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WHAT IS YOGA?  

The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj meaning to bind, join, attach and yoke, to direct and concentrate one’s attention on, to use and apply. It is the true union of the mind, body and spirit, a psycho-physical discipline with roots going back about 5,000 years and is one of the six orthodox systems of Indian philosophy.

WHAT IS HATHA YOGA?

Hatha is 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 is the most popular yoga in the west and 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.

DO YOU HAVE TO BE RELIGIOUS TO DO YOGA?

No, everyone has his or her own spiritual or non-spiritual path and you can dedicate your practice to whatever you need in your life. Yoga is connected to the Hindu tradition and draws on many Hindu beliefs, however the physical and psychological benefits of yoga are real and don't discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender, political persuasion or any other way people like (or dislike) to categorize themselves.

DO I HAVE TO BE A VEGETARIAN TO PRACTICE YOGA?

Although the traditional Yoga diet is vegetarian, you don't have to be a vegetarian to practice Yoga. Once you create a regular yoga practice you will choose healthier eating habits which will give you more energy regardless if you are a vegetarian or not.

CAN I DO YOGA EVEN THOUGH I'M NOT FLEXIBLE?

Yes! You are a perfect candidate for yoga. Many people think that they need to be flexible to begin yoga, but that's a little bit like thinking that you need to be able to play the piano in order to take piano lessons. Come as you are and you will find that yoga practice will help you become more flexible. This newfound agility will be balanced by strength, coordination, and enhanced cardiovascular health, as well as a sense of physical confidence and overall well-being.

IS THERE ANY AGE LIMIT WHILE PERFORMING YOGA?

Yoga can be practiced at all ages. But one should do only those asanas (postures) that are suitable to one’s physical conditions. For example, for very young people (kids), the yoga classes might be turned into games to help maintain their interest. For older people (seniors), the physical practices may be modified to fit their abilities as well as their specific needs. We had one of our students achieve his first hand stand on his 90th birthday!

WHAT DO I NEED TO BEGIN?

All you really need to begin practicing yoga is your body, your mind, and a bit of curiosity. You can practice in a pair of stretchy comfortable clothing such as sweat pants and T-shirt are perfect. No special footgear is required because you will be barefoot. It's nice to bring a towel and water to class with you. You will need a mat to perform the yoga postures. A block, strap and blanket are ideal to assist you with any modifications, however most studios will have all of these props to get you started with your yoga journey.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD I GO TO A YOGA CLASS?

I suggest starting with two or three times a week, for an hour or an hour and a half each time. If you can only do 20 minutes per session, that's fine too. Don't let time constraints or unrealistic goals be an obstacle—do what you can and don't worry about it. You will likely find that after a while your desire to practice expands naturally and you will find yourself doing more and more 

WHAT IS OM?

Om, also spelled "Aum," is a sacred Hindu sound symbolizing the Absolute. It often is used as a mantra during opening and closing meditation. This is the universal sound of energy (there is no religious ties to this sound), which creates honor and respect for all who practices yoga.

SHOULD I AVOID YOGA INVERSIONS DURING MY PERIOD?

Depending on which school of yoga one follows, there are a range of opinions about whether one should do inverted poses such as shoulder stand, headstand, and Handstand or avoid all postures while menstruating. Women’s bodies are expending energy to cleanse their reproductive systems from the inside out. Each woman experiences her cycle differently, some might feel lethargic or confused, while others might feel physically and mentally well balanced. It is always best to listen to your body and modify your practice when needed. It is generally not recommended, but it’s not going to harm you either way. Just like every yoga class, be sure to listen carefully to what your own body is telling you. Follow your own Truth.

IS IT SAFE TO DO YOGA DURING YOUR PREGNANCY?

Yoga can be very beneficial for pregnant women — it helps you breathe and relax, which in turn can help you adjust to the physical demands of pregnancy, labor, birth, and motherhood. Taking a prenatal yoga class is also a great way to meet other moms-to-be and embark on this journey together. If you are pregnant, avoid twisting or stomach tightening poses. Consult your doctor before beginning this or any exercise program. Avoid practicing relaxation pose lying on your back after the first trimester. Use a side-lying version instead.

WHAT ARE THE KNOWN BENEFITS OF YOGA?

During the past 20 years there has been a great deal of scientific study regarding the health benefits of practicing Yoga. The International Association of Yoga Therapy has a great deal of documented case studies of the benefits of yoga practice for such conditions as stress, asthma, depression, indigestion and concentration, high blood pressure, headaches, insomnia, joint pain, back pain, multiple sclerosis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and the list goes on. There is a relationship between the nervous system, muscles, and organs. So when the muscles stretch and contract you are also having an effect on the organs of the body via the nervous system. When the organs function more effectively, the breathing improves, blood sugar balance, digestion, and all other organic functions improve. 

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