5 Reasons Why You Should Practice Yoga

A lot of people have misconceptions about yoga, thinking it’s only for very fit people and automatically deciding that they wouldn’t be able to do all those crazy poses. Now, after years of practice, there are some pretty crazy poses, but that’s really not what yoga is about. If you’ve written off yoga as not for you, here are 5 reasons why you should practice yoga that will make you change your mind.

5 Reasons Why You Should Practice Yoga

  1. Mind-body connection

The word “yoga” means “union”, and a good yoga practice is about finding that union between your mind and body, and the union of you with your own spirituality. The meditative aspects of yoga help you be more aware of what is happening in your body, can help you focus on the big picture, and even help you crystallize thoughts and goals that used to be vague and aimlessly wandering through your mind.

  1. Anyone can do yoga

Contrary to many people’s misconceptions, yoga is actually an ideal exercise for people who have had little or no physical activity, people recovering from injuries, people with medical conditions or disabilities, and even pregnant women! While yoga can be intense, in its original form it is a very gentle yet effective form of exercise, and with the help of your doctor and properly trained instructor can be adjusted to your body’s specific needs.

  1. Yoga relieves stress

We could all use a little less stress in our lives, and yoga can give your body some much needed stress relief and relaxation. The stress-reducing benefits of physical activity are well-documented, and yoga in particular can ease tension because of the meditative nature of the exercises. You’ll probably find that yoga improves the quality of your sleep as well, which will reduce your stress even further.

  1. Alleviate certain medical conditions

If you have a medical condition, always check with your doctor before trying a new exercise routine. When done correctly, yoga can help improve overall well-being as well as medical conditions like arthritis, osteoporosis, back pain, chronic headaches, high blood pressure, and even depression. Many of these conditions are related to stress and inflammation, which yoga is known to reduce.

  1. Improve physical fitness

Obviously, yoga is exercise and exercise improves your physical fitness. But yoga does this in a way that’s unlike any other form of exercise. The gentle stretching and twisting that occurs in yoga poses and when flowing from one position to the next improves flexibility and muscle tone while lubricating your joints and essentially squeezing toxins from your body. Your muscles will be loose and limber while getting stronger, and depending on how quickly you flow through a vinyasa (an ordered series of positions), yoga can also provide an amazing cardiovascular workout. Finally, the breathing exercises implemented in yoga practice can improve lung capacity and stamina and even help people with breathing disorders like asthma breathe more easily.

5 Things about Yoga You Probably Don’t Know

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.

5 Things about Yoga You Probably Don’t Know

  1. 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. Vinyana 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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”.

  1. 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.

Does Yoga Help You Lose Weight?

There are dozens of well-documented and undisputed benefits of yoga practice: improved flexibility, balance, reduced stress and anxiety, improved depression, and many others. But let’s be honest – the majority of people in the Western world who take up yoga these days have a primary goal of losing weight and getting in shape. Is there any reasoning to support this? Does yoga actually help you lose weight?

Does Yoga Help You Lose Weight

The answer, in short, is a qualified “yes”.

Yoga is not magically going to undo the damage a person is inflicting on their body with junk food and processed foods and a sedentary lifestyle. But when incorporated as part of a healthy (or simply healthier) lifestyle, yoga can certainly help you lose weight.

I often recommend that people who want to improve their health implement one change in their life at a time. Yoga could very well be one of the first steps for you, if you choose. If your lifestyle is sedentary right now, adding two yoga classes a week is a great start, even if you might not see dramatic results on the scale right away. Here are some of the ways yoga can help you lose weight.

  1. You’ll burn more calories while practicing yoga

Even a basic yoga class can be a challenge for a beginner. Yoga calls on lots of muscles that we don’t typically use in our daily lives, and a vinyasa or “flow” yoga class or a power yoga class will amp up the calorie burn further by getting your heart pumping and adding a cardio workout. All those extra calories burned can indeed lead to weight loss.

  1. You’ll build muscle that burns calories at rest

Yoga’s sustained positions or flowing vinyasas are great for increasing strength and muscle development. Unlike fat, muscle cells are actively burning calories all day and night, even when you’re sleeping. By building your muscles through regular yoga practice, you can naturally accelerate your metabolism.

