What is Yoga & What Do You Actually Do at Yoga?

You may have heard of yoga and you may have heard that it might be good for you.  But what is yoga and what do you actually do in a yoga class?

Here is an explanation of what yoga is that I wrote for one of my yoga teacher training assignments:

Yoga is a practice which derives from ancient Indian philosophy.  It aims to unite the mind, body and soul through the discipline of practice.  There are eight limbs of yoga which represent a progression in the practice.  The yamas and niyamas are fundamental guidelines for living well, for example kindness, compassion, truthfulness and self-reflection.  Asana is the physical practice of yoga postures.  Pranayama is the control of the breath through various breathing exercises which can be performed with the postures or on their own.  The next three limbs are aimed at steadying the mind through turning the senses inward, concentration and meditation.  The final limb is the ultimate goal of liberation or bliss through achieving oneness with the Divine.  Yoga classes in a Western context often focus primarily on the practice asana and pranayama, although many yoga teachers share the other limbs too, perhaps through setting an intention for the class or during a guided relaxation.  Yoga is something that is not only practiced on the mat, but throughout life in all of our interactions and experiences.  Yoga is for everybody.

Here are some of the basic elements of a yoga class:

  • tuning in, focusing the awareness and quietening the mind
  • breathing practices (pranayama) such as becoming aware of the breath, counting the breath, changing the speed or depth of the breath, and controlling the breath
  • a variety of static and dynamic yoga postures (asana) including lying, seated, kneeling and standing poses which are synchronised with the breath
  • mindfulness, meditation or relaxation which may be seated or reclined, guided or silent

Depending on the teacher you work with, classes may also include:

  • chanting a sound or mantra
  • discussion of a particular aspect of yogic philosophy or practice
  • hands-on adjustments to help deepen your experience of a particular posture or help you to relax into savasana (reclined relaxation)
  • partner yoga where poses, ranging from very gentle to acrobatic, are performed with a partner
  • music, ranging from ambient to soulful to upbeat
  • essential oils
  • self-massage
  • gratitude practices
  • setting intentions
  • creative reflection (such as drawing or journaling)

Of course working with your yoga teacher on a private basis allows you to customise all of the elements of your practice so, if there is anything you particularly like or dislike, your practice can be tailored accordingly.

Would you like to work with me?  Click here for details of Nurture & Restore, my holistic self-care program for mothers, which includes yoga and mindfulness classes, retreats and a supportive community for all stages of your motherhood journey.

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