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This post is for all of those Queens out there that have walked past many yoga schools, seen the yoga magazines, been tempted to buy yoga pants just because BUT have never taken a class EVER!!!!  Why?  You go to the gym, jog in the park, do cardio in your overcrowded living rooms but always make an excuse not to try a yoga class.  Some of the excuses are:

  • Black folks don’t do yoga
  • I will not get a real workout so it is a waste of money
  • How is bending myself into a human pretzel beneficial to my health?
  • There are too many yoga class types to choose from, I will just still to my local gym
  • They make crazy sounds and chants that I don’t understand.  They could be making us saying something ridiculous and we not know it.
  • I need a workout plan that includes cardio, not breathing techniques and stretching
  • Etc….

The list can go on and on but this post is to dispel all of these excuses with facts.

I have been practicing yoga off and on for close to seven years.  My best friend and I were blessed to not only begin our yoga journey together, but we were also blessed to find a school that offered a beginners workshop.  For a month we met in a small group where our yoga instructor taught us the basic poses of the sun salutation, how to position our bodies correctly in each pose to get the full benefit of the pose and most importantly, we were taught how to breathe.  I know that sound very odd.  Many of you are thinking breathing is an automatic function of the human body; we don’t need to be taught that.  I know because I felt the same way.  So how does breathing the yoga way differ?

 Yoga Breathing

Full Yogic breathe is a technique that helps an individual use its respiratory organs at full capacity (learn breathing, 2011). There are three steps to yoga breathing: abdominal breathing, thoracic (chest) breathing and full yogic breathing (steps 1 and 2 combined).  Practice steps one and two separately first, then move on to step three.  Abdominal breathing is when you allow the abdomen to rise as high as possible during inhales and allow it to sink deeply during exhales.  The chest should be completely still when doing this. Thoracic breathing is when an individual allows their ribcage to rise and open up during inhales filling the lungs completely and then letting the lungs sink as deeply as possible during exhales.  The abdomen should be completely still when doing this.  To complete a full yogic breathe (step 3) first fill the abdomen on the inhale and as you continue inhaling extend and fill the chest.  Upon exhaling empty the chest first and as you extend the exhale allow the abdomen to empty and fall, drawing inwards.  Remember the pattern: Abdomen then chest for inhales; chest then abdomen for exhales.  It takes a little practice at first but once you train your body, it will happen naturally.  Now that the breathing technique is understood a bit more, lets discuss some of the many benefits that can result from this practice.

Benefits of yoga breathing:

  • Create balance mentally and physically
  • Calms the mind
  • Allows asthma and emphysema sufferers to have more control over their breathing
  • Enhances lung capacity
  • Eases stress near the heart and digestive organs
  • Detoxification increases as a result of having more carbon dioxide and oxygen exchanged in the body

What is Namaste?

Upon entering a yoga school or at the start of a yoga class, the instructor may start by saying one word, Namaste.  The individual or class then repeats this word back to the person that offered the salutation first.  Now when I began my yoga workshop I had no idea what was being said so I stayed quiet until I could do my due diligence and understand what it was.  I definitely knew it was another language but I wasn’t about to hop aboard and say it as the rest of the class did just because.  So during my research I found that Namaste is a salutation of Hindi origin.  I also understood that the beautiful symbol I often saw on the walls of the school or t-shirts of fellow yogis was not Arabic, although it closely resembled it in my opinion.  It was Namaste in written form.  In Sanskrit nama means to bow and te means you (Namaste, 2011).  The direct interpretation is: the spirit within me recognizes the spirit within you (Namaste, 2011).  According to Subhamoy Das (2011), the spiritual significance of this salutation is great because it is “the act of negating or reducing one’s ego in the presence of another”.

Chants

During class, yoga instructors often will ask the class to say a chant along with a pose.  Now, from personal experience I thought it was creepy as first.  It was five times worse than the caution I felt about saying Namaste.  The first time I experienced this in class I thought to myself “What in the world does this crazy lady have us saying?”  LOL.  As you can tell, I DID NOT recite any chants until I could do my research and find out what they meant.  You are not forced to speak what you are not comfortable with.  I do not say all because some are in direct worship of one of many Hindi deities which is not a part of my faith.  Here is a brief list of the common chants you may hear and their meaning:

Aum – This is the most popular chants that many will hear in class but many know it spelled as OM.  It is pronounced by stretching the OM sound until the M sound is heard just at the end of the chant.  According to Yogini (2011), Aum is close to the Hebrew word Amen and “is an affirmation of the divine presence (the Universe)”.

Gayatri – This chant directly translate to mean one being illuminated by a sacred sound (Yogini, 2011).

Om Namah Shivaaya – The direct translation means: “I bow to Lord Shiva (a Hindi god), the peaceful one who is the embodiment of all that is cause by the universe” (Yogini, 2011).

Lokah Samastha – This direct translation means: “May this world be established with a sense of wellbeing and happiness” (Yogini, 2011).

Where there is vibration, there is sound.  All parts of our bodies vibrate at a specific frequency. Certain sounds made in class create a vibratory force that directly affects the body centers or Chakras. The seven chakras, their sounds and the body function affected are illustrated in the chart below.

