Yoga is an ancestral spiritual practice originating in India. This discipline aims to bring liberation through the creation of mental and physical well-being. It involves a set of breathing and posture exercises that allow the human being to unite in its different spiritual, psychological and physical aspects. Long little practiced in the West, Yoga is, today, a democratized sporting practice. However, when you want to start yoga, you can quickly be overwhelmed by the number of different practices that exist. How to start yoga? What are the best practices for beginners? Here's all the information you need to know about yoga to get started.
Yoga, a complete sport
The term Yoga means “ yoke ”, coming from the verbs “ join ” and “ unite ”. The expression “ keep the yoke ” indicates that we are heading in the right direction and that we are the own masters of our lives.
Three components are essential to the practice of Yoga:
- Movement through different postures called asanas
- Breath control thanks to pranayamas , different breathing exercises
- Meditation strengthening our concentration and our spiritual awakening
By practicing according to these 3 axes, we work on the union of our lifestyles, physical, emotional and mental. A true means of transformation, Yoga is a philosophy which brings to the unity of body and mind. It is not uncommon for it to lead to an almost complete questioning of our way of life. This holistic vision of the human being makes it an ideal tool of naturopathy promoting the general well-being of the individual.
The different currents of Yoga
There are as many Yogas as there are people on earth and each style of yoga presents a particular aspect of this discipline. Yoga adapts, in fact, to our desires and our physical condition. However, there are major trends that can guide us in our quest for the perfect course.
What are the differences between yoga styles? What type of yoga to practice? These are all important questions related to the practice of yoga and this article will provide a complete presentation of each style of yoga.
The main styles of yoga are: Hatha, Ashtanga, and Vinyasa, Kundalini, Nitra, Bikram and Yin Yoga. But, lesser known styles are also developing.
Hatha Yoga for beginners
Hatha is the original form of Yoga, it is therefore the best known and most practiced, appearing in the 12th century. In Sanskrit, “ hatha ” means “ strength ”, “ perseverance ” or even “ tenacity ”. This word can also be broken down into two words “ ha ” which means “ sun ” and “ tha ” which means “ moon ”. Inspired by Patanjali, the oldest form of yoga, and ancient Sanskrit texts of a traditional nature, Hatha yoga was born following research carried out on energies, breath and the body.
Originally, the practice of Hatha yoga focused on mastering the physical body and the senses serving to prepare for a more spiritual practice: controlling the physical body made it possible to stop the flow of thoughts of the mind and thus reconnect to one's self.
The duration of the Hatha yoga session is 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes. First, you perform breathing exercises, Pranayamas, which allow you to relax and unwind. Then you do sun salutations to warm up your muscles. Following this, you must perform different sequences, either by remaining standing, by lying on the ground or by standing on your head. The sequence is articulated through a sequence of postures at a fairly gentle rhythm and with synchronized breathing. The session ends with 10 minutes of relaxation, where you adopt a “ corpse ” posture which allows you to clear your thoughts and relax.
What prerequisites? This Yoga is accessible to everyone and does not require any particular flexibility. It is, in fact, a fairly gentle and static yoga. It is therefore intended for the general public. It is interesting for acquiring the basics of Yoga. It can even be practiced by children and pregnant women.
What are the benefits of Hatha Yoga?
- It improves sleep.
- It allows better concentration.
- It reduces stress.
- It strengthens your muscles.
- It improves your posture.
- It relaxes deeply.
- It allows you to breathe better.
- It allows you to have a clearer mind for better alignment with yourself.
Ashtanga Yoga for the most rigorous
Created by Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois in India on the basis of ancestral philosophical texts, Ashtanga yoga is defined as the eight limbs of yoga. It integrates, in fact, all the different aspects of yoga: moral ethics ( Yama ), postures ( Asanas ), ethics towards oneself ( Niyama ), concentration ( Dharana ), the state of peace and joy ( Samadhi ), meditation ( Dhyana ) and control of the senses ( Pratyahara ).
Ashtanga is a more dynamic version of Hatha Yoga, generally practiced without music or props and early in the morning.
The class is organized around six series of postures ranging from the simplest to the most difficult, always in the same order and without stopping. Each position is held for 5 breaths (through the nose only). We start with standing postures and end with seated postures. The idea is to arrive at a state of meditation through repetition which will pause the mind.
Mysore is a self-paced Ashtanga practice in which students complete the sequence at their own pace, often under the supervision of a teacher and before sunrise.
What prerequisites? Ashtanga is an intense yoga that requires good physical condition. You have to be dynamic and ready to sweat.
