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3 Common Mistakes by Yoga Beginners, New Yogi

Whenever we start something new we have a certain feeling of trepidation and uncertainty of the unknown and in most cases, it is completely unfounded and we get on with things very quickly and easily.  Sometimes it isn’t and a simple little thing can cause us to have an entirely negative first impression and perhaps even never want to try that activity or pass time again.  Yoga has so many health benefits, on both a physical and spiritual level, that it would be a tragedy for anyone to miss out on them because they made a silly avoidable mistake on their first day.  With that in mind, this article addresses the 3 most common mistakes of new Yogi, and how to make sure they don’t happen to you.

Mistake One:  Not knowing what you want from Yoga.

The reality is that there are numerous different styles and forms of Yoga and each has its different attractions.  Ask yourself what it was about Yoga in general that attracted you and then you can investigate a style that caters more specifically to that.  You may like to set goals, be they physical, mental or spiritual.  If you do then it’s a good idea to discuss them with the instructor of your class before you begin.  Yoga instructors are usually very approachable and happy to talk about their passion.  They will be able to talk to you about your goals for the class and let you know if you are being realistic, aiming too high or too low.  Make sure your goal includes a timeframe so it becomes something that is measurable.

Mistake Two:  Jumping in Feet First.

Having decided that they will give this Yoga thing a try many people take a running leap and jump into a 12-month stage by stage class.  These classes are usually an upfront payment arrangement and progress from one level to the next as the weeks progress.  They are a fantastic way of learning Yoga and becoming very good at it, but it’s quite possible you will choose a class that is not ideal for you.

 

The best way around this is to join a Yoga beginner class, also known as a drop in class.  If you do these classes for a few weeks you will notice a high turnover of students as new people join and old people move on.  These classes are designed to give you a very broad feel for the different types of Yoga.  The level of the students in the class usually varies greatly so you can expect the instructor to keep the classes quite tame.  The other key benefit of doing this is that the classes are pay as you go so there is no big financial outlay for you while you decide the type and style of yoga that best suits you.  You are also not obliged to attend every class.  With the longer courses, you can fall behind quickly if you miss a week or two in a row.  With the pay as you go to classes, you will find that while each class is different the level stays quite low to cater for the newer people joining in.

Mistake Three:  Choosing the wrong teacher.

Traditionally a Yogi had to be an apprentice to a skilled Guru for many years before he could teach even the simplest of Yoga technique.  Nowadays a 3-day course over a long weekend is considered enough by some people.  There is a big difference in what you will achieve depending on the skills and abilities of the person teaching you.  Yoga is starting to make a regular appearance on the sports injury list and a large reason for this is instructors who have been taught just enough to be dangerous.  A qualified teacher won’t necessarily be fantastic and an unqualified teacher won’t necessarily be terrible – but the odds are certainly cast in that direction, so it’s a good idea to check your instructors’ background and qualifications before you begin studying with them.

How Yoga benefits the Circulatory System and Heart

The circulatory system is an essential part of what keeps us going.  It is also referred to as the cardiovascular system and consists of the heart and the blood vessels.  The heart’s job is to pump blood to different parts of the body and this blood carries vital nutrients and oxygen to the different organs.  It travels via the blood vessels.  The heart is divided into four compartments that each have a different role.  The compartment on the upper right is responsible for collecting the incoming impure blood from all over the body and moving it on to the lower right compartment.  The lower right compartment sends the blood on to the lungs for purification.  The purified blood is then returned to the heart – this time in the upper left ventricle from where it is moved into the lower left compartment and then back out as fresh, pure blood to the remainder of the body.

 

The blood is primarily carried through main arteries that are thick tube-like structures leading from the heart around the body.  The arteries branch into many sub arteries which in turn will divide into thin-walled capillaries.  The capillaries interact with the organs directly and due to their thin walls, they pass oxygen and nutrients to the organs and tissues that need them the most.  The used resources are ejected from the tissue and back into the capillaries to be fed on through specialized veins to return the impure blood back to the heart to start the entire process once more.  This is a difficult job as the pressure has decreased this far from the heart so the veins are assisted by valves to regulate the flow.

 

The important thing to understand about the way the circulatory system is set up is that it has two main parts, the blood system and the lymphatic system.  It is the job of the lymphatic system to remove waste from the circulatory system.  The two different systems run almost side by side but while the blood system has a pump – the heart – the lymphatic system does not have a single organ designed to power its operations.  This job falls to the muscles, which pump the lymphatic system by contracting and expanding.  This is of course where Yoga comes in.

