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Yoga for Beginners: Basic Knowledge, Tips and Tricks

What is yoga

Yoga is a technique that was developed in India over two thousand years ago in order to live in harmony with oneself. Yoga describes both the state of clear mind and strong body and the path to this state. Yoga is a practical philosophy of life that lets you live more consciously and healthily and that goes as deep as you want it to be.

The word “yoga” comes from the ancient Indian language Sanskrit and literally means: harnessing or yoke. The root “yui” can be found in the German word “yoke”. It is best to imagine a harness that binds body and mind together. The fact is that thousands of years ago people longed to bring opposites together. No different from what we do today.

Yoga is a lot and in the end what you make of it. What it is not: Asian gymnastics, circus acrobatics, what Indians or religion. And not yoga either.

How does yoga work?

Yoga strengthens coordination, flexibility, strength and endurance, gets the metabolism going, prevents diseases of the cardiovascular system and supports the musculoskeletal system. Just as many people have problems with their back muscles, digestion and sleep as a result of a modern lifestyle, and yoga has a direct effect on the metabolism, the nervous system, muscles and joints, yoga also influences the modern mind and its overload in the hectic and hysteria of the 21st century Century. Mindfulness and the coordination of breath and movement practice self-awareness and create the first prerequisite for changing behavior patterns - if you want to.

In addition to health prevention and stress management, yoga has a fundamental effect on the psyche of the individual and society. Most of us feel that we have lost touch with ourselves and our environment and perceive this condition as a deficit.

Yoga describes the feeling of putting down roots again and coming to terms with oneself and one's surroundings, at least for the duration of the practice, which is not a bad start. The effect depends of course on the dose, the duration of the exercise, the discipline, but also the intention. In general, it is better to practice less, instead practice regularly!

Yoga for the mind and body

Yoga has an integrative effect, that is, while we are practicing the mobility of our body, shaping muscles, losing excess weight, building strength and energy, our mind also experiences an impulse to recognize and get rid of negative thoughts and habits. Breathing exercises (pranayama) and meditation are also integral parts of a holistic yoga practice.

Those who only want to perform physical tricks will not enjoy the integrative power of yoga. This consists of experiencing yourself as part of a whole. This interplay of physical and mental effects is the essence of what we can experience in yoga: the body is the gateway to consciousness. Yoga has a unique effect on body, mind and soul, integrating the physical, psychological and spiritual aspects of the human being like nothing else. Most of the exercise systems that are popular in the West focus on physical practice. But only through their spiritual embedding can yoga develop its full effect. Otherwise - there is nothing wrong with that - it's just sport.

Spirituality means nothing else than establishing a connection to something that is bigger than you are. To make this connection physically noticeable, to use the body as a base camp for trips into your own consciousness and to find peace there - this is the unique quality of yoga.

Finally: Yoga should be fun and do you good. The brisk slogan “no pain, no gain”, which also ruled yoga for a while, is out of date.

Can anyone do yoga?

“Anyone can practice yoga who can breathe.” The legendary quote from the famous yoga teacher T.K.S. Krichnamacharya describes why yoga is neither a sport nor a religion. No matter how old you are, how immobile or how fat: As long as you can breathe, yoga is available as a path to stillness, freedom in the mind, space in the joints and general physical satisfaction.

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So, regardless of the yoga selfies that young yoginis share on Instagram accounts, yoga is there for everyone. People who have health restrictions such as high blood pressure, herniated disc, sciatica, etc. should consult a doctor before the practice about what is possible or not.

Yoga is very adaptable: Yoga has a lot to offer even for people who are in wheelchairs, who suffer from Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis or similar diseases. The following applies to pregnant women and also after childbirth: please only practice designated pregnancy and postnatal yoga.

Where can i practice yoga?

You can practice yoga anywhere you can breathe. Ideally there is a flat surface, a springy wooden floor. Ideally, you have a mat ready and a few aids such as a blanket or block. It is best to be quiet and not too cold.

But you can also practice yoga without anything, in the pedestrian zone in Times Square, in economy class, in the office next to the coffee machine. As long as you concentrate and stay with yourself and your exercises, the outside world should not play a role.

Especially for the beginning, however, it helps to mark out a protected space for the practice that you like to enter and in which you feel comfortable, whether at home or in a yoga studio. In addition to discipline, yoga also teaches you humility: to get along with what is there. In practice, however, as I said, it doesn't matter where you roll out your mat, just that you do it.

What are the different styles of yoga?

Since yoga has existed, there have been a wide variety of methods and traditions in which yogis can practice. Whether powerful / challenging, sweaty / flowing, gentle and meditative, analytical / therapeutic or ecstatic / wild - all styles exist peacefully side by side, and it is up to the individual to choose the one that suits them best.