The benefits of Ashtanga Yoga:
- It sculpts the silhouette.
- It increases concentration.
- It improves respiratory capacity.
- It makes traffic flow more smoothly.
- It detoxifies the body.
- It improves the capacity of the heart muscle.
Vinyasa Yoga for the most dynamic
Vinyasa is the newest and most modern yoga. At the roots of Ashtanga, it is again a sequence of postures, but this time in a freer and more creative order. We also call “ Vinyasa ” the transition movements between postures. Vinyasa is the yoga practice that you will find most on Instagram with many arm balances and back bends.
Five main principles govern Vinyasa yoga:
- It is a dynamic yoga which is accompanied by music for more fluidity in movements such as a dance.
- The postures change regularly while remaining connected to your breath.
- It is a derivative of Ashtanga yoga which is more creative and less rigorous.
- It is less intimidating and more approachable.
- Each course is unique.
Vinyasa yoga is both fluid and dynamic. It is not fixed, which allows for creativity. There is still a general composition for a Vinyasa yoga class. So you can start with sun salutations, then alternate between standing postures and sitting positions. A series of lying asanas then follows, and the session ends with a final relaxation.
Generally speaking, Vinyasa yoga can be practiced by everyone, even if you are at an advanced age. There are, in fact, several levels that allow novices to progress smoothly. If you're looking for endurance, the intermediate level is for you. Vinyasa yoga is, in fact, excellent for the heart. However, it is important to balance an active practice with a gentler practice like Yin or restorative yoga, especially if you are tired or stressed.
What prerequisites? This style of yoga should be avoided by pregnant women, except those who are experienced practitioners, who should still avoid so-called inverted postures with their heads down.
The benefits of Vinyasa Yoga:
- It transforms by allowing the body to reject bad and fatty foods.
- It sculpts the body.
- It gives a slender look.
- He rests, adapting his breathing to the movements during the session.
Jivamukti Yoga for the most philosophical
Created by Sharon Gannon and David Life in New York in 1984, Jivamukti yoga is a practice based on Vinyasa, modified from the Ashtanga sequence. Jivamukti classes follow a specific theme that references philosophical texts from India, and focus on developing compassion in all aspects of life. Mantras (sacred chants), meditation, breathing and readings are an integral part of the course and complement the dynamic practice of strengthening the body. Jivamukti yoga is a very complete course for the body, mind and soul.
Iyengar Yoga for the stiffest
If you are looking for dynamic yoga with lots of movement, Iyengar yoga is not for you. On the other hand, if you want to discover the deep subtleties of each posture, then go there with your eyes closed. Created by Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja (BKS) Iyengar in 1918 India, who following an accident had the idea of doing yoga exercises with accessories.
Iyengar Yoga is a therapeutic yoga which aims to correct the positions of the legs, pelvis and spine. It thus focuses on perfect placement and alignment. To do this, we will use accessories such as bricks, straps, bolsters or chairs. This practice is ideal for rehabilitation after an injury. It allows, in fact, a clear improvement in the state of health of practitioners.
The average Iyengar yoga class lasts 1 hour 30 minutes. It will be more or less intense depending on the level of the students and each person's pathologies. It generally begins with a small number of similar postures to be repeated with more intensity each time to gently prepare the body. During an Iyengar yoga session, your body has a emphasized alignment, and the postures are organized sequentially.
What prerequisites? This practice is effective and enjoyable regardless of your level. It allows you to heal your wounds (whether physical or mental). Iyengar then gives birth to two currents: Kundalini Yoga and Yin Yoga.
The benefits of Iyengar Yoga:
- It improves flexibility.
- It fights back pain.
- It reduces stress.
- It increases balance and coordination.
- It strengthens the functioning of internal organs.
- It restores peaceful sleep.
- It allows you to concentrate better.
- It brings vitality to the body.
Kundalini for those who lack self-confidence
For some, Kundalini yoga is the “ original yoga ”. It brings together, in fact, several forms of yoga based on breathing and body practice, coupled with meditation and relaxation exercises. This practice originated in India thousands of years ago. It was then introduced by Yogi Bhajan in the West.
Kundalini seeks to stimulate mental energy (which some would call sexual or creative) through meditation, chakra work, mantras, chat, breathing and movement.
The Kundalini yoga class lasts on average 1 hour and 30 minutes with 15 minutes of introduction and warm-up, 50 minutes of physical exercises, 10 minutes of relaxation and 15 minutes of meditation. This practice offers a sequence of postures to strengthen the deep muscles. The teacher chooses a theme for the sequence, then each student can experience it in their own way by becoming aware of what we are working on on an energetic level through postures, breathing and meditation.