 

Yoga is a discipline unique in its combination of focus on body, mind and spirit.  The body component is taken care of with a series of poses and postures, which are designed to clear blockages in the circulatory system and ensure that everything is flowing as it should at an even regular rate.  It also flexes the muscles and strengthens them very efficiently over time with a minimal amount of ‘grunt’.  This strengthening and constant working of these muscles pumps the lymphatic system and makes out body many times more efficient at the removal of waste matter.  As a result, people who practice Yoga regularly can expect that they will have a greatly enhanced immune response system and be able to deal with infection and disease better than their non-Yogi counterparts.

 

Furthermore, the benefits start before this.  Yoga sessions will usually be with a series of standing exercises emphasizing long slow breathing exercises.  These breathing exercises are common to all forms of yoga and force us to concentrate on our breath and it’s pathway through the body each time we take a fresh breath.  The exercises are designed especially so that people are not restricted in where and when they can practice them and ideally would use them instead of our slower shallower normal breathing pattern.

Because the breaths are longer and deeper the oxygen intake is increased.  Combined with the enhancing effects that the exercises have on the regularity of circulation in the blood system the oxygen is much more efficiently transported to the muscles of the body.  If these muscles, along with our other organs and tissues are not receiving the oxygen and nutrients we need then we starve them and become ill as a result.

As you can see Yoga is of great assistance to the complex and interlocking system of circulation.  It recognizes the basis and importance of the system and helps to be it back into balance.

Prevention of Heart Attacks by Yoga practice

Strict changes in diet and lifestyle can not only prevent heart attacks but can reverse the clogging of the arteries, according to a small but pioneering study.

The study showed that a vegetarian diet, moderate exercise and an hour a day of yoga and meditation could produce a reversal of atherosclerosis, a blockage of the arteries that can lead to a heart attack, in men and women who were strict in following the daily regimen.

Experts say this is the first study to report that such blockage can be reversed without using cholesterol-lowering drugs or surgery.

The study, which was conducted by Dr Dean Ornish, director of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, Calif., was presented at the meeting of the American Heart Association in New Orleans.

This is a tremendously important study in the control of heart disease. It’s the very first study indicating regression of coronary heart disease without pharmaceutical intervention. The results also suggest that the current medical guidelines for changes in the habits of people with severe heart disease do not go far enough.

Previous studies have shown that exercise and diet changes can slow the progression of heart disease, but not reverse it.

While the study did not determine what percentage of improvement could be attributed to the lifestyle changes alone, the researchers noted that stress-control methods have been shown to ease recovery from a variety of disorders, including hypertension.

But some experts are skeptical of the need for stress-management methods, which are not currently among standard recommendations for those with severe heart disease.

Some experts on cardiac rehabilitation question whether most people with heart disease could follow such strict changes in their habits.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) and Yoga practice 

For controlling your hypertension, there are two effective yoga exercises that help lower the blood pressure:

Inverted Yoga

Inverted yoga reverses the action of gravity on the body. The most profound changes brought about by Inverted Yoga is in circulation. In inverted poses, legs and abdomen are placed higher than the heart.

Lengthening up through the legs and keep them very active so your spine opens and the entire body actively involved in the pose.

One of the reasons for this is simply because the force of gravity is reversed and venous return becomes significantly greater.

Normally, the muscles of the calf and other skeletal muscles in the lower extremities must contract in order to pump unoxygenated blood and waste back to the heart through the veins.

In inverted poses, gravity causes the blood to flow easily back through the veins and this brings the blood pressure in the feet to a minimum. This in effect gives skeletal muscles a chance to rest.

In Inverted poses, drainage of blood and waste from the lower body back to the heart is increased and disorders such as varicose veins and swollen ankles are relieved.

Rhythmic Breathing

It’s time to learn about breathing because inhaling and exhaling have the power to nourish the body and calm the mind.

Not just any old breathing will do. If you’re like most people, you take shallow breaths, pull in your stomach when you inhale and never empty your lungs of carbon dioxide when you exhale.

Here’s the physiological explanation: Long, slow breaths are more efficient than short, fast ones.

To take in a good breath, your lungs must first be basically empty. Thus the key to efficient breathing lies in exhaling completely. A full exhalation begins with the upper chest, proceeds to the middle chest and finishes with tightening the abdominal muscles.

