FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is Yoga?
Yoga is the Sanskrit word for "to yoke" and "union". Yoga is not a religion. It is a way of life, an integrated system to bring together the mind, body and spirit that originated in India thousands of years ago. Classically, yoga is comprised of 8 limbs.

They are:
  1. Universal ethical principles-Abstentions (yama). In essence, to not harm any living creature in either thought, word or deed. They are truthfulness (satya), nonviolence (ahimsa), mastery of your energies (brahmacarya), nonstealing (asteya), and noncovetousness (aparigraha)
  2. Rules of Personal Conduct-Observances (Niyama). These establish discipline in daily life: -study of the self (svadhyaya), cleanliness of mind and body (sauca), contentment (santosa), study (tapas), surrender of ego (isvarapranidhana)
  3. Practice of Yoga postures (Asanas)
  4. Practice of Yoga breathing techniques/control of vital energy (Pranayama)
  5. Control of the senses (Pratyahara) so that external disturbances and distractions are unable to cross the threshold of the inner world of self.
  6. Concentration of the mind (Dharana) so the mind becomes focused steadily on a particular subject, issue or point.
  7. Meditation (Dhyana) The span of concentration is increased so the entire mind takes in the subject and contemplates it unwaveringly.
  8. Connection to the Infinite (Samadhi) It is a state of truth and bliss where psychological process stops as consciousness becomes totally absorbed in the soul and becomes one with the Infinite.

However, in the U.S., it has most commonly refers to and represents Hatha Yoga, which emphasizes the postures (asana) and breath (pranayama) to prepare the body for spiritual pursuits.

Asanas are the non-violent physical positions that provide gentle stretching to lubricate the joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles of the body and to tone and improve the respiratory, nervous, circulatory, digestive and endocrine systems in the body. They also designed to promote a state of physical and mental well-being. They consist of standing, balancing, inverted, backbending, twists, forward bending and restorative poses.

Pranayama are various breath techniques to cleanse, nourish and balance the body. Deep, full, diaphragmatic breaths supply an ample quantity of oxygen to each cell of the body to rejuvenate the physical and mental self.

What's the difference between yoga and other typical forms of exercise?
In general, traditional forms of exercise are goal oriented and specific to the body only. On the other hand, yoga is a process that incorporates the mind, body and spirit. It is not about achieving the perfect body or winning at your sport; there is no judgment, no medals and no scores. It is about learning to be aware, mindful and to listen to your body.

What are the benefits of practicing Yoga?
Yoga seeks to promote individual health and well being through physical movement and mental awareness. Listed below is a partial list of what most practitioners find:

  1. Increased Strength and Flexibility
  2. More Fluid Movement and Coordination
  3. Improved Posture
  4. Better Bodily Awareness
  5. Stronger Bones
  6. Improved Circulation
  7. More Energy
  8. More Effective Immune System
  9. Stress Relief
  10. Less Pain
  11. Better Sleep
  12. Easier Breathing
  13. Greater Inner Calm and Acceptance
  14. Improved Concentration
  15. More Confidence
  16. Peace and Calming of Mind

Can anyone do Yoga?
Absolutely! Regardless of your age, physical condition and flexibility level, yoga can be practiced by anyone. In all my classes, students are strongly encouraged to work with their own comfort level and renounce competition with self and others. Honor your body, be kind to yourself and move and practice to what is best for you at this time.

There are so many types of yoga available. What is the difference between them and which one is best for me?
Think of yoga as ice cream. Overall, there is ice cream and then there are countless numbers of flavors, each with a distinct uniqueness, yet they are still ice cream. Consider "Hatha Yoga" as the ice cream and the different styles of yoga as the "flavors". Most of the yoga taught in the US is a subset of Hatha Yoga, each with its distinctiveness, choosing to focus on different parts of the practice. As for which one is best for you, it is best to do a tasting of each and see which one resonates with you. Some are better suited for beginners; others are better for those with injuries or limitations. Listed below are some of the more common types (i.e. "flavors") of yoga seen in the US today.