What prerequisites? Kundalini yoga is one of the most spiritual yogas there is. Anyone looking for spirituality can therefore practice it, as can people who seek to change their relationship with themselves or the world. Although no prior experience is required for the practice, it is a fairly advanced yoga and can therefore be taxing on the body.
The benefits of Kundalini Yoga:
- It helps manage emotions.
- It strengthens the immune system.
- It rids us of anxiety and stress.
- It improves the quality of sleep.
Yin Yoga for the most hyperactive
Yin Yoga drastically slows down the pace. Yin Yoga is a gentle and relaxing style of yoga that derives from Taoist yoga and is based on muscle relaxation. It appeared in the 1990s and was worn by Suzann and Paul Grilley.
This gentle practice of working on Yin, also called the sacred feminine, allows you to target the deep connective tissues between the muscles, improve circulation in the joints and soothe the body and mind.
The Yin Yoga class normally lasts 90 minutes because you really need to take the time to enter a state of deep relaxation. The postures are mainly on the ground and must be maintained for several minutes in order to release all internal tensions. Yin yoga can quickly become quite intense, but with awareness of limits, concentration on sensations, and duration of postures, the results can be very restorative. This Yoga is ideally practiced in the evening, especially if you spend the day sitting behind a desk or have traveled.
What prerequisites? No prerequisites! On the contrary, Yin Yoga is yoga for everyone par excellence. The less flexible you are, the more recommended it is for you.
The benefits of Yin Yoga:
- It allows for very intense emotional release.
- It allows for increased mobility.
- It allows for deep relaxation.
- It detoxifies the body.
Upa Yoga for the most sedentary
Upa Yoga is a series of Hatha Yoga movements that provides immediate well-being by relieving all joint stiffness. To practice when you wake up, these simple movements lubricate the body and activate the energy stored in our joints to start the day off right.
Upa Yoga benefits everyone's well-being, providing immediate relief to people suffering from chronic pain and allowing sedentary people to maintain physical activity. Upa Yoga dissipates the inertia of bodily energy and brings ease.
Upa Yoga is also the perfect introduction to classic Hatha Yoga. It, in fact, perfectly prepares the body for all more advanced Yoga practices.
Nidra Yoga for short sleepers
Also called Sleep Yoga, Yoga Nidra goes even further and seeks to take you into a state of conscious sleep for ultimate meditative relaxation. This practice dates back several years. It is a style of yoga inspired by Vedanta, Kashmiri and Shaivism traditions. It was Swami Satyananda who developed yoga Nidra. It began to be taught in 1962.
Yoga Nidra promotes physical and mental recovery. One class can replace up to 3 hours of sleep and is a very good stress management technique.
The yoga Nidra class lasts between 10 minutes and 1 hour 30 minutes. The sequence begins quite dynamically then directs the body into a deep state of relaxation, while maintaining full awareness until the final relaxation posture. During the session, we will repeat a Sankalpa , that is to say a short, affirmative and positive sentence which corresponds to the formulation of a precise objective.
What prerequisites? Yoga Nidra is for everyone except people who suffer from mental illnesses. Thanks to its soothing effects on the nervous system, this yoga is ideal for people who experience problems with insomnia or stress.
The benefits of Yoga Nidra:
- It reduces fatigue, anxiety and stress.
- It improves the quality of sleep.
- It allows you to let go.
- It promotes better control of emotions.
- It strengthens the immune system.
- It intensifies the connection to oneself and others.
- It develops creativity.
Bikram or Hot Yoga for extremes
Bikram yoga is a style of yoga derived from Hatha yoga and is based on effort. It was created in the 1970s by Bikram Choudhury. Victim of an accident, doctors said he would no longer be able to walk. He then began to practice certain yoga postures which allowed him to regain good health after only 6 months.
Bikram Yoga is also called hot yoga or hot yoga because its practice requires heat in order to obtain perspiration which would have positive effects on joint and muscular flexibility. Heat is capable of promoting movement and eliminating impurities from the body.
Bikram yoga includes 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises. These 26 postures are always performed in the same direction, each several times in a row. Each breathing exercise is practiced only once. The first exercise therefore takes place at the start of the session. It is pranayama which allows the control of breathing. The second exercise takes place at the end of the session. It is called Kapalabhati and allows the purification of the body.
