FAQ – Answered by Mark Goode of Yogabugs Birmingham
 
 
1. What is Yoga?
The word yoga, from the Sanskrit word yuj means to yoke or bind and is often interpreted as "union" or a method of discipline. Yoga includes everything from physical postures; healthy diet & lifestyle to meditation; breathing and relaxation techniques; it forms a complete system for overall health and well being.

2. Why do Yoga?
Yoga is one of the best and most time tested paths to physical and mental well being known to mankind. Yoga not only stretches and strengthens the body, it greatest benefits come from its profound effects on the internal systems of the body. Yoga soothes and tones the nerves; regulates the endocrine system; strengthens the respiratory system; improves digestion and elimination; and is extremely effective in relieving stress & tension.

3. What are some of the benefits of Yoga?
There are numerous benefits of practicing yoga, here are few:
  • Improved alignment & muscle tone.
  • Learning to relax and stay relaxed.
  • Improved sleep.
  • Increased flexibility & mobility of the spine.
  • Internal systems benefit, particularly the glands and nerves.
  • Lungs expanded, increasing oxygen intake.
  • Less tiredness & irritability.
  • More energy.
  • Strengthened immune system.
  • Improved digestion & less gas and bloating.
  • Dispel self-limiting belief & learn to trust yourself more.
  • Learn the value of setting time aside just for you!
 
4. Is Yoga a religion?
No. It's a philosophy that has it roots in India, and has endured 5,000 years! It is a practical approach to healthy living based on a philosophy that mind, body and spirit are one. You can practice yoga without conflict with your own beliefs or values.
 
5. What are the eight limbs of Yoga?
The Indian sage Patanjali is believed to have collated the practice of yoga into the Yoga Sutra an estimated 2,000 years ago. The Sutra is a collection of 195 statements that serve as a philosophical guidebook for most of the yoga that is practiced today. It also outlines eight limbs of yoga:
  • yamas - restraints / abstentions.
  • niyamas – observances.
  • asana – postures / steady poses.
  • pranayama – breathing & the control of vital energy.
  • pratyahara - withdrawal of senses.
  • dharana – concentration of the mind.
  • dhyani – meditation.
  • samadhi – absorption / super conscious state.
The eight limbs provide the medium through which individuals can refine their behavior in the world and also focus inwardly until they reach samadhi (liberation, enlightenment). Today most people are engaged in the third limb, asana - physical postures designed to purify the body and provide physical strength and stamina.

6. Who can Practice Yoga?
Yoga can be practiced by any one at any age regardless of levels of flexibility; strength; balance; or ailments provided that the individual knows and respects the limits of their body and seeks guidance from an experienced or certified teacher. It may also be necessary to avoid or adapt certain poses at certain times in our lives e.g. during pregnancy. If you have serious concerns, discuss any issues of health with your medical professional. Above all, yoga is non competitive and if you feel pain, stop what you are doing.

7. Can I practice Yoga if I am pregnant?
Generally it is okay to continue practicing yoga while you are pregnant as long as you were practicing before conception. It is also advisable to let the pregnancy establish before starting yoga -i.e. around 14 weeks. A number of yoga postures & techniques are or will become contra-indicated as pregnancy progresses. It is considered prudent to work with a teacher who specialises in pregnancy yoga. There is no upper limit on practice-as long as you feel able and enjoy it.
 
8. Can children practice Yoga?
Yoga can be safely introduced to young children, not as a discipline but in a playful manner to develop their enjoyment and motivation to continue with it. Children tend to learn faster by observing than by words and are quite dynamic. Postures should be taught in quick succession with plenty of variety and continuous challenges.

9. How much time should I give to my Yoga practice?
Yoga is quite unique & wonderful–even if you practice for one hour a week; you will reap the benefits. It is more important to establish a regular practice even if it’s only 20 minutes per session, than set time constraints or unrealistic goals. As you see results you will naturally expand your practice.

