Yoga gets a lot of misconceptions, sometimes people think you need to be flexible, or wear lululemon, or that it’s always in a hot room, or that you just lay around. Well, all of these things can happen but none of them are true all at the same time. There are no prerequisites to start a yoga practice. There are many styles and ways to practice, so in this blog post we’re gonna break down some of the basics of what yoga (asana) is, how to start a practice, and WHY it’s an important practice for everyone, especially the military, veterans, and their dependents.
What is yoga?
This comes up a lot, but yoga as we typically see it in the Western Hemisphere, is the physical practice, doing poses, aka “asana.” This is what you see on the cover of Yoga Journal, what you experience when you do yoga at your gym, and the P90XTM yoga sessions. There are many different styles of yoga and they range from being extremely athletic to spending 90-min laying down on the floor nearly asleep.
When you try yoga for the first, second, third, or hundredth time, keep an open mind. There are many styles, and within each style, each teacher can take a different approach to the same sequence or pose. You don’t need to be strong or flexible to do yoga, but yoga can help you develop both of these characteristics. Some poses do require a good amount of either, or both, strength and flexibility, but generally there are modifications for just about every yoga pose to help you feel the effects, without causing injury.
As I alluded to above yoga is not just about the physical. Asana for many is the way in, but it’s not the asana that keeps people coming back. Last month we covered meditation and mindfulness, and next month we’ll cover breathing techniques. Both of these yoga practices are essential to overall personal growth – including within a particular yoga pose.
Benefits of yoga
As you probably guessed yoga can help you increase your flexibility and your strength. Different styles of practices encourage different aspects of the physical. Finding a style that helps you meet your personal goals is important. Over time a yoga practice can help increase your proprioceptive awareness (where you are physically are in space), your interoceptive awareness (your internal cues to bring awareness to how you’re feeling), your resiliency (ability to bounce back after adversity), your relationship with yourself and others, and your overall outlook on life.
Starting a practice
What you need
You don’t need anything to do yoga, but generally having a yoga mat is a great place to start. It helps you define an area that is yours, and often your mat becomes a sacred space. You can buy an inexpensive mat to start, and as you find a style of yoga that you like to practice regularly you can purchase a better quality, more expensive mat, to fit your needs. We (the co-founders of PTSYA) love this Manduka Pro mat because of its lifetime warranty, its surface, and its durability. It is an investment, but each of us have had ours for over a decade now.
Wearing clothes that are easy to move in (and wick sweat if you jump into a hot yoga class) will ensure your comfort during your practice. Taking a towel and water bottle to a vinyasa or hot yoga class will ensure you can wipe off your sweaty hands so you can stick to the floor and then rehydrate as you lose all the water due to perspiration.
Where to go
You don’t have to leave your home to take a yoga class. For many people there’s a sense of insecurity the first time they take a group yoga class. This insecurity is usually unfounded, but it often takes trust in yourself to make that first step. If you feel ready to go, search for yoga studios near you or find out what times the yoga classes are offered at your gym. If you’re not ready to take the public plunge, turn to YouTube for free classes of all kinds. Yoga with Kassandra and Yoga with Adriene are both excellent channels to check out when you’re just starting.
Why yoga is good for you
Well, it’s up there☝️ Helps you build strength and flexibility, increases your proprioceptive and interoceptive awareness, increases your resiliency, and leaves you in a parasympathetic (rest and digest) state. The impact of this practice over time helps you increase your overall well being. If you have spent even just a few years traveling with the military, running through war time drills, or even just being uprooted that one time, having a yoga practice can help you better adjust to the experiences you have had and any future ones to come.
If you’re already drank the yoga kool-aid and want to help share its benefits with other active duty, reservis, guard, veterans, or dependents check out our upcoming yoga teacher training!