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Starting a yoga practice

Micah Simon demonstrating a backward bend.
Photo by Andre Chung at www.achungphoto.com

Yoga is widely known as a healthful form of exercise, and people begin yoga for different reasons. The most common reasons are flexibility and stress management, but yoga has many other benefits, including strength, emotions and mental clarity. There are many reasons to start a yoga practice, but ultimately all reasons lead to making a healthier life change. Yet in the process of making change, problems can arise that inhibit progress.

The Heart of Yoga by T.K.V. Desikachar identifies several obstacles preventing people from making improvement in their lives. Those obstacles are: sickness, sluggishness, doubt, impatience, fatigue, distractions, arrogance, being stuck in place and losing confidence. Yoga is a remedy for all these symptoms, but doing a series of downward dogs or warrior poses is not enough.

The yoga posture or asana, is only part of a complete yoga practice. The other benefits of yoga are the breath and mind. Having controlled, calm breathing, a clear, focused mind and expressing the asana the correct way equals yoga. Ultimately, these three together help people move forward from their problems.

According to Desikachar there are other ways to overcome the hardships he discussed, including seeking guidance from a yoga teacher, practicing breathing techniques, learning from someone who has overcome obstacles, meditation or seeking solace in a higher power. All these methods are a part of the benefits of starting a yoga practice.

Conducting personal research on yoga disciplines is also essential in choosing the right practice to begin. There are a variety of practices in the United States and most of the world, including Bikram Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, Yin Yoga, Kundalini Yoga and Dharma.

Most of these styles have a beginner level or are catered to beginners, which makes it easier for people new to yoga to gain a solid foundation of the practice. There are even practices and classes focused on common physical ailments, including back and hip pain, knee and ankle injuries and mental trauma.

Whatever yoga someone tries, a consistent practice or taking three classes minimum per week, with consistent effort will always yield progress and results that improve the entire person.