Sound

Color

Chakra

Location

Represents

Body Part/Organ

Ah/Aum

Violet

Crown

Top of head

Divine wisdom, One with the universe and enlightenment Brain, nervous system and Pineal gland

Aum/Om

Indigo

Third Eye

Central forehead

Intuition, insight and imagination Temples, forehead and Pituitary gland

Ham

Blue

Throat

Throat

Creativity and communication Throat, neck, arms, hands, brachial, cervical plexus and thyroid gland

Yam

Green

Heart

Center of chest

Love, understanding and compassion Heart, circulatory system, lungs, chest, cardiac plexus and thymus gland

Ram

Yellow

Solar Plexus

Solar Plexus

Power, ego and authority Large intestine, stomach, liver, muscular system, skin and pancreas

Vam

Orange

Naval Sacral

Abdomen Center

Emotions, feelings, desire, passion Lumbar plexus, reproductive system, sexual organs and gonads

Lam

Red

Root

Point between sexual organ and anus

Survival, health and security Prostate gland, bladder, elimination system, lymph system, skeleton system, teeth, sacral plexus, lower extremities and adrenal glands

Types of Yoga

Now that we have discussed a bit about what happens in yoga class, let’s explore the various types of yoga practices offered in schools.  It is critical that an individual pick a yoga practice that best matches their health goals.

Hatha – This style of yoga is most common and best for beginners.  The poses are not as hard on the body and the pace of the class is usually much slower than other types.  The basic yoga poses are taught and practiced in this style of yoga.  The yoga beginner’s workshop that my best friend and I took was under Hatha yoga.

Vinyasa – This is the yoga style that my best friend and I stepped up to once we were comfortable with our poses in our Hatha yoga classes.  Vinyasa yoga is much more vigorous than Hatha yoga and uses the repetitious movements of Sun Salutation (series of poses) that are matched with breathe. This prepares the body for more advanced stretching that takes place closer to the end of a class.

Ashtanga – Ashtanga is better known as Power Yoga.  It is fast paced and poses practiced are more intense.  There are a series of poses done in this style as well but they are fixed poses unlike the varied pose options practiced in other styles such as Vinyasa.  Movement in this class is constant. This style of yoga is no joke and definitely a workout for those that love movement.

Iyengar – This style focuses on poses and practicing them with great accuracy.  Poses are held much longer in this class and props such as blankets, blocks, and straps are incorporated to help achieve this.  Body alignment is the goal of a yogi that practices Iyengar. I have never taken a class that focus on this style solely but have had classes where elements of Iyengar were incorporated.

Bikram – Another name for Bikram is Hot Yoga.  Now, I had a long break from yoga at a certain point in time.  I was eager to get back into it and decided to take a class.  My body obviously was not used to the poses anymore and so a Hatha class would be best to ease me back in to it right??  NOT!!  I naively skipped into a hot yoga class with a 6 month+ stint of physical inactivity and no prior knowledge of what REALLY takes place in a hot yoga class.  Long story short I nearly fainted two or three times during the class while others, who appeared to be out of shape displayed flawless execution of poses with little need to reach for their water bottles.  So what is Hot Yoga?  It focuses on releasing toxins from the body and loosening muscles through heat and sweat.  In a hot yoga class the temperate of a room is often brought up to 95 -100 degrees. There are a series of poses that are performed in this heat and intense is definitely an understatement.  The key to success in this class is to drink plenty of fluids days prior and the day of the class.

Come Equipped

Things you must have to fully enjoy a yoga class are:

  • Bottle of water  – To drink throughout or after class
  • Hand towel – You will definitely sweat!!!!!
  • Yoga mat – Mat rentals are available at most school but if you are picky like me, get your own. Using a mat that somebody else’s perspiration was on no matter how many times it was cleaned or wiped down it just plain nasty!!!  :-/
  • Yoga pants / or comfy pants that do not restrict movement
  • Tank tops or close fitting t-shirts – shirts that are too large can hinder your movement with certain poses because you will worry if anyone can clearly see what goods are under your shirt  :-O
  • Take off dangling necklaces and earrings as well as rings – Jewelry can be a nuisance if worn during class.  Necklaces with charms smacking you in the face every time you do downward facing dog… not a good feeling.  :-/

Overall Benefits

The overall benefits of yoga are greater flexibility, balance, toning, posture and cardiovascular activity to name a few.   After the one month workshop that my best friend and I took, I noticed that my arms and thighs were more toned; my abdominal muscles were a little stronger, I could bend and sink into poses much deeper than before.  I also noticed how pliable my muscles had become and the consistency that my body responded well to.  Any span longer than a week resulted with muscles tightening back up quickly and the feeling of accomplishment faded.  Yoga success requires a passion to be healthier, dedication to learn and master the poses and breathing, and consistent practice.  I hope this post motivates those sitting on the fence to hop into motion and take a yoga class to see firsthand.  ENJOY!!!

Peace,
Miss Queen

References

Das, S. (2011). What is Namaste? http://www.about.com. Retrieved from http://hinduism.about.com/od/artculture/p/namaste.htm?p=1

Learn Breathing…the Yoga Way. (2011). http://www.healthandyoga.com. Retrieved from http://www.healthandyoga.com/html/news/yogicbreathprint.html

Namaste. (2011). http://www.about.com. Retrieved from http://healing.about.com/od/n/g/g_
namaste.htm?p=1

Pizer, A. (2011). Yoga Style Guide. http://www.about.com. Retrieved from http://yoga.about.com/
od/typesofyoga/a/yogatypes.htm?p=1

Yogini. (2011). Beginner’s Guide To Yoga Chants. http://www.daily-yoga.org. Retrieved from http://daily-yoga.org/guide-to-yoga-chants/

©2011 Where’s My Crown?

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