  1. You’ll develop greater respect for your body

One of the foundational elements of yoga is understanding and listening to your body. Most people who practice yoga regularly for a period of time find that they develop a greater respect for their bodies, and as a result the way they treat their bodies changes. Yoga can help you get in touch with your body well enough to notice when it reacts negatively to junk food, and respect it enough to eat harmful foods or ingest harmful substances less often.

  1. Your mindfulness will improve

Another result of the mind/body connection that many yoga practitioners develop over time is a general mindfulness of themselves and the world around them. Being mindful of your food while you are eating can help you lose weight. Have you ever noticed how you can eat an entire bag of potato chips without even realizing it while watching TV? That’s because you’re not being mindful while you are eating. Yoga enhances your mindfulness and can help you only eat as much as your body really needs, helping you to lose weight and even avoid emotional or boredom eating.

Photo: tus-dietas.net

5 Yoga Tips for Beginners

yoga tips

Many people feel intimidated just thinking about yoga; they imagine lithe bodies twisted up into pretzels and balancing on one hand. But yoga really is for everybody (and every body), and even the greatest yogis were once absolute beginners. Beginning your practice can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be.

There’s no reason you have to dive in head first and start eating, breathing and living yoga from day one. Use these 5 yoga tips for beginners to get you started incorporating yoga into your life at your own pace. The most important thing is to just take that first step.

  1. Pick a type of yoga

Believe it or not, there are many different varieties of yoga. Maybe you’ve heard of hatha or vinyasa yoga, or seen Bikram yoga studios in the city where you live. There are also highly specialized forms of yoga, like prenatal or restorative yoga. Most beginners will be most comfortable with a traditional hatha yoga class, which focuses on postures and breathing, or a vinyasa or “flow” yoga class, which links a series of postures together into sequences that are repeated several times.

  1. Find a yoga class

There’s no substitute for learning yoga from a real live teacher who can help you find the correct form for a position and answer any questions you may have. You may also find the social environment of a yoga class motivates you to practice more regularly. Yoga classes are often offered at community centers like the YMCA, or if you belong to a gym with group classes, they probably have a yoga class on the schedule. Yoga studios are becoming more common, and you can even find yoga classes that meet to practice in a park or at the beach! Beginners will feel most comfortable in a beginner’s or introductory class at first, and will probably be ready to join an “all levels” class in just a few weeks.

  1. Create a yoga library

If you can’t make it to your yoga class for some reason, it’s good to have a small collection of yoga DVDs to help guide your practice while at home. Try out a few and find the ones you like best. Yoga books can also help guide you through the meditation, spiritual and philosophical aspects of yoga, and CDs with breathing exercises or guided meditation are a great supplement to your yoga library as well.

  1. Make a space at home

Many people enjoy taking their practice home with them and applying what they’ve learned in class in a more private environment. Solo practice is good for personal reflection and introspection, and is especially helpful if you are distracted in class by comparing yourself to other students. If you have room, set up your yoga mat in a special area that will be dedicated to your yoga practice and leave it out all the time, along with any other props or equipment you are using. This will motivate you to practice more often.

  1. Stay positive and have fun

Most importantly, stay open-minded and positive, and always maintain a sense of humor. If you don’t click with the teacher in your first yoga class, it doesn’t mean that yoga isn’t right for you; it just means you need to find a different teacher! Don’t give in to negative thoughts that may bubble up in an “all levels” yoga class. If there are other students who are more advanced than you, take it as an opportunity to see how more experienced yoga practitioners work through their poses rather than beating yourself up about not being good enough. Don’t be embarrassed if you fall out of a pose; just laugh it off and try again. Smile and breathe through the tough poses, and if you’re not having fun, try a different kind of yoga class!

Yoga practice can benefit your body, mind and soul, and it’s something that anyone can do if they want to. The key is to take things one step at a time, at a pace that you are comfortable with, and to keep experimenting until you find something you like. Remember, there are many different types of yoga; if you give up after trying just one, you could be missing out on something you really love! Use these 5 tips to help start your practice, and enjoy all the benefits yoga has to offer.

