it difficult not having someone guide you through it. This is the beauty of it, to create and develop it yourself and make it your own. We tell ourselves that we don’t have the time or don’t know what to do for our home yoga practice.
Here are my personal tips for practicing yoga at home:
1. Listen To Your Body
During the course of my yoga practice at home, I have learned how to listen to my body. In order to maintain a consistent practice, I needed to start practicing at home. But, my first few times were not easy. I would push myself into poses that either I was not ready for or that I “thought” I could do because I saw someone else do it. I never took time to really listen to my body and what it was saying. I know better these days and I’ve learned to be in-tune with what it’s telling me.
2. Clear The Clutter
This may seem like a challenge at first, clearing out a spot in your home for your yoga practice. I remember laying down my mat in my apartment, where my only space to practice was the perimeter of my yoga mat. After the first Sun Salutation, I was looking around my room, searching for things to pick up because I hadn’t cleared out a space just for my yoga practice. I knew I needed an area that needed to be free from clutter to avoid any kind of distractions. The area you choose doesn’t have to be large, just a spot for you and your yoga that’s clear of clutter and junk.
3. Withdraw The Senses
At a yoga studio, you are asked to put away your belongings so you’re not distracted by your personal possessions so you can give yourself your undivided attention. This is not easy at home when you have things to do or people there to distract you. In Yoga, we practice Pratyahara, or withdrawal of the senses. It took me a while to feel unaffected by my home environment and to remain focused in my practice.
4. Embrace The Challenge
Ask yourself, “When am I feeling compelled to step off my mat?” “When do I give up?” The answer is simple…when the practice becomes challenging. As soon as I began practicing Ashtanga yoga, I began to feel the challenge that I was searching for. Not just the asanas, but the deeper connection I felt towards my inner self. I realized over time, that I was limiting my potential to grow. By giving up on other asanas earlier and losing will power, I realized that this might probably be the way I approach different challenges off the mat as well.
5. Be Consistent
There are mornings that I just don’t feel like getting up at 5:30; I just want to hit the snooze button on my alarm and sleep! I practice every day because I know yoga requires the consistency to keep at it, to keep it a habit. I know that yoga makes me feel better, that I literally need it in my life, that it resets my days and all those reasons are enough to keep up with my practice. However, sometimes I think it would be a struggle to get going if it wasn’t a habit, my yoga would probably be much more sporadic. Consistency is key, even if you only practice 10 minutes a day!
The Rewards Of Home Practice
While it may take time to develop the discipline for a continuous session of yoga at home, it can be very rich and rewarding. You can try new things and have the freedom to explore your own creative movement. If you’re just getting started or experiencing some of these similar challenges, keep going, stay committed. Make yourself and your practice a priority. You will not regret it! Just know that a practice is anything you need that day. A quick break, a deep breath, and a little bit of patience is all you need to get yourself going. Enjoy!
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.
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! 😊
Do you feel overwhelmed by endless to do lists? Are you stressed from work, university or a busy family life? For many people, busy has become the new “norm” due to more stimulation than we have ever seen before. We have transformed the way we live so it's not surprising that increased levels of anxiety, stress and stimulation are keeping us on edge all day and insomnia at night. That’s where yin yoga can be of benefit. Beginning with some mindfulness, a lot of stillness and self-love, you can start the journey to yin yoga to experience a powerful practice to help you relax, rejuvenate and reconnect to your true self.
What is Yin Yoga?
Yin Yoga, is a quiet yoga practice with long held poses structured to access your connective tissues, while healing both your physical and energetic body. The tissues accessed by yin yoga are responsible for 47% of your body's limited range of motion. By holding specific yoga asanas (poses) for 3-20 minutes, can create ample space to allow rest and relaxation into our lives; while offering fascinating new depths of flexibility and quiet peaceful thoughts into our busy minds.
In addition to the physical benefits of yin yoga, there are a myriad of psycho-emotional advantages to this practice. Drawn from the lineage of traditional Chinese medicine, yin yoga stimulates the movement of chi through twelve distinct meridian lines where we store many of our deepest emotions. Through extended holds, we create ample space for our bodies to energetically release these emotions and create a sense of clarity, calm and truth.
Benefits of Yin Yoga
How Yin Yoga is Unique
Finding Stillness: Your yin tissues are accessed in times of stillness - by relaxing your muscles and sinking into a space of non-rigid stillness. If you feel pain or sharpness allow moments of gentle movement and readjustment to uncover a place of stillness.
Find your edge: Your edge is your sweet spot, where sensation meets intensity, meets deep feeling. This is not a place of strain or pain. We go to our edge in yin yoga in order to encourage energetic flow and healing.
Holding Time: Yin poses are held anywhere from 3-20 minutes. Yin tissues are more plastic than elastic and require time to expand.
