Yoga. It’s an exercise that has ebbed and flowed in popularity throughout the years. Yoga’s roots come from ancient times and the term “yoga” has been found in ancient India’s earliest known scripts - the Vedas, dating back to 3300 - 1500 BC. The yoga we do today is vastly different from its earliest stages but is still rooted in it’s origins. Nowadays, Americans practice over 14 different yoga variations (Vinyasa, Iyengar, Hatha, etc.) can make it hard to figure out where to start!
I reached out to Anne Phyfe Palmer, Founder & Studio Director of 8 Limbs Yoga Centers to learn more about yoga and how someone can start a yoga practice.
“Yoga is an ancient practice of body and breath practices from India. It is known in the United States as a form of exercise, but really it’s much more than that!” shared Anne. “Yoga is not something to do right, or perfect, or be “ready for,” it’s a practice, a system that uses the body and breath to help us feel more present.”
There are also many ways to do yoga.
"Some do yoga to help calm down, others do it to energize," Anne continued. "Some like to hold poses, other like to move in and out of them with breath.”
When starting out, consider taking a few different classes at different studios to find the one that best fits you and your needs. Before you head to the yoga studio though, Anne had a few practical suggestions such as finding out if yoga mats and props are provided or if you need to bring your own. She also suggested wearing clothing that is comfortable to move in. Yoga requires a lot of folding forward so make sure your pants don’t fold over in a strange fashion and watch out for super loose shirts. Another tidbit of advice is to check the length of your pants. Capris or short leggings can actually be best for yoga classes. Most importantly, arrive curious and willing to learn.
Bryna, the Area Leader for Seattle and Portland/CorePower Yoga suggests starting out with a Yoga C1 class at CorePower. “It creates the opportunity to explore the postures and fundamental principles of vinyasa flow.” Bryna said. “These classes are unheated and have no added humidity. Bring a yoga mat, towel, water and an open mind to class!”
I asked both Bryna and Anne what made yoga such a great workout.
“Yoga is dynamic – you use your whole body to move purposefully,” said Bryna. “A regular yoga practice increases flexibility and strength in your muscles and promotes long, lean looking muscle tone. Rather than bulking up from repetitive motion exercise, yoga has you work your full range of motion in every joint of your body and build strong and long muscles so we can do all the things we love throughout our whole life.”
“I prefer to call yoga a work “in” rather than a workout," said Anne. "Some styles of yoga are faster-paced (more aerobic), others involve holding challenging postures (more strengthening), while other ways of practice involve very relaxing restorative postures and breath practice, which could be considered the opposite of a workout. Yoga has something for every need, really. I practice yoga to become more present in my life, and sometimes that involves relaxation, other times I run through several sun salutations to get my energy thrumming.”
Fitting yoga into your workout routine can be as easy as one class a week but Anne recommends going twice a week to integrate the practice into your life. Yoga can easily become a daily practice for many people but starting with a few classes a week is great.
As with the different types of yoga, there is no ideal person for yoga class. There is a form of yoga for everyone.
“Any person can practice yoga, there are so many ways to practice that there could never be one ideal,” said Anne. “What it does take is a willingness to be in one’s body and breath, and in the present moment. It’s not an easy feat, and that’s why there are so many practices and invitations into the body, the breath, and the present moment.”
“Yoga allows for an experience of grace, power, courage, and connection,” reminded Bryna. “Tune in rather than tune out.”
Before you head out to explore yoga, Anne suggests that you take a moment to consider what you are interested in accessing through yoga. Are you looking for a physical practice or one with more of a mental focus? Do you want a stronger community? Look for classes and teachers that fit into those areas.
To start your yoga exploration, find out more about 8 Limbs Yoga at www.8limbsyoga.com, CorePower Yoga at https://www.corepoweryoga.com/ and also Greenwood’s Grinning Yogi at http://www.thegrinningyogi.com/.