If you haven’t noticed, yoga is sweeping the nation. As the popularity of yoga grows, you might be curious about what it is. But it can be daunting when you think about attending your first yoga class. From what to wear, to the language and styles of yoga, this article will give you a solid foundation for exploring your own yoga practice.
The traditional language associated with yoga is sanskrit, an ancient Indian language. Some teachers use Sanskrit in their classes, while others don’t. Here are a few common Sanskrit words you might hear in a yoga class:
OM: The word consists of 3 syllables: Ahhh, representing creation, Oooh, representing life, and Mmmm, representing death. Chanting “OM” in a yoga class connects you to the natural cycle of life: the beginning, middle and end of a breath, a day, or even a lifetime. It reminds us that we have the ability in every moment, and with every breath, to begin again, to start fresh and new.
ASANA: This word means “posture” or “pose, and is used to describe the different physical positions you will experience in a yoga class. The sanskrit names for poses usually end with the word “asana,” i.e. tadasana (tada = mountain asana = pose), or kapotasana (kapota = pigeon asana = pose).
SAVASANA: Translated as “corpse pose” and pronounced “sha-va’-sah-nah,” this is the final relaxation offered at the end of class. It is when your body absorbs the benefits of your practice. Many yoga teachers believe savasana is the most important pose in all of yoga.
NAMASTE: Pronounced “nah-mah-stay,” this word is translated as “I bow to you,” and is often spoken in call and response at the end of a yoga class to bow to the universal energy that is shared in a yoga practice. The teacher honors the students, and the students honor the teacher, and each other.
The titles of the yoga classes at your gym or studio might be overwhelming at first, but don’t worry! Most schedules include class descriptions. Here is a breakdown of what different classes offer in terms of physicality.
LAID BACK: Looking for something easy, slow moving and relaxing, where you won’t get too hot or feel like a pretzel? Look for a title that includes words such as hatha, yin, gentle, essential or restorative.
WORK UP A SWEAT: Looking for something with a quicker pace that builds heat? Look for class titles that include vinyasa, flow, or yang. Warm, heated or hot yoga is often practiced in a heated studio.
FORMALITIES AND FASHION
- DRESS FOR COMFORT: your shirt shouldn’t slide up when you bend over; wear pants that fit at the waist and aren’t too long; shorts are up to you, but you WILL be bending over… A LOT.
- ARRIVE EARLY: especially if you’re new. If you are running late, stop and take a deep breath before you enter the studio, rather than rushing in.
- UNPLUG: Don’t bring your cell phone to class, period. If you’re on call, fine but mute your ringtone.
- CLEAN UP: If you use studio-provided props, clean them and put them back neatly.
- FRAGRANCE-FREE: Yes, wash your pits and throw on deodorant, but save the perfume, hairspray, and fragrant lotions for your post-workout spiff up. Lots of people are sensitive to scents.
Yoga is a safe form of movement for MOST people. If you have questions or health concerns, talk to your healthcare provider before attending a class. Look for a class for beginners if possible. Introduce yourself to the instructor before class and let them know if you have health issues that might affect your practice, especially past or current injuries.
Try more than one class; there are many different styles, and it might take a while to find the one that suits you best. Take things at your own pace, listen to your body, and let go of competition. Yoga is supposed to relieve stress, not create it!
Remember that the benefits of yoga are more than just physical; as long as you can breathe, you can do yoga!