10 Frequently Asked Questions About Yoga: Your Complete Guide to Meditation, Practice, and the Sutras
Looking to start practicing yoga, but don’t know where to start? Or have questions about yoga that at this point you’re too afraid to ask? We’ve got you covered. We’ve compiled a list of the 10 most commonly asked questions that will help yoga beginners get started on their journey towards mindful meditation and a deeper practice.
What is yoga?
Yoga is a type of meditative exercise that uses breathing techniques to help improve your health and happiness. Derived from the Sanskrit word for union, yoga is much more than just a physical workout, because you’re engaging both your body and mind during practice.
What does the word “Hatha” mean?
Hatha means forceful or willful, and in yoga refers to the sequences of asanas. Asanas are the physical exercises/ poses/ movements that are designed to align the different channels of your body, specifically your spine, so your energy can flow.
Hatha is a duality of ‘sun’ and ‘moon’, and how the balance of those two things exist in all of us. Through yoga, we create a balance between strength and flexibility in our bodies, while stilling the fluctuations of our minds.
What is “Om”?
Oms are mantras that you would chant at the beginning and end of your yoga sessions, and are said to be the sound of the universe. While the “sound of the universe” can feel like a heavy statement, Om is the rhythmic vibration of our daily lives, like the autumn leaves rustling, or the waves lapping against the shoreline. Oms help us recognize how the universe moves as a whole, making us more aware of our physical energies.
Do I need to become a vegetarian to practice yoga?
While the first principle of yoga is ahimsa - meaning practicing no harm to yourself or others, some people can interpret this to mean not eating animals or animal products. There’s a healthy debate about this in the yoga community, but it’s ultimately a personal decision.
How often should I practice yoga?
You can experience the benefits of yoga in as little as one hour a week. And the more you practice, the more beneficial it will be to you. I suggest starting out by practicing about 2 or 3 times a week, for about an hour each time. If you can’t get the full hour, that’s fine - do what you can.
How is yoga different from other kinds of fitness or plain stretching?
Yoga is vastly different from other kinds of fitness, because you’re engaging both your body and mind into your routines by connecting the movement of your body with the rhythm of your breath, and fluctuations of your mind.
Is yoga a religion?
Yoga is not a religion. It is, however, a philosophy that began an estimated 5,000 years ago in India to provide mastery over your physical body and framework your spiritual growth.
Can I practice yoga if I’m not flexible?
Yes! A common misconception about yoga is that you need to be flexible to practice yoga, but you can equate that to having to be able to play tennis before taking tennis lessons. Through yoga, you can become more flexible, but you don’t need to be to start.
What should I get before I start practicing yoga?
In reality, you only need your body to start practicing yoga. However, having equipment like a mat, or blocks and bolsters, can help improve your yoga routines.
Why can’t I eat 2-3 hours before a yoga class?
Part of yoga is twisting, going upside down, and bending forward and backward. You can become uncomfortable if you haven’t fully digested the last thing you ate, so we recommend not eating a full meal before class. You can, however, have a granola bar or yogurt to help ward off hunger.