  1. Iyengar Yoga based on the teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar and is one of the most popular styles of yoga today. His teachings focus on meticulous physical alignment and attention to detail in order for the body to function at its highest potential. Props are used to help the practitioner experience the asana as intended while working with the body’s limitations.
  2. Ashtanga Yoga is based on the teachings of K. Pattahbi Jois. Practitioners move through a series of flowing postures, jumping from one posture to another to build strength, flexibility and stamina linking the movements with the breath (known as vinyasa). "Power Yoga" and "Vinyasa Yoga" is based on Ashtanga Yoga- Power yoga emphasizing strength building and Vinyasa yoga coordinates movement with breath.
  3. Bikram Yoga is also known as "Hot Yoga". Practiced in a heated room (95-105 degrees), it is a series of 26 asanas, sometimes done twice, that is designed to "scientifically" warm and stretch muscles, ligaments and tendons in the order in which they should be stretched.
  4. Anusara Yoga was founded by John Friend in 1997. Anusara means "flowing with Grace," "going with the flow," "following your heart" and is a hatha yoga system that unifies a philosophy of intrinsic Goodness with Universal Principles of Alignment™. Anusara Yoga is epitomized by a "celebration of the heart," that looks for the good in all people and all things.
  5. Kundalini Yoga is in the tradition of Yogi Bhajan, who brought the style to the West in 1969, focuses on the controlled release of Kundalini energy, located at the base of the spine. The practice involves classic poses, breath, coordination of breath and movement, meditation. Some consider this to be more of a spiritual practice than a physical one.
  6. Restorative Yoga is a gentle, slow, practice designed to restore energy, rejuvenate the spirit, while soothing the mind and reducing stress levels. Yoga postures are supported and this practice is especially good for those recovering from injury or illness, but beneficial for all.
  7. Yin Yoga consists of mostly seated and reclined postures to gently stretch and release the connective tissues around major joints to increase mobility and overall health. Postures are performed with muscles held as relaxed as possible and are held anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes.

What does "Namaste" mean?
Often in the beginning and/or end of a yoga class, we bring our hands together in a prayer position in front of the heart say "namaste". It is believed that in all of us, there is a divine spark that resides in the heart chakra. "Nama" means bow, "as" means I, and "te" means you. By performing this gesture, we acknowledge the divine in us and show deep respect for one another. Here are two translations:

"I honor the place in you where the entire universe resides in you, where lies your love, your light, your truth and your beauty. I honor the place in you, where...if you are in that place in you...and I am in that place in me...then there is only one of us"
"The light (spirit, soul, higher self) within me recognizes, bows, and honors the light within you; and together we are one with this light (connected by soul recognition with/to God and/or power of the universe and beyond)."

When I breathe in a yoga class, should I exhale through the nose or mouth?

Sometimes sighing out the out breath through the mouth while practicing asana can be a wonderful way to release tension and help bring about relaxation. However, in most instances, it's preferable to breathe through your nose. There are several reasons for this. The first reason is that the nose does much more than just let air in and out. It performs many functions such as filtering out dirt and pathogens and moisturizing and warming incoming air. It is also believed that nose breathing is more effective in bringing energy changes within the body by affecting the nervous system. When breathing through the nose, you are helping to balance, quiet and steady the mind.

What should I wear? What should I bring?
Anything that does not restrict movement and that is comfortable. Knit/stretchy clothing is wonderful. Many women wear leggings, yoga pants, bike shorts with a tee shirt or tank top. Men wear bike short under shorts or knit pants with a tee shirt or tank top. Oversized tee shirts or very loose bottoms are not recommended. We practice in our bare feet. For hygienic reasons, I encourage you to bring your own "sticky" yoga mat (which can be purchased at any sporting goods store).

Are there any precautions?
It is preferred that you not eat a heavy meal 4 hours prior or a light meal 2 hours prior to attending class. Also, do not hold the breath during the postures. As with any physical exercise, if you are pregnant or have any prior or recent injuries, please consult your physician for approval and inform the instructor. If you feel pain or discomfort in the practice, stop and inform the instructor.

How often should I practice?
The yoga practice is cumulative and the benefits of yoga come with devotion, persistence and repetition. Some people feel a practice 3 times a week works best for them, while others feel a daily practice is optimal. In the end, any practice, regardless of frequency, is better than none!