Many yoga practitioners relish the quiet space in yin yoga. From resolving the pains of arthritis, mobility, and flexibility, yin yoga is a powerful tool to add to your repertoire of healing modalities.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be flexible, vegan, or young to practice yoga; it’s truly for everyone! Yogis come in all shapes and sizes and is accessible to people at all levels no matter the age. You can go to a class, just being you, and slowly but surely achieve your best self. Usually, yoga studios have many different level classes and the instructors can help you to modify poses if you are a beginner or want more of a challenge.
Here are just a few reasons to include yoga in your routine:
As a society, we are overloaded with stress, so it’s no surprise that people are attracted to yoga. Yoga is a wonderful way to relax at the end of a day, ground yourself, find center, and decrease anxiety to bring your body back into balance. Try a Yin yoga class or Restorative yoga class.
Do you want long, lean muscles? Many yoga poses increase muscle tone by activating your core, large and small muscles groups all at once. Over time, you’ll be able to flex those toned yoga arms 💪 with confidence and get yourself ready for arm balances you’ve seen on Instagram!
Yoga is a wonderful compliment to other forms of exercise. Where other activities like running or HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) can make your muscles tight, yoga can support you to lengthen and create dimension in your body. Using your muscles in different ways will also help to prevent injury.
Flowing through a sun salutation is the perfect way to energize your body and mind while articulating the curves of your spine in order to keep it healthy. Sun salutations are typically done in the morning, but can be practiced any time you need a pick-me-up. So, skip the morning cup of coffee ☕ and practice these seven yoga poses for more energy!
Due to sedentary lifestyles and desk jobs, many people are dealing with back pain and poor posture as a result of lost articulation of the curves of the spine. Yoga, when practiced regularly, can help reverse the damage that sitting and slouching cause by bringing out these natural curves. Poses that lengthen the sides of the waist, broaden your chest or back, and help you learn pelvic orientation can be very beneficial for you. Good yoga posture teaches every part of your body to bear its own weight as an alternative of relying on other muscles to carry the load.
If you’re injured, yoga can aid you in rebuilding and learning your body on a deeper level to prevent future ailments. Many athletes work the same muscle groups over and over causing the muscles and joints to wear out over time. Yoga helps joints stay healthy and mobile, while working the entire body to make sure you’re strong enough to support the body parts that get the most wear and tear. Start slow and when possible work with a yoga teacher who can show you how to modify poses based on any injuries you may have as well as, learn poses to avoid.
Caution: Not all yoga poses are suitable for everyone. Always consult your health care provider before practicing yoga or any other exercise program. The information provided in this blog is strictly for reference only and is not in any manner a substitute for medical advice. Modify poses with yoga props like blocks and blankets. Always practice yoga poses within your own range.
Mantras and chanting have been an integral part of the practice of yoga since the tradition began thousands of years ago. This practice is a key component of Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of devotion. Chants or mantras are inspiring and evocative for those they resonate with, but they may exclude some yogis of different religions or non-religion. In the spirit of inclusion, here are some traditional chants that don’t necessarily refer to specific deities:
Om shanti shanti shanti
This Sanskrit mantra means “peace,” a uniting idea that aligns with most philosophies, ideologies, and religious beliefs. It may be used as a personal or global intention at the beginning, middle, or end of yoga practice.
Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu
This translates to “may all beings be happy and free.” It is a powerful mantra/chant to perform at the end of practice when we may want clarity, a balanced mind/spirit, and peace upon other beings. One can follow up by setting a concrete intention to go out into the world and share the energy that’s been cultivated our yoga practice.
Om mani padme hum
One of the many interpretations of this chant is “the jewel is in the lotus,” which represents a yogi’s path to enlightenment. Much as one could peel back the hundreds of petals of a lotus flower to reach its center, as we peel away the layers of our identity (job titles, gender, wife, daughter, sister, husband, son, etc.), we discover the jewel within: our true self that has no identity.
Lam vam ram yam ham om
These sounds represent the 7 chakras. There are 7 major energy centers (aka chakras) in the human body. They run from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. In Sanskrit, chakra translates into “wheel”. These “wheels” can be thought of as vortexes that both receive & radiate energy. Emotions, physical health, & mental clarity affect how well each chakra can filter energy. This in turn dictates how pure the energy is that’s emitted from different parts of the body.
Lam: Survival (root chakra)
Vam: Pleasure (sacral chakra)
Ram: Self-Esteem (solar plexus chakra)
Yam: Love (heart chakra)
Ham: Communication (throat chakra)
Om: Wisdom and intuition (third eye chakra)
Silence: Enlightenment (crown chakra)
All six seed sounds may be chanted in sequence, or may be chanted repeatedly alone.