5 Tips for Practicing Yoga Outside

Nature lovers are often drawn to yoga because it helps them feel a spiritual connection with the world around them. Likewise, yogis frequently take their yoga practice outdoors to take in the beauty of nature. To ensure that your outside yoga practice is as enjoyable as possible, make sure to follow these 5 tips for practicing yoga outside.

5 Tips for Practicing Yoga Outside

  1. Dress appropriately

You know by now what kind of clothes you feel best in when doing yoga. Now you have to take into account the outdoor temperature and factors such as wind and humidity. It’s highly advisable to dress in light layers in case you get too warm or too chilly when you arrive at your destination and start practicing.

  1. Plan ahead for safety

If you’re just going out into your backyard for your yoga practice, safety probably isn’t a huge concern. If your dream is to hike up a mountain and do your vinyasas in overlooking the green expanse below, make sure you have a buddy or very good cell coverage, and bring a first aid kit just in case. Allergy and asthma sufferers should bring all relevant medication, as well.

  1. Plan ahead for comfort

Nature is beautiful, but some aspects can be unpleasant and distracting when you’re trying to hold a challenging yoga pose. Depending on where you are practicing, sunscreen, insect repellent, etc. could make the different between an enlightening session and an uncomfortable morning of regret.

  1. Consider your transportation

If you’re driving a car or carpooling with a buddy to your nature destination for a yoga session, you probably don’t have to worry about anything. If you’re planning on walking or biking any distance, however, you’ll want to take that into consideration when planning your excursion. Are you going to have blisters by the time you’re ready to start your yoga session? Are you going to be too exhausted after your session to bike up and down the hills back home? Are you really willing to carry every item you were planning on bringing with you?

  1. Be flexible

Mother Nature is unpredictable, and you might have to adjust your yoga plans around her whims. When planning an outdoor session, stay flexible to the possibility that you might have to relocate at the last minute and postpone your outdoor yoga practice for another day.

5 Tips on How to Do Yoga at Home

One of the best ways to practice what you learn in yoga class and really incorporate yoga into your lifestyle is to do yoga at home. Practicing yoga in private can also enhance the meditative state that you experience while doing yoga and allow you to reflect better on what’s happening with your body and mind. So that you get the most out of your home yoga practice, here are 5 tips on how to do yoga at home.

  1. Make a dedicated space

Not everyone has the luxury of extra space, but if you can carve out a nook for your yoga practice, you should definitely take advantage of it. Having a space dedicated to your practice, with everything always set up and ready to go, will encourage you to practice more often and integrate it into your daily life.

  1. Invest in a sticky mat

Is it possible to do yoga without a yoga mat, or “sticky mat”? Of course it is. But it is a lot easier to find your footing and hold a position with one. If you have hard floors in your home, a yoga mat will provide a thin cushion that will make your practice much more comfortable. And if you have carpeted floors, a sticky mat will provide much needed traction for your hands and feet.

  1. Buy the right gear

As mentioned above, a yoga mat is something you will definitely want to have at home for your home yoga practice. Practically everything else, though, is optional. Don’t feel pressure to buy yoga blocks or bands if you don’t want to, especially if you have never used them in class and don’t even know what they’re for. If your teacher regularly uses these props in class, however, it may be wise to invest in a set for home use.

  1. Build a yoga library

Beginners can feel overwhelmed and a bit lost when they have to do yoga at home without their teacher guiding them. Building a small library of yoga DVDs is a great way to build confidence in your yoga practice at home. You can even supplement it with books and CDs with guided breathing exercises.

  1. Set the mood

Yoga is more than just a great workout – it’s a total mind/body experience. A large component of yoga is actually special breathing exercises and meditation, so if there is something you can do to your home yoga space to get you into that mood, go for it! You might consider some meditation or new age music to set the tone for your yoga practice, or simply raising the blinds and opening the window to get some fresh air. Anything that makes you feel more connected to your mind, body and yoga practice is a good thing.

Basic Yoga Poses for Beginners

Before you go to your first yoga class, it’s helpful to know a few basic positions. Below you’ll find six of the most common basic yoga poses for beginners. If you flow a particular way from numbers 1-5 and back to 1 in order, that’s called a Sun Salutation!

