What Is Yoga: a Guide for Newbies

Beate Chung
What Is Yoga: a Guide for Newbies

You know a lot of celebrities are doing it, and you've seen those yoga workout DVD infomercials, but that still doesn't really answer the question of "what is yoga?" and "how do I go about practicing it?" To start, this is what you should know: yoga is NOT just a fitness routine, nor is it practiced simply for meditational purposes. Yoga is an ancient practice that originated in India and has evolved into various styles for over more than a thousand years that it has been in practice.

Perhaps the most common misconception that discourages people from giving yoga a try is that it is either practiced for meditation or for weight loss. On the contrary, when yoga is practiced and learned properly, you will gain physical, mental, and spiritual benefits that will improve your sense of well-being. Yoga can relieve menstrual pain, relieve stress, increase muscle strength and flexibility, and improve focus and concentration. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. The quickest and most effective way to get answers to the age-old question of "what is yoga?" is simply to practice it and give it a try.

Sun Salutation and Yoga Poses

Doing yoga poses (or asanas) is what makes up an entire yoga session. Whether you're learning yoga for weight loss, meditation, stress relief, or light post-op therapy, the way you do yoga poses will determine the success of your session. Yoga involves listening and establishing steady patterns of breathing, and getting in touch with your inner core - both of which you get to do WHILE doing and transitioning between different yoga poses.

The most popular series of yoga poses is the Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar). ALL students must learn the Sun Salutation because it's part of the basic foundation of yogic practice. You start and end with the Mountain Pose (Tadasana), with different poses for stretching, balance, and breathing in between. Apart from the Sun Salutation, popular yoga poses include Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana ), Triangle Pose (Trikonasana), Crane Pose (Bakasana), Boat Pose (Navasana), and the Lotus Pose (Padmasana).

Shopping for Yoga Clothes

Just like any physical routine, you will also need the right workout clothes to practice yoga properly and comfortably. For yoga clothes, the most popular combo for women is the tank top and leggings (or skirts /shorts / yoga pants). Men also have the option of shorts or pants for bottoms, though they have the choice of shirt, tank, or going shirtless during a yoga session. In a nutshell, the key factors to remember when shopping for yoga clothes are fit and comfort.

Fit is important because you don't want yoga clothes that are too loose that would make your body's alignment hard to monitor, and get in the way of transitioning between poses - especially if you're doing more fast-paced styles of yoga. And when we say comfort, we mean the material used for yoga clothes are stretchable and airy enough to let you do yoga poses properly with no physical restriction whatsoever. It's also highly recommended that you get yoga clothes with sweat-absorbent material, so you don't end up with a wet mat mid-session and risk slipping. So remember, more than the colors and design, go for yoga clothes with the right fit and perfect comfort.