I am as stiff as a board. I have never been able to touch my toes. How can I do yoga?
You certainly do not need to be able to touch your toes to come to class. Yoga is not about how you look, it is about how you feel. Yoga will help you to feel much better. You will gain flexibility with regular practice.
I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavour. __Henry David Thoreau
What is Yoga?
Yogasgcittavrttinirodhah Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind .__ Patanjali.
To live in a state of yoga is to be free, to know liberation, to be serene and fully alive, open hearted and open minded. Through the practice of yoga, we learn to ceaselessly surrender to the guiding force, the eternal luminous being within. Unendingly meditating on the light in the heart beyond sorrow. We practice yoga to strip away any obstructions so we can truly know the brilliance of our own souls. Yoga is a state of union, of peace, without attachment to pleasure or aversion to pain. The yogi is free from distraction, able to be here now, experiencing consciousness without limits, knowing and being love.
Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin. __Mother Teresa.
Why do we Om in class? I can't sing in tune, it's embarrassing.
That's okay. There is no need to be shy. The sound does not have to bother you. When we Om, we practice breathing slowly and consciously. This helps us to relax and feel more peaceful. Om is said to be the sound of the universal consciousness, both the sound inside us and outside us...all potential, all inspiration. Within the om, we hear the 'a', the first letter of the Sanskrit alphabet, the beginning of all sounds; this resonates in our lower three chakras, then the sound 'u' vibrates in anahata chakra in our heart, the sound m is the final consonant in the Sanskrit alphabet which is then followed by the vibration even after the verbal sound ends. This vibration moves through the throat chakra all the way through ajna chakra to sahashara at the crown. Therefore within the om, everything is expressed: all that can be said in words and felt inside, as well as the mystery that words cannot explain.
We live in the ocean of vibration. This vibration is called om __Shri Brahmanda Sarasvati.
Why is there such an emphasis on breathing, I already know how to breathe?
When we are stressed, our breathing becomes rapid and shallow. Our daily life can be stressful. The physiological state of the body when a person is stressed is linked directly to the fight or flight response of the sympathetic nervous system which leads to an increase in the production of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol that have been linked to immune function depression. The fight or flight response leads also to a sudden increase in blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension and there is increased blood flow to the muscles of the arms and legs and away from the vital organs by 300 - 400 percent.
Learning to slow our breathing down through the practice of yoga has the dramatic effect of calming our body and mind and 'igniting' the relaxation response of the parasympathetic nervous system. Blood pressure and heart rate decrease and muscles relax. Brainwaves slow down and alpha waves increase. Blood flow increases to our vital organs improving digestion, fertility and immunity. Hatha yoga has a beneficial effect on the whole body; toning the muscles, tissues, ligaments, joints and nerves. Yoga boosts metabolism, lymphatic circulation and hormonal secretions bringing a chemical balance in the body.
Concentrating on the slow rhythm of the breath draws us into a meditative state, so that our practice becomes meditation in motion.
The yogin seated in the padmasana posture, by steadying the breath becomes liberated. There is no doubt about this. __Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
What does asana mean?
Asana refers to the postures we practice in Hatha yoga. In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, sthira sukham asanam means asana is a steady, comfortable seat. Every asana must incorporate the balance between steadiness and joy or strength and ease. Otherwise, it would be just exercise or relaxation not yoga...union, yoking.
I am nervous about coming to a class where there are a lot of people who have been doing yoga for a long time. Will I look like a dork?
You will be fine. Yoga teaches us to not compare ourselves to others. It is not a competitive sport. We learn that there is no 'perfect' pose, living in the present moment is where the perfection is. This requires practice.
A journey of 1,000 miles must begin with a single step.__ Lao-Tzu
I am not as young as I was.... Am I too old to come to a yoga class? What if I can't do it?
Yoga is for everyone. Every asana can be modified to meet your needs.
I really want to get fit, strong and more flexible. Will yoga be able to do that for me?
Practicing Vinyasa yoga regularly will certainly lead to higher levels of fitness and strength. Students notice a visible change in their strength and flexibility and report a far greater sense of wellbeing and vibrant good health. This is just the beginning, our goal is liberation, enlightenment.
Albert Einstein noted the conventional sense of feeling separate from everyone and everything else is a kind of "optical illusion." "This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security." Taken from an article by Georg Feuerstein.
If the goal is enlightenment, why do we do these physical poses?
The physical practice of asana ensures that we are strong and flexible, balanced and healthy. Ill health is an obstacle to enlightenment. The physical practice also gives us opportunities to open our heart, lessen our restlessness and relinquish the ego.
Is Yoga a religion? All of this talking about spirituality freaks me out a bit.
Yoga neither conflicts with religion, nor is a religion.
Spirituality I take to be concerned with those qualities of the human spirit -such as love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony- which brings happiness to both self and others. __The Dalai Lama.
Why do you use those Sanskrit words, what's wrong with English?
Sanskrit is considered to be the oldest language and contains sacred vibration that is said to be understood from deeply inside us. Sanskrit words have been compared to zip files on a computer. Within each word there is a wealth of information contained within its resonant simplicity that upon reflection can expand our awareness. Every time we hear the word asana as in uttanasana, tadasana, it reminds us to find the balance between steadiness and joy, strength and ease, in our 'seat'; where we are now.
How can I make sure I don't injure myself? Some of the pictures I have seen look as if you have to be made out of rubber.
You do not have to be made out of rubber! Firstly, you would never force yourself into any asana, otherwise you would have lost the aspect of ease or joy. Your primary focus when practicing Vinyasa yoga is your breath. We practice letting the breath initiate the movement. If you are able to breathe slowly, audibly and happily, you will be able to always remain safe in your practice. We learn to surrender the results while simultaneously giving our best efforts. We are afforded so many opportunities to practice this in yoga class!