Basic Yoga Poses for Beginners

  1. Mountain Pose

Most yoga vinyasas or flows begin in Mountain Pose, which is a neutral standing position with your feet together, pressing into the ground, and hands in a prayer gesture underneath your chin. When standing in Mountain Pose, you should feel tall, strong and grounded… just like a mountain!

  1. Plank Pose

Plank pose is just like the plank exercise you’ve heard is so good for your abdominal muscles. It’s just like a pushup position with arms straightened, but not locked. Your body forms a straight line from heel to the top of your head.

  1. Upward Facing Dog or Cobra Pose

In Upward Facing Dog (“Up Dog” or Cobra Pose), you begin lying on your stomach with your legs together. Place your hands just in front of your shoulders and press up so that your back arches back while your legs stay on or near the floor.

  1. Downward Facing Dog

Downward Facing Dog (“Down Dog”) is easy to transition to from “Up Dog”. In Downward Facing Dog, your whole body will form an upside-down “V” shape, with your feet approximately shoulder width apart on one side and your hands pressing into the floor on the other side. Your legs should form a straight line from the floor up to your hips, and your back and arms should form a straight line down from your hips through your hands.

  1. Warrior Pose

Warrior Pose is actually 3 different poses, called Warrior I, Warrior II and Warrior III. Warrior I & II are most common for beginners. In Warrior I Pose, you are in a lunge position with your hips facing forward, back leg straight, front leg at a 90 degree angle, and both feet flat on the floor. Your arms are extended overhead with your hands close together, reaching for the sky as you arch your back to look up at your fingertips. In Warrior II, you are in a side lunge position with arms extended out to each side. To transition from Warrior I to Warrior II, rotate your hips to open them up as you reach your arms out and lower them to shoulder level.

  1. Child’s Pose

Most yoga classes will end with a few minutes in child’s pose, which is a tranquil and relaxing pose that also gives your back and shoulders a nice stretch. Start in a kneeling position with your legs together and your bum touching your heels, and reach your hands forward until they touch the ground.

The 6 Biggest Mistakes You Can Make in Yoga Class

Most people are a bit nervous before they go into their first yoga class, which is understandable. After all, you’re trying something completely new, in an unfamiliar place with people you don’t know. Because you’re new, people will be forgiving if you make a slight faux pas, but you should make an effort to follow common courtesy guidelines: being on time to class, being polite and friendly, not staring inappropriately, etc. Aside from avoiding bad manners, you’ll want to avoid making these 6 mistakes in your yoga class.


  1. Picking the wrong kind of class

If you’re a beginner, you’re not doing yourself any favors by joining an intermediate or advanced level class. You might discourage yourself and may actually unintentionally slow down the pace for the rest of the class.

  1. Wearing the wrong clothing

The best clothing for yoga is stretchy, comfortable and form-fitting. If you wear a baggy t-shirt to class, be prepared to have it slipping and sliding up and revealing everything underneath when you go into downward dog position.

  1. Being judgmental

Go easy on yourself; you’re still learning. Try your best to turn off that little voice in your head that’s telling you you’re not good enough. Similarly, avoid the judgmental reflex you might have when you see someone in your yoga class that you wouldn’t have expected to be there (men, people with disabilities and people with a few extra pounds are sometimes unfairly judged by people who haven’t yet internalized the spiritual self-love aspects of yoga).

  1. Taking things personally

Good yoga teachers will move throughout the class when you are holding positions to make adjustments and correct your form. If your teacher tells you do change your position or redistribute your weight, don’t take it personally; they’re just trying to make sure you get the most out of your practice.

  1. Not listening to your body

One of the things yoga teaches us is to respect and listen to our bodies. If a position feels wrong, stop doing it and ask your teacher for help right then or after class.

  1. Giving up after a bad class

Just because you had a bad class doesn’t mean you should give up on yoga completely! Maybe you don’t jibe with the teacher, or maybe you should try a different form of yoga.

Photo: http://yogabycandace.com/blog/2014/1/21/common-mistakes-in-sun-salutations