travel, yoga

Your First Yoga Class, Part II – What’s behind the doors of a yoga class?

Now that I’ve written up a brief introduction to yoga. You can start to get your yoga pants ready to join your first class.

I have a lot of students that come for their first ever yoga class and ask me what to expect. In turn, I ask them what do you expect? And these are top 3 answers:

  1. Just stretching. For 1 hour and 15 minutes, I’ll be stretching and that’s what yoga is all about.
  2. I’ll be more flexible, from all that stretching.
  3. Some core stuff, so I lose belly fat.

Alright, I don’t really know why people expect so much stretching. Is there an ad somewhere saying YOGA with a picture of people just stretching? Where is this ad?

Fortunately, there is more to yoga than just stretching. Well for my classes at least. In my classes, we stretch for warm-up and warm-down, and from time to time I have a yin yoga class, which is all about stretching. But most of my classes cover sun salutations (surya namaskaras in sanskrit), balancing postures, standing, sitting and lying down postures, and finally ending in corpse pose (savasana), a meditative or relaxation pose.

So what does that all mean? Well, let me break it down for you. In an physiological sense, the asana practice can be put into different groups and some groups weave into each other as well. If you’re a beginner, the groups you need to know are:

Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskars): This is like your cardio, you move through fluid pre-set movements at a brisk pace and get your muscles all warmed up, your breathing picks up a bit. If you can try to use your ujaiyi breath, breathing audibly in and out through you nose, and sounding a little bit like Darth Vader. The movements include reaching up to the sky, then down for your toes, plank pose, a reverse push up, cobra and downward dog. Cobra is an upper back strengthening postures.

Balancing Postures: Standing on one leg for extended periods of time will help your slow twitch muscles form, the ones that help your endurance.

Warriors: Lunges, lunges, lunges. Yogis tend to have this lean look in their upper body but when it comes to their thighs they are large and well-defined (and sexy). Take Kino McGregor or Meghan Currie for example. Lunges target your quadriceps, hamstrings and butt, these are your largest muscle groups in your body which means that they are your most effective fat burning machines. The stronger these areas are, the more fat you will burn throughout the body.

Sitting postures: It’s this group of postures where I find most of the stretching happens. They cover twists, forward folds, hip openers and shoulder stretches. Although, sitting postures like boat pose build up core strength in order to stabilize you.

Lying down postures: Cobra, locust and upward-facing bow pose focus on strengthening the muscles of the lower, middle and upper back.

Savasana: To end the practice, a few warm-down stretches and twists are followed by the famous corpse pose (savasana), which is a meditative and/or relaxation pose done lying down on your back with your eyes closed from 5-15 minutes, depending how long and/or strenuous your practice was. This promotes muscle memory and is compulsory relaxation for all yoga practices. To end this poses, the instructor will gently guide you verbally to move your fingers and toes and roll over to your side body in a fetal position before finally making your way up into seated position.

And that about concludes the yoga practice. This sort of practice varies from teacher to teacher, and usually most teachers are happy and willing to provide variations for beginners.

With that explanation, I hope it gives you the general idea and the confidence for you to start your yoga practice.

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