The Opening Ashtanga Mantra (which I use in my Ashtanga practice) is a blessing of gratitude offered to the lineage of teachers and their students who have enabled this ancient practice to survive through thousands of years so that we can experience its benefits today. The recitation of this mantra is believed to cleanse the energy of the space we have chosen to practice yoga, as well as preparing the mind, body and emotions for the forthcoming Ashtanga sequence.
Vande Gurunam Charanaravinde
Sandarshita Svatma Sukava Bodhe
Nih Sreyase Jangalikayamane
Samsara Halahala Mohashantyai
Sahasra Sirasam Svetam
I bow to the lotus feet of the Supreme Guru
which awaken insight into the happiness of pure Being,
which are the refuge, the jungle physician,
which eliminate the delusion caused by the poisonous herb of Samsara (conditioned existence).
I prostrate before the sage Patanjali
who has thousands of radiant, white heads (as the divine serpent, Ananta)
and who has, as far as his arms, assumed the form of a man
holding a conch shell (divine sound), a wheel (discus of light or infinite time) and a sword (discrimination).
There is no real implied deity here, but unlike many other chants, this one can be directed to a yogi’s deity of choice. Non-religious yogis may direct this chant to The Universe or even to their own intuition.
Try some of these chants in your next yoga practice. They can serve as a powerful way to bring clarity, focus and attention to the present moment.
There are some days when we all seem to “pop” out of bed and are ready for our morning yoga; that moment when we have a little time to ourselves, flowing and breathing, ready for the day. And then there those days when we’d rather toss the alarm and go back to sleep or sit on the couch and binge watch Netflix all day. We all deserve a break; but the benefits of stepping onto your yoga mat may be more beneficial than you think.
There’s something to be said about having a daily yoga routine. The more we take the time for ourselves, the more likely we are to continue doing what make us feel good. These are good habits to have and keep. If you like the early morning yoga class at your local studio, then make it a habit to get there a few times a week, or if your preference is getting on your mat at home before everyone wakes up, set your alarm and rise early. Set a goal for yourself; once you get a rhythm going, you’ll find it harder and harder to skip class or your home practice, even if you really want to sleep for an extra few minutes or indulge in your morning coffee first.
Improved Physical Health
The physical practice of yoga, or asana as it’s known in Sanskrit, has a lot of physical benefits. Asana practice helps to build strength, flexibility, agility and cardiovascular strength. The mindfulness gained from a regular yoga practice can also help to maintain weight loss and improve the way we view our bodies. Yoga is also a great way to recover from injuries. In addition to repairing injuries, the strengthening and stretching components to a physical practice help us work out the muscles we don’t often use, get into deep tissue, and counteract poor posture, like slumping and hunching. If you’re going to class or if you practice at home, and have an injury, make sure to inform your doctor first to make sure you’re clear to practice yoga. It’s also a good idea to inform your yoga instructor before class so that they can offer any modifications if you need them.
The practice of yoga first began as a form of meditation to help clear the mind and find inner peace. Yogis would sit for long periods of time but all that sitting brought about physical ailments. Over time, poses were added to the practice to improve the health of the seated yogis – poses that would act as a moving meditation, so their mindfulness practice wasn’t disturbed. The focus on the breath during modern practice helps to bring us into the present moment and take us out of our heads. This is why we hear so many teachers speak about stillness, meditation and breathwork, or pranayama, during practice. A lot of poses, especially those in restorative classes, are designed to relax the body and the mind.
Taking Yoga Off the Mat
The more we practice yoga on the mat, the easier it becomes to what we learn out into the world. The principles of yoga, including non-harming, non-stealing, and proper use of energies become ways to live our “regular” lives whether we’re at home, work or school. These practices teach us how to be more patient, kind, and compassionate to others as well as, ourselves. They help us to see the world from a different perspective. With a regular yoga practice the easier it will be to take these lessons and that sense of calm you feel while on your mat into the rest of your life.
Dealing and Coping
A regular yoga practice also helps us to deal with our past problems or issues, things that we have pushed deep down inside of us and have been unwilling to let go of. This is arguably one of the toughest (yet beneficial) parts of a yoga practice. Styles like Yin yoga that offer a deep stretch, helping to release the issues in our tissues; just being in a safe space and loving community, can help some people open up. For others, yoga is a form of recovery, self-exploration and healing. While some people come to their mat for the physical benefits, others arrive to discover their true selves through movement and meditation.
You don’t have to practice yoga every day to reap the amazing benefits of the practice. Start slow, adding another practice during your week or practice a 5 minute meditation while you wait for your tea to cool. Over time, you will develop a routine, a healthy habit, and you’ll notice an overall calm and more peaceful you!
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