Most people know a thing or two about yoga just from everyday conversation and pop culture references. For example, you probably know that yoga is an ancient form of exercise that started in India, and that it’s become very popular in the Western world lately, particularly among women. Lots of celebrities do yoga, including Kate Beckinsale, Jennifer Aniston and even Robert Downey Jr. But for every one thing you might know about yoga, there are probably three that you didn’t know. Here are 5 things you probably didn’t know about yoga.
There are more types of yoga than you can count on one hand
Yoga is incredibly diverse, with many different types of yoga formally recognized which offer specialized classes. Furthermore, every yoga teacher is unique, so no two classes are alike. Vinyasa or “flow” yoga is a very popular option, and Bikram or “hot yoga” has been very trendy for several years. Other types of yoga include hatha yoga, ashtanga yoga, Iyengar yoga and specialized yoga for expectant mothers and people recovering from injuries.
Modifying yoga positions is easy
Many of the yoga “props” that you might expect would complicate yoga are actually used to modify positions to make them more suitable for your body. But you don’t have to run out and buy a bunch of specialized yoga gear; a foam block and a towel may be all you need. For example, tucking a folded towel under your bum in seated positions can make it easier to sit upright, while a block may help you in a bent over position if you can’t yet reach the floor. If lying flat on your back is uncomfortable, tucking a rolled up towel under your knees can take some pressure off your lower back.
Yoga isn’t really “about” the complicated poses
A lot of people initially approach yoga as if it’s nothing more than a checklist of poses, as if when they finally “get” a challenging pose like crow pose, they’ve mastered yoga. But yoga, in its original form, is more a form of meditation than physical exercise. Advanced yoga, then, is more about deepening the connection between your mind and your body, improving your breathing, focus and concentration, whether you’re in crow pose or child’s pose.
Some funny-sounding yoga terminology
An “asana” is a yoga pose that you hold for an extended period of time. “Savasana” is known as “corpse pose” because it is the yoga pose in which you rest on your back. A “vinyasa” is a series of poses in which you flow from one position to the next, linked by breath. A “pranayama” is a yoga breathing exercise. “Namaste” is the yoga greeting/farewell, which roughly translates to “the good in me salutes the good in you”.
There’s no such thing as a “yoga body”
It’s true that regular yoga practice will improve your muscle tone, flexibility and general sense of well-being. Combined with a healthy lifestyle, it can certainly help you lose weight. But people who have been practicing yoga for many years come in all shapes and sizes. That’s why we say that there’s no such thing as a “yoga body”. If you’re doing yoga, you already have a yoga body – the one you’re in right now.