10. How is Yoga different from stretching or other kinds of fitness?
Yoga is unique because the movement of the body is connected with the fluctuations of the mind and the rhythm of the breath. This enables us to direct our attention inward and become more aware of our experiences from moment to moment. This awareness makes yoga a practice and a process, rather than a task or a goal to be completed as with most other forms of exercise.

11. Why are you supposed to refrain from eating two to three hours before class?
Do not eat or drink large quantities for at least an hour, preferably 2 hours before practice. In yoga practice you can expect to bend forward and backward, twist from side to side and turn upside down - it can be most uncomfortable with a full stomach!

12. What if any are the main guidelines for Yoga practice?
  • Practice yoga postures barefoot using a yoga mat/rug on a non slip surface.
  • Yoga postures that compress the abdomen & inversions should be performed on an empty stomach. & empty bladder.
  • Wear clothing that is comfortable & allows you freedom of movement.
  • Ensure you have enough space to extend your arms and legs in all directions and the room is well ventilated.
  • If you weak or shaky in a pose come out of it; you will gradually build up your strength to hold the pose longer.
  • Respect your body and do not go beyond your personal limitations; extend your boundaries gently.
  • Breathe with awareness by focusing on inhaling and exhaling fully and completely through your nose.
  • Regular practice is the key to receiving all the benefits of yoga; have patience and build your practice up slowly.
13. What are typical items of Yoga Equipment & Clothing?
  • Yoga mats - Provide cushioning on a hard floor; helps you define your space and create traction for you hands and feet preventing you from slipping. You basically need to use a Yoga Mats in all poses, especially when you have to lie down on the floor. It is much more comfortable to do the poses over a soft surface than over a cold, hard floor.
  • Yoga Mat Bag – Useful for transporting your yoga mat to and from places.
  • Yoga Blocks & Bricks - Lightweight (usually made from foam), durable, solid, & easily stored. Typically placed under hands, feet, or buttocks to provide support and help maintain correct alignment and posture.
  • Clothing & Footwear –Clothing should provide maximum comfort; ease of movement; be breathable and sweat absorbent. Yoga is traditionally practiced barefoot.
  • Yoga Blankets – Very versatile and can be used to achieve various sitting, kneeling, lying & restorative postures more comfortably as well as providing warmth and added cushioning to your yoga mat.
  • Yoga Straps - are strong, soft to the touch, easy to hold onto, comfortable against your skin and have convenient end loops for your hands or feet and allow you to perform some exercises easier and better.
  • Yoga Balls – They come in different sizes and are useful for developing core strength and balance and can act as a base for various yoga poses.
14. What are the main types of Yoga?

There are four paths of Yoga:
  • Jnana - the path of knowledge or wisdom.
  • Bhakti - the path of devotion.
  • Karma - the path of action.
  • Raja - the path of self control.
Hatha Yoga, which includes postures and breathing, and is the form most popular in the West, is actually part of Raja Yoga. Hatha is a generic term that has come to encompass all styles of physical yoga; most of which include physical exercises (asanas or postures); breath work (pranayama) and meditation techniques. A number of different schools have developed, examples are:
  • Astanga - A system which speeds up the postures and co-ordinates them with deep breathing patterns and results in blood moving around the body. It is very beneficial for flushing out toxins and toning up muscles.
  • Iyengar – Focuses on achieving and holding the correct posture, with the help of blocks and belts in order to work on the breath and mind.
  • Hatha – A very gentle & relaxing experience with an emphasis on awareness of the experience with poses acting as a tool for exploring the breath.
  • Scaravelli - Focuses on the elongation of the spine, working with the body rather than against it and incorporates wider holistic approaches to life.
  • Satyananda - Incorporates the whole person, and emphasises awareness & change as a natural rather than forced process.
  • Kundalini - Incorporates vigorous meditation, chanting and asana-related movements with the aim of creating focus and energy, creativity and the power to change negative habits.
15. What does Om mean?
The ancient yogis understood that everything that exists pulsates, creating a rhythmic vibration that they acknowledged with the sound of Om. It is a mantra, or vibration, traditionally used at the beginning and end of yoga sessions enabling individuals to sense a bigger connection that is soothing, uplifting & reassuring.
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