The main directions include:

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Which yoga style is right for me?

Part of yoga is figuring out which method suits you best. No style of practice is better than the other, but the fact is that one style is better suited to the individual than the other and it is well worth it to find the right style.

Since yoga understands itself as the "science of man", the evidence is always the person himself, that is, experience counts. In other words: Trying out is more important than studying. In order to find out which method works, you should not only practice this method once and in top form, but several times and also when you are tired, exhausted or depressed.

In addition, the first association does not always lead to the goal. Anyone who has a lively temperament and tends to become breathless should not necessarily draw the conclusion that they only want to practice dynamically and sweaty, but rather choose a balancing, calm method. Conversely, those who tend to phlegm or even depression are probably better off with an "anti-authoritarian" wilder style like Kundalini Yoga.

How do I find the right yoga teacher?

As with the method, the only way to find the right teacher is through repeated trials. The right teacher is the one who helps you stay on your yoga path. The one inspires without pushing himself into the foreground. One encourages one to practice without being too authoritarian. One seduces one to autonomy and to take responsibility oneself. Who opens your eyes to the beauty in yoga and in life.

It doesn't matter how famous or flexible the teacher is, whether he calls himself a guru, how many followers he has and how many yoga schools are named after him. The relationship between teacher and student should be one that helps the student stand on their own two feet (or on one ...).

Would you like more tips and tricks for yoga beginners? Then check out these articles:

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How is a yoga class structured?

Yoga is about movement. In order to get the cycle going, to release tension, to break blockages, both physically and mentally, we have to get moving. This is the only way we can change the status quo.

There are no generally binding rules for setting up a yoga class, but there are some principles that apply to most methods. The classic building blocks that make up a well-rounded yoga practice include:

  • Meditation: Breathing meditation or simply sitting in silence
  • Pranayama (breathing exercises): Exercises to activate and regulate the flow of energy (Prana)
  • Asana (practicing postures): Exercises that mobilize the spine, strengthen the muscles and connective tissue and stimulate the metabolism, i.e. bending forward, bending back, twisting and reversing postures
  • Mantra (Om): The beginning and the end of the practice are usually celebrated in silence or by chanting the mantra "Om".
  • Savasana (Deep Relaxation): Up to ten minutes of deep rest at the end of the practice so that the body and mind can absorb the effort.

Can i lose weight with yoga?

Perhaps yoga is the best way to lose weight because it works most effectively. Since yoga is a philosophy of life, it's not about counting calories, but rather asking yourself: How do I want to live? And what do I need for that? Pizza or do you prefer a little yoga break?

Even if yoga is traditionally associated with asceticism and renunciation, yoga actually means living in balance with yourself. Obesity is therefore measured less in pounds than in the way of hastily and excessively satisfying one's needs. Those who exercise regularly do not become a weight watcher, but an observer of their habits and thereby seduced by themselves to put the bad ones off.

Yoga is not about looking good, it's about feeling good. There are many reasons to start practicing yoga, and none is better or worse than the other. Those who start yoga to lose weight will actually lose weight with regular practice, simply because those who are satisfied with themselves do not need food as a substitute for satisfaction. Many sweat-inducing methods also convert fat into muscles and convert the body, until then perhaps just a gas station and dusty pantry, into that sleek, famous yoga body in which one would like to live.

The associated attractiveness is not only due to the new muscles, but above all to the gained self-confidence and a new serenity.

What do I have to wear to yoga?

Contrary to what you might think, baggy pants are counterproductive in yoga because they hide the body and get in the way of many asanas. On the other hand, comfortable leggings and tops made of organic materials, which guarantee freedom of movement and do not prevent the anatomical alignment of the body, are suitable. It is better not to have to look for your knees in the wall of the wall in order to bend them.

Is Yoga a Religion?

Yoga is not a religion, but a practical philosophy of life. Without formulating beliefs, yoga provides the framework for personal growth. To stay with the image of the horse harness, in which body and mind are harnessed under a yoke (= yoga): Yoga has the on-board resources and the technology to change. Everyone decides where they go.

If you are a yoga beginner, then why not try out our yoga sequences especially for beginners. You can find them in the Yoga for Beginners section.

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Kristin Rübesamen is a certified Jivamukti and Om Yoga teacher. She lived in New York and London for over a decade and did her training personally with Sharon Gannon and David Life (Jivamukti) and Cyndi Lee (Om Yoga). As a yoga activist, editor-in-chief of YogaEasy and yoga teacher, she has been teaching a very focused, yet challenging style for almost 20 years. She is the author of “Everyone is Enlightened” and “The ABC of Yoga”.