What prerequisites? This style of yoga is for all individuals, regardless of age, yoga level or physical fitness. If you want to improve your well-being and keep yourself in physical shape, Bikram yoga is for you. However, it can cause dehydration, an increase in core temperature and a rapid heart rate, which may not be appropriate for some people. It is also not recommended for people suffering from psychoses.
The benefits of Bikram yoga:
- It improves sleep.
- It improves stress, quality of life and well-being from a psychological point of view.
- It improves general health by increasing glucose tolerance, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and increasing bone mineral density.
- It strengthens tendons, muscles and ligaments.
- It reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
Qi Gong for Tai Chi followers
Qi Gong is a close derivative of Tai Chi, which offers a deep restorative practice through moving meditation and breathing techniques.
All you have to do is register to try. Don't hesitate to vary the teachers to get an idea of what suits you best. There are many applications for doing yoga at an affordable price, such as OlyBe.
How to start yoga at home?
With our hectic lifestyle, it is not always easy to follow a course on a regular basis. So to all those who don't have time, let's take 5 minutes to take a break from our lives and simply do a few yoga postures.
Yoga is first and foremost ultra comfortable outfits
To give yourself a little courage and motivation, treat yourself to comfortable clothing capable of effectively wicking away perspiration. Yoga requires great freedom in movements. Unsuitable clothing will prevent you from receiving the maximum benefits of yoga. You must feel good in your body.
Yoga a moment for yourself
Even if you can't go to a dedicated yoga room, find a comfortable place where you won't be disturbed or judged. Calm and quiet are the key to an effective lesson. You don't need a very large space. All you need is to be able to install your carpet on the floor. Make sure you have a thick, comfortable, non-slip mat. This will help you keep your balance better. However, simply avoid doing your postures near fragile objects. Unplug your electronic devices like smartphone and iPad or put them in airplane mode.
Don't forget to put all the accessories you will need nearby, such as a blanket, a brick and a strap. Plan a pleasant playlist which, depending on your desires, helps you relax or stimulates you to follow postures like a choreography.
Prepare a glass of water or tea nearby, this will prevent you from interrupting your practice to go get it from the kitchen. Despite what we think, yoga is a sport that can be intense.
Yoga begins with breathing
Come to the front of your mat with your hands in prayer in front of your heart. Stand with your feet together, straighten your spine, and close your eyes in a show of confidence. Lightly tighten your glutes and abs. Set an intention for yourself or someone you care about. In other words, mentally place yourself in the posture and ready to welcome your yoga session. Take a few breaths to relax. There you go, you’re already doing yoga! Open your eyes, inhale and raise your arms toward the sky while keeping your shoulders down. Lean forward while exhaling and place your hands on the ground; if your knees bend, this is not a problem. Inhale and take a flat back while looking upwards. Exhale, lower yourself forward. Then bend your knees, stand up, inhaling with your arms towards the sky. Return the hands in prayer in front of the heart. Repeat this movement 3 to 5 times.
Yoga is also done online
After confinement, many courses were set up online. Even if nothing replaces physical participation and exchange in a yoga studio, you can start your practice on the internet with numerous videos in order to test different teachers and find the style of yoga but also the style of teacher that suits you most.
The range of courses on the internet is enormous: test as many as necessary to find the one that suits you best. YouTube is a good free resource to start with, even if it's not always easy to sort out quality courses from others. With almost 5 million subscribers, Yoga by Adriene is one of the best and most popular yoga YouTube channels. Very educational, it will be perfect for beginners.
To have access to a wide choice of quality teachers, platforms like Yoga Connect are very well reputed with great content. There are all styles and for all levels.
Yoga is practiced a little bit every day.
Even if it's only 15 or 20 minutes, the ideal is to practice yoga a little bit every day. Some days, you will need to perform revitalizing postures to rebalance your nervous system. At the start, don't absolutely try to achieve perfect posture at all costs. Start with 5-10 minute sessions with simple movements simply connecting to your breathing. If you are very tired, simply rest in the Viparita Karani posture: lie on the floor, slide a bolster or cushions under your hips, and rest your legs against a wall. After five minutes in this posture, you may have regained the energy needed for a 15 or even 20 minute practice. But remember to slow down and lengthen your breathing.
Challenge yoga is always reinventing itself
Don't settle into a routine. Increase the pace of your sessions. One of the best ways to go deeper into your yoga practice is to squeeze more time into your schedule dedicated to yoga. You could even gradually practice it every day, even for a few minutes, to start the day off right for example. If your practice is established daily, quickly expect to derive real benefits from it both mentally and physically. Then set new goals. Meet new styles, new teachers.
Treat yourself. Remember to be curious.