The art of yoga has come a long way from its roots in ancient India and has become a mainstream way of connecting the body and mind.
Practicing yoga has been proven to increase flexibility and its relaxing meditative qualities can also ease stress and tension. This makes it a completely unique form of keeping your body fit and strong, as well as your mind healthy and stress-free!
Want to find out a bit more and become the yogi you were born to be? No problem! We’ve created a whole guide on the different types of yoga poses and the phenomenal benefits that practicing regularly can have on your overall wellbeing.
How many types of yoga are there?
There are many different styles of yoga that you can explore. Some of the most commonly practiced are:
- Ashtanga - This is made up of six pose sequences and usually performed at a quick pace. It uses the breath to guide the body through the poses and establish rhythm, helping you to control your breathing during the exercise. This can also be a good way of incorporating gentle cardio into your routine.
- Bikram - Also known as ‘hot yoga’, this style is practiced in a room with 40% humidity and around 40°C. This is to help your body to expel toxins during the workout. However, it’s important to note that you should make sure you are fully hydrated before starting a Bikram yoga a workout.
- Hatha - This is one of the six original forms of yoga. It works primarily by linking breath with movement and many of your gym yoga classes will use this style, which is accessible to all levels.
- Vinyasa - A slightly more energetic style of yoga, Vinyasa is also known as power yoga and can vary from teacher to teacher. The postures are usually mixed up within different workouts, unlike other forms which usually stick to a few of the same poses throughout the workout.
- Yin - With growing interest in mindfulness and meditation through yoga practice, Yin yoga is becoming increasingly popular within western yoga studios and gyms. This style involves more meditative practice and pays more attention to mental wellbeing. Yin yoga is often performed in a candlelit room with calming music for a truly relaxing experience.
The benefits of yoga practice
Those that practice yoga regularly will start to notice a number of changes, both in their body and in their mental wellbeing. The practice is unique in its benefits to both, unlike a lot of other forms of exercise.
Physical benefits of yoga
Some of the physical benefits of yoga are:
- Increased flexibility
- Increased muscle strength and tone
- Increased energy levels
- Increased cardio health
- Protection from more strenuous exercises
Mental benefits of yoga
Yoga also has a host of mental benefits:
- Management of stress levels
- Easing anxiety
- Increased mindfulness
- Increases body awareness, helping you identify any tension or discomfort
Equipment you may need to get started
One of the beauties of yoga is that you need very little equipment when you’re just starting out and it’s easily practiced in the comfort of your own home. However, it is advised that you grab yourself a yoga mat, to cushion your joints and give you a nice comfy base on which to practice.
Other pieces of equipment you might consider getting once you start to fall in love with yoga are:
- Yoga block
- Yoga towel (especially handy for Bikram!)
- Yoga bag (If you plan to take your mat to classes)
Yoga positions for beginners
Mountain pose is the easiest pose in yoga for many. It is simply standing up tall, holding the core in tight and making sure the shoulders are relaxed and drawn in and down the back. This pose is used to help you correct your posture during your practice.
Start on all fours, making sure your head, neck, spine and tailbone are all aligned. Start to lift your pelvis into the air, pushing up and down onto your heels, so you create a triangle shape with your body. Focus on pulling your belly button in towards the spine, lifting the hips to the ceiling and pushing the heels into the floor.
This move can help to strengthen your back and legs and help you stretch out the calf muscles and lower back.
Start in a downward dog pose, then on the exhale, step your foot up between your hands. You can then lower your back knee to the ground and inhale to stretch your arms up towards the ceiling, pushing your hips forwards. Make sure your front knee doesn’t go past your toes as this could damage your knee.
To make the pose more challenging, bring your back knee off the ground. This strengthens the legs, particularly the inner thigh, and can also help with flexibility in the hips.
It’s best to start this in mountain pose. Step forward with one leg into a wide stance, creating a triangular space between both legs.
Lift your arms, one arm in pointing towards the front of the room and the other pointing towards the back. If you have your right leg in front, then lift your right arm to point forwards and vice versa.
Then, slowly bend your front leg bringing your hips square over your bent leg. Try and aim for a 90° angle with the bent front leg. Hold this pose.
Start on all fours, then slowly step both legs back, pulling in your belly button towards your spine. This helps to stabilise your core and keep you balanced in the pose. This is often used to strengthen the abdominals, so make sure you are really sucking in the belly button. You can also squeeze the glutes to give you extra stability.
Start in mountain pose, arms extended into the air, then bring up one leg and catch your knee with your hand. Find your balance, then slowly move your knee out to open up the hip. Place your foot either on your upper thigh, or on the calf below the knee. Don’t rest your foot on your knee, as you could be putting pressure on the knee joint. Hold for 20-30 seconds and slowly lower the leg, repeating on the opposite side.
The easiest way to get into a side plank is to start off in the normal plank position. You can do this either on your forearms, or with your arms out straight, holding the full weight of your body.
Then, slowly twist to one side, stacking the feet, lifting the waist and stretching the arm up to the ceiling. Then, lower down slowly back into a plank and repeat on the opposite side.
A rest pose in yoga, Child’s Pose can be done at any point throughout your practice when you feel like your body needs a short break. Start on all fours and slowly sit back onto your feet, keeping your arms stretched out in front, or lying by your sides.
Press your forehead to the floor and focus on the breath for however long you need.
Fuelling your yoga practice
Like any exercise, yoga requires you to eat healthily in order to properly fuel your body. It’s best not to eat a heavy meal right before starting your yoga practice. A small nutritious snack will do!
Try a piece of fruit, like a banana or slice of melon to give you a little boost of energy without bloating you or making you feel sluggish.
Yoga is all about looking after your body and mind, so be mindful of what you are putting into your body and how it affects your energy levels and mood.
Why not give yoga a try at home? There are hundreds of videos to choose from over on YouTube, that you can follow at home. Or, see if your local gym offers any yoga classes and pop along, it can be a great way to meet people and get fit and improve wellbeing at the same time.
Yoga For Beginners - The Basics - Yoga With Adriene
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