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Frequently Asked question about Yoga!

What is Yoga?
The word yoga, from the Sanskrit word yuj means to yoke or bind and is often interpreted as "union" or a method of discipline. A male who practices yoga is called a yogi, a female practitioner, a yogini.
The Indian sage Patanjali is believed to have collated the practice of yoga into the Yoga Sutra an estimated 5,000 years ago. The Sutra is a collection of 195 statements that serves as a philosophical guidebook for most of the yoga that is practiced today. It also outlines eight limbs of yoga: the yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyani (meditation), and samadhi (absorption). As we explore these eight limbs, we begin by refining our behavior in the outer world, and then we focus inwardly until we reach samadhi (liberation, enlightenment).
Today most people practicing yoga are engaged in the third limb, asana, which is a program of physical postures designed to purify the body and provide the physical strength and stamina required for long periods of meditation. Yoga addresses the three parts of a person: physical, mental and spiritual. The physical body wants to be healthy and pain-free, the mind wants to be focused and clear, and the spirit wants to be at peace. When these three needs are met, there is harmony and balance. This is the essence of yoga.(Top)
What is Hatha Yoga and why might one practice it?
The word hatha means willful or forceful. Hatha yoga refers to a set of physical exercises (known as asanas or postures), and sequences of asanas, designed to align your skin, muscles, and bones. The postures are also designed to open the many channels of the body–especially the main channel, the spine–so that energy can flow freely.
Hatha is also translated as ha meaning "sun" and tha meaning "moon." This refers to the balance of masculine aspects–active, hot, sun–and feminine aspects–receptive, cool, moon–within all of us. Hatha yoga is a path toward creating balance and uniting opposites. In our physical bodies we develop a balance of strength and flexibility. We also learn to balance our effort and surrender in each pose.
Hatha yoga is a powerful tool for self-transformation. It asks us to bring our attention to our breath, which helps us to still the fluctuations of the mind and be more present in the unfolding of each moment. (Top)
What is Pranayama?
The 4th limb of Patanjali's Ashtanga Yoga is Pranayama. Prana is the energy of the breath and yama is restraint, so Pranayama is often translated as breath-control.
Breath is life. Each inhale and each exhale represent the cycle of life, and each breath is an objective mirror of the quality of life at that moment. The breath quickens when we are excited or anxious; it is shallow if we are unsettled or agitated; it may even stop or be jerky as we hold onto or fight emotions, desires or fears. It is a simple reflection of our state of being each moment of every day, and provides valuable information if we can come to be aware of it. The breath is the bridge from the body to the mind. If the breath is irregular, so are the thoughts. If the breath is calm and focused, so is the mind. By regular Pranayama practice, you gain control of the energy of your life. By learning to breathe more deeply, you bring in not only, more air, but also, more vital life energy. By exhaling, we release knots of tension in the body and mind, creating more space for pranic energy to enter our being. Thus, we expand our boundaries and increase our capabilities. We become more confident and less fearful. There is an endless supply of this energy available to us in each breath that we take. (Top)
What are some health benefits of meditation?
According to Dr. Herbert Benson, founder of the Mind Body Medical Institute at Boston's New England Deaconess Hospital, meditation can be an important complement to conventional medical treatment for depression, anxiety, hypertension, cardiac arhythmias, migraine headaches, insomnia, and many other conditions. The "relaxation response" technique pioneered by Dr. Benson has been used to reduce side effects of chemotherapy, minimize post-operative pain, alleviate symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, even to treat infertility. The benefits of a regular meditation practice include reduction of stress, tension, anxiety and frustration, as well as improved memory, concentration, inner peace and whole body well-being. (Top)
What is a Chakra? ?
Chakras are seven main energy centers in the body. They are located along the spine, starting at the base and running upwards to the crown of the head. Chakra is the Sanskrit word for wheel. You can think of chakras as spinning vortexes each radiating a particular energy and color. As each chakra relates to specific spiritual, emotional, psychological and body issues, conscious awareness and balancing of these energy centers leads to well-being. (Top)
What are the seven major chakras and which the area of the body they correspond to?
The first chakra is located at the root of the body (the pelvic floor, base of the tailbone) and it radiates grounding, acceptance and general well-being. Its color is red. The Bija mantra is Lam (lahm).
The second chakra is located below the navel (Hips, Sacrum, Genitals) and radiates sexual energy and emotions. Its color is orange. The Bija mantra is Vam (vahm).
The third chakra is located above the navel (Navel, Solar Plexus) and is our seat of power. It radiates strength, determination and discipline. Its color is yellow. The Bija mantra is Ram (rahm).
The fourth chakra is located in the chest and is related to the heart. It radiates love, compassion and forgiveness. Its color is green. The Bija mantra is Yam (yahm).
The fifth chakra is located in the throat and governs communication and truth. Its color is light blue. The Bija mantra is Ham (hahm).
