Yoga Basics

A great intro to Yoga, taken (with great thanks) from

Reviewed By: 
Liz Neporent, MA

Yoga Basics

YogaYoga is an exercise system that consists of a series of poses, postures and positions. The practice of yoga began in India about 5,000 years ago to promote union of mind, body and spirit.

Yoga is a physical and spiritual practice with roots in ancient India but with relevance to daily life in modern times. The typical workout blends strength, flexibility and body awareness with a series of poses, postures and positions called “asanas”.

While there are many forms of yoga, most yoga newbies find Hatha the best school of yoga to start with. It includes all of the basic yoga moves and breathing exercises, but leaves out the spiritual aspects of some other forms. There are also many different styles of Hatha yoga, some more meditative, some more physically vigorous.

One of the most appealing aspects of yoga is its ability to promote flexibility andrelaxation. Most gyms offer classes or you can check your phone book for a local yoga studio. Most places offer classes in a variety of skill levels and times throughout the week. If classes aren’t your thing, check out a yoga DVD, TV program or book to help guide you through a routine.

Yoga can be practiced to enhance overall health, to improve balance, to heal and prevent injuries, to strengthen muscles and to open the body for meditation. Yoga’s increasing popularity is proof that many people value an exercise system that engages the mind, body and spirit in equal measure. If you’ve never done yoga before, give it a try and see what it can do for you.

Upside of Yoga

  • Most people begin to see and feel improvements in their flexibility, strength and stress levels after only a few classes.
  • Yoga energizes your body and the associated meditation can help calm your mind.
  • Yoga can be done nearly anywhere, just remember to pack your mat on your next business trip.
  • You need very little equipment. A basic class typically runs $5-$20 a session.
  • A sense of camaraderie can develop among students taking the same class. You and your yoga buddies will gently encourage each other.
  • When you master proper positioning, it feels great and then you’ll feel more comfortable doing yoga at home on your own.

Downside of Yoga

  • If flexibility isn’t your strong suit, you need yoga, but trying to get into and out of some of the asanas may be frustrating.  [Note from Tasha: If your teacher is aware, there are always great options for comfortably getting into and coming out of poses, and you’ll be encouraged to do only what’s fitting for you.]
  • Yoga has its own terminology and you may feel as if you’re trying to learn a foreign language as well as get your body into shape.  [Note from Tasha: I will generally be using the English words for postures; if I use the Sanskrit it will be accompanied by the English translation.]
  • Large classes mean less individual instruction from the teacher so you may not use the right technique for the best, most comfortable results.

Is Yoga For You?

This chart can help you see how yoga fits your goals and lifestyle concerns.

Body Parts Worked Overall body flexibility and strength
Calories Burned About 180 an hour for a 150-pound person, 240 for a 200-pound person.
Gear A mat is good if not essential; other props, such as ropes, blankets and blocks, may also be used.
Location Almost anywhere
Time Most classes last 30-90 minutes.
Schedule/Flexibility The range of classes available can accommodate most schedules or you can do your yoga routine anytime on your own.

Yoga Tips

  • Yoga classes range from moderately taxing to extremely challenging, so choose one that suits your abilities and fitness level.
  • A good yoga instructor should appear calm and in control, explaining movements before doing them.
  • When doing yoga at home, be sure you have enough space. Nothing disrupts the peace like knocking an elbow into the leg of a coffee table.
  • Yoga beginners may find classes intimidating, but having an instructor will help make sure you are getting into position correctly. Plus, with support of the group you may push yourself to try postures you’d skip at home.

Liz Neporent, MA on Yoga

Yoga may not seem a great workout for weight loss, but first glances can be deceiving. You won’t burn a whole lot of calories while doing yoga, but it gives other benefits.

For one, yoga will help you build muscle. With more muscle, you’ll maintain a higher metabolism even while at rest.

Yoga also improves your flexibility and posture, which will help you look taller and thinner and may help you burn more calories during other exercises, such as walking. While yoga may not be enough to get you to your weight loss goal, it is definitely a step in the right direction.

iVillagers Say

“Bikram yoga has changed my life and healed my chronic back pain. It doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it handed to you on a silver platter, but if you respect your body and start to believe in the poses, you will find that yoga is the secret to a happy and well rested body. I feel young again!” –An iVillager

“I began my practice of yoga 26 years ago and it has changed my life in many ways: I am both strong and flexible (physically and emotionally); I am able to managestress in my life; and I no longer place value on material possessions — contentment lies in the present moment!” –iVillager jane2256


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