Yoga 101

Yoga 101 for our newbies! 

So, lots of the people who come along to Fat Yoga are total beginners, which is just wonderful. Part of my mission is to bring yoga to lots of different kinds of people who have never been to yoga before. So, lets check out the basics. 

What is yoga? 

Yoga is a 5000 year old tradition or practice which has many, many different forms now in the west. It is most definitely not a religion, but if you are interested in the spiritual, it will have lots for you, but in most classes, that element does not come up. 

What parts of yoga do I expect in my class? 

Yoga has 8 different components (called limbs) and in a general class you will come across only a few of them, so here is what you will normally experience. 

Movements (sometimes called Asana's or Postures) are sometimes done in sequence linked to your breath (called Vinyassa) or just on their own. They are broken down into 8 different ways of moving the body and spine (forward bends, back bends, side bends, twists, inversions and balance) All of these are accessible for all bodies. They have a strong effect on the body in terms of building strength, mobility and balance. 

Breathing work (called Pranayama in yoga) so we will do some breathing focus even if it's a few deep (yogic) breaths. There is also a strong focus on linking the breath with the movement at times, this is to deepen your connection to the present moment, your body and to calm and relax you. 

Meditation There may be some elements of meditation in the class too, the teacher may sometimes guide you into a short meditation as part of the practice. It's guided and safe and may come at the beginning or end of the class. The benefits of meditation on your physical and mental health is a growing area of modern research, but we know for sure it changes your brain for the better!  

What is the lying down bit at the end? A nap? 

All Fat Yoga classes (in fact most yoga classes without exception) will finish with something called "Savasana" it's the traditional close to a yoga class and a chance to experience something called "conscious rest" A place where you relax the body and mind, while not falling asleep. There may be a guided meditation here or a gentle relaxation of parts of the body, that is up to the teacher. It has many benefits including lowering heart rate, blood pressure and moving you into the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and relaxation state of the body where healing occurs) 

I am not flexible at all can I still come to Fat Yoga? 

Yes! Our version of yoga will meet you and your body where you are at. We adapt the posture to you and your individual body, not squishing your body into something which is uncomfortable or painful. You may find that your body changes and becomes more flexible and strong, but they may be subtle changes too. It really depends on our individual bodies. 

Is it a cardio workout?

Well, it depends on the teacher and the class. In some classes you may feel your heart rate and others not as much. In Yin Yoga for example which I teach sometimes at Abbotsford and Ashburton there is no cardio component, but it's not a gentle class! 

Fat yoga is more about moving your body, connecting and coming home to your body, being mindful and learning some great skills to reduce stress and gain strength and flexibility. 

What are the props for? 

In your studio there will be a variety of different props (bolsters, blankets, blocks, straps and more) Most of the time, just grab one of each and take your mat and lay it out. I begin my classes lying but all teachers are different. If in doubt, just lie on your mat and relax and your teacher will tell you what to do next. 

A tip! If you know you struggle to get up and down from the floor (we won't do much of it I promise) then position yourself near a wall so you can utilise it. Another tip is many of our studios have chairs....don't worry about what the person next to you has, if you think a chair may help grab one! 

All bodies are different

So, the person next to you can do something you can't? If you can, try to keep your attention on your mat, on your breath and experience. Maybe they have longer arms than you, maybe they have been coming for years! Either way we love to compare, but try not to! Your range of safe movement is something you need to listen to your body for. Not what the teacher can do or the person next to you. 

What the heck does "Namaste" mean (and all other words I have never heard of!)

So, at the end yoga teachers will often close the class with the words "Namaste" or you may hear things words that are long and complex and nothing you recognise! These words are Sanskrit (although "Namaste" is a traditional Indian greeting and farewell and still used very widely today) and it's the language of yoga. You will get to know some of the words, but your teacher should also use the English translations.  Please ask them (and me) to switch to English if you are confused. 

Namaste: literally means "I bow to you" but in yoga there are some other translations and we usually have our hands together in front of our heart when we say it. One lovely translation is below.

I honor the place in you
in which the entire universe resides.
I honor the place in you
which is of love, of light, of truth and of peace.
When you are in that place in you
and I am in that place in me.
We are one. 

Do you have questions which could make this article even better? What were your worries and fears when you first started coming to Yoga? I would love to hear! 

Sarah xx