The sixth chakra is located at the brow point. Often referred to as the third eye, it is the center of intuition and clarity. Its color is violet blue. The Bija mantra is Aum.
The seventh chakra is located at the crown of the head. It represents boundlessness, faith and is a place where we receive energy. It has less of a color than a glow. Similar to the image of a halo depicted in many spiritual traditions. (Top)
Why breathing through the nostrils is superior to mouth breathing?
1. The lungs are a primary control of our energy level. They extract oxygen from the air we breathe primarily on the exhale. Because the nostrils are smaller then the mouth, air exhaled through the nose creates back pressure when one exhales. It slows the air escape so the lungs have more time to extract oxygen from them. When there is proper oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange, the blood will maintain a balanced pH. If carbon dioxide is lost too quickly, as in mouth breathing, oxygen absorption is decreased.
2. Different stimuli from the nerves that regulate breathing are in the nasal passages. The inhaled air passing through the nasal mucosa carries the stimuli to the reflex nerves that control breathing. Mouth breathing bypasses the nasal mucosa and makes regular breathing difficult. During sleep, it predisposes one to loud snoring and irregular breathing and can lead to a serious condition called Sleep Apnea and heart conditions.
3. Also, when mouth breathing, the brain thinks carbon dioxide is being lost too quickly and sensing this, will stimulate the goblet cells to produce mucous, slow the breathing and cause constriction of blood vessels. Breathing through the nose also limits air intake and forces one to SLOW down. Proper nose breathing reduces hypertension and stress for most people. Kind of like a speed control ( governor) on a car engine. (Top)
What is “yogic breathing”?
Yogic breathing, or pranayama, is one of the components that make yoga unique. Learning to utilize the breath properly, including control of the flow and lung capacity, can greatly improve your asana practice. In vinyasa-flow yoga, the breath is synchronized with movement. We employ “ujjayi pranayama” which helps to filter the breath, bringing heat into the lungs and warming the body. Proper respiration can help you deepen into a posture, release stress, and focus your mind. (Top)
What is Om?
Om, also spelled "Aum," is a sacred Hindu sound symbolizing the Absolute. It often is used as a mantra during meditation. Although often pronounced as if it rhymed with "home," it is also pronounced "ah-oo-mm." (Top)
What are the benefits of yoga?
Among other things yoga builds strength and stamina; lengthens & tones muscles; builds mental focus and concentration; stimulates relaxation; relieves stress, improves posture; eradicates fatigue & boosts energy; lowers blood pressure; improves bone density; aids digestions; balances the endocrine system; improves cardiovascular health; and combats depression. (Top)
How often should I practice?
At a minimum, 3 days a week for at least 45 minutes. As you become more proficient, you will probably want to increase either the frequency or the duration of your practices. Developing a home practice is essential for the serious practictioner. Not only will it be less expensive and more accessible than attending class in a studio several days a week, but you will learn how to tailor your yoga practice to meet your needs for that day. (Top)
Do I have to be flexible to do yoga?
Many people feel they cannot do yoga because they aren’t flexible. Not true! Flexibility is a benefit of yoga, not a prerequisite. Those with tight muscles stand to benefit the most from the flexibility training of yoga. While some poses may be challenging at first, they quickly become easier as muscles and connective tissue lengthen. (Top)
I hate to meditate, can I still do yoga?
Many new yoga students struggle with the meditative aspects of yoga. However, you will find that meditation and asana are so closely linked that you engage in mediation without even trying. We close each practice with Savasana, a lying meditation of 5-10 minutes. Most students find Savasana to be their favorite part of the practice. Over time, you will be able to shift yourself into a meditative state with simply a few deep breaths. (Top)
What’s with the funny names of the poses?
You will often hear poses identified by their Sanskrit, as well as their English, names. Sanskrit was the religious language of the Brahmins, which is where yoga originated. As you become more familiar with the Sanskrit names, they won’t seem so outlandish. One thing to note, all the poses end in “asana”, the Sanskrit name for posture, or pose, ex. Trikonasana (triangle) = tri-kon-asana. (Top)
Do I have to become a vegetarian?
Certainly, not. Some traditionalists maintain that eating meat can be interpreted as harming others and therefore is prohibited by the Yoga Sutras. However we feel this is a personal choice and is governed by cultural, social, ethical, and individual health reasons. (Top)
Should I practice yoga if I’m pregnant?
If you have been practicing for some time, you can continue to practice well into your pregnancy, making modifications as appropriate. For new students, it is best to seek out a good prenatal yoga class tailored for moms-to-be. Yoga can help tremendously with the challenges of pregnancy, labor, and post-natal recovery. (Top)
What do I need to bring to class?
Not much. A yoga sticky mat, a yoga strap. Wear comfortable fitting clothing that doesn’t restrict but allows inverting. Be prepared to be barefoot. And get ready to have fun! (Top)