A Beginner’s Guide – to Yoga and Meditation

“In Sanskrit (ancient language of India) yoga translates as “yoke” or “union”, describing the integration of mind and body to create a greater connection with one’s own pure, essential nature.”

What is Yoga?

Yoga is an ancient Indian philosophy that enhances personal growth and well-being.

Yoga focuses on developing a connection between the body and the breath. In addition to reducing stress levels, consistent yoga practice can improve strength, flexibility and balance.

There are many different styles of Yoga, including Ashtanga, Bikram, Hatha, Iyengar, Kripalu, Kundalini, Power, Sivananda, Vinyasa, Yin yoga, Prenatal and Restorative yoga.

The vast amount of yoga styles emphasises the varying number of approaches and techniques, but, ultimately they all lead to the same goal of unification and enlightenment.

 

Meditation and Yoga

Meditation or “dhyana” is a key segment of yoga. Dyhana is used to reach a deeper state of awareness and to intensify personal and spiritual growth. It is applied alongside yoga to calm and unify the mind, body, and spirit.

If you’ve ever attended a yoga class, you’ll find that most yogis tend to end the practice with some guided meditation in savasana, when you are in a meditative, peaceful state.

Yoga and Meditation are also paired with Pranayama (breathing exercises). Applying focus to your breathing can enhance your workout in many ways. From calming your state of mind, to improving concentration and overall balance.

Practicing Pranayama can also aid your everyday life, some everyday benefits include:

  • improved digestion,
  • boosted the immune system,
  • strengthened respiratory system,
  • improved sleep,
  • stress and anxiety relief
  • overall improved mood.

 

Asanas (Poses) for Beginners

Asanas are the main physical poses in Hatha Yoga. People who practice yoga use asanas to free energy and stimulate an imbalanced chakra.

 

Child’s Pose (Balasana)

Start in a kneeling position with toes tucked under. Lower your glutes towards your feet as you stretch your upper body forward and down with arms extended. Your stomach should be comfortably resting on thighs, with your forehead touching the mat.

Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

Stand with feet together and arms at your side. Ground your feet, making sure to press all four corners down into the ground. Next, straighten your legs and tuck your tailbone in as you engage your thigh muscles. As you inhale, elongate through your torso, and extend your arms up, then out. Exhale and release your shoulder blades away from your head, toward the back of your waist as you release arms back to your sides.

 

Downwards Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Come onto hands and knees with palms just past your shoulder, fingers pointing forwards. Knees should be under your hips and toes tucked. Lift your hips and press back into a V-shape position with your body. Feet should be hip width apart.

Cat Cow Stretch (Chakravakasana)

Begin with hands and knees on the floor, spine neutral and abs­ engaged. Take a big inhale, then, as you exhale, round your spine up towards the ceiling and tuck your chin towards your chest, releasing your neck. On the next inhale, arch your back and relax your abs. Lift your head and tailbone upwards, being careful not to place any pressure on your neck by moving too quickly or deeply.

 

Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

Lie on your belly. Separate your feet and legs to hip width. Point your toes, so the tops of your feet are on the floor. Bend your elbows and place your hands on the floor next to your ribs, stacking your wrist and elbow. On an inhale, begin to peel your chest away from the floor, lifting into spinal extension.

Forward Fold (Uttanasana)

Start in mountain pose. Inhale as you raise your arms. As you exhale, engage your thighs, pull the belly in and up deep from the pelvic floor and bend forward, hinging from the hips. Place your hands/fingertips on the floor, in front of your feet or next to your feet or hold onto the back of your ankles or calves. Keep your hips over your heels as you press your heels into the floor. Roll the top of your inner thighs slightly in. Let your head hang, keeping the neck relaxed. Lengthen your spine as you inhale. Soften deeper into the pose as you exhale.

We recommend performing these asanas with a Yoga Mat to avoid injury and improve comfort.

 

Yoga is for everyone, no matter your abilities, so don’t feel discouraged if you aren’t flexible or lacking strength. We all start somewhere and with consistency, results will start to show. Focus on your mind and your physical will follow.

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Lucie Croke

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