Only after a good exhalation can you draw in a good lungful of the oxygen-rich air your blood needs for nourishing cells.

 

Hot yoga

Hot yoga refers to yoga exercises performed under hot and humid conditions. Often associated with the style devised by Bikram Choudhury, hot yoga is now used to describe any number of yoga styles that use heat to increase an individuals flexibility in the poses. Hot yoga typically leads to profuse sweating. In colder climates, hot yoga often seeks to replicate the heat and humidity of India where yoga originated. Some forms of hot yoga include:

  • Bikram Yoga, a style synthesized by Bikram Choudhury from traditional hatha yoga techniques, practiced in a room heated to 40 °C (104 °F) and 40% humidity.
  • Forrest Yoga combines yoga asana with Native American spirituality to create a “yoga sweat lodge” in a heated room.
  • Power Yoga is derived from Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga and uses heat to replicate environmental conditions in Mysore.
  • TriBalance Yoga another form of hot yoga, performed in slightly warmer but less humid conditions than Bikram Yoga.

 

Popular Hatha Yoga poses and names

Hatha Yoga

Yoga includes Hatha yoga, Mantra yoga, Laya yoga, Raja yoga and Kundalini yoga. Hatha yoga exercises are mainly aimed at strengthening the physical body. The word “hatha” can be translated two ways: as “willful” or “forceful,” or the yoga of activity, and as “sun” (ha) and “moon” (tha), the yoga of balance.

Hatha yoga practices concerning the physical body like the Asana, Pranayama etc. for controlling and strengthening the body,  and thereby affecting Sukshma sharira (is the energy body) and purifying the chitta (the memory or the unconscious mind). Various āsans allow body,mind and Spirit to come into harmony through the balance of body energy. Constant disciplined practice of breathing exercises (pranayama), postures and relaxation subtly transform the body into a vital spiritual tool through which levels of intuitive understanding are reached, and the mystical aspects of the Hatha yoga gradually unfold and reveal their secrets.

Through Hatha yoga one can achieve absolute control over the whole body, thus improving the condition of every part and maintaining the body as a necessary and valuable tool of human evolution. The training of body and mind through Hatha yoga helps to bring bodily urges, emotions, and miss-directed will-power under control.

Hatha yoga purifices the body and mind and makes them suitable for Raja yoga. It stands out as a ladder for those who aspire to reach the sublime heights of Raja yoga. Hatha yoga tends to keep the attention more on the exercises on body rather than the mind.

Hatha yoga seeks to awaken Kundilini shakti through the discipline of the physical body, purification of nadis (pathways or channels) and controlling the prank (life force).

Popular Hatha yoga poses and names

Mountain

Mountain pose is typically the starting position for other standing poses.

Work on your posture with Mountain pose. Stand with your feet together and relax your shoulders, and put your arms at your sides. Inhale deeply and raise your hands over your head with your palms facing each other. Reach toward the sky and hold for 30 sec -1 min while breathing normally. Exhale as you put your arms down.

Tree

For Tree pose, stand with your feet together and put your arms at your side. Shift your weight onto your left leg, bend your right knee and place the sole of your right foot on the inside of your left thigh. Keep your hips facing forward. Try to balance yourself and move your hands to prayer position in front of your chest with your palms together. While inhalation, bring your arms up over your head with your palms facing each other, but separate. Hold for 30 seconds, release and exhale as you put your arms down. Repeat on the opposite side.

Standing Forward Bend or Foot to Hand pose

For the Standing Forward Bend, step to the front of your mat and position your feet hip-width apart. On the inhalation, extend your spine, and then exhale and bend at the hips. If possible, place your hands under the front of each foot so your toes are touching the inside of your wrists. Tuck your chin in and let your shoulders relax away from your ears. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute, and then inhale and come up to standing.

Warrior

There are three variations of Warrior, but Warrior I is the most basic. Begin in Mountain pose, and then spread your feet 3 to 4 feet apart. Turn your right foot out 90 degrees. Relax your shoulders, then extend your arms out to the sides with your palms down. Bend your right leg 90 degrees, ensuring your knee doesn’t extend over your ankle, and look over your right arm. Hold for one minute, and then switch sides.

Downward-Facing Dog

Downward-Facing Dog, part of the Sun Salutation sequence, works every part of your body, making it a challenging position to hold for an extended period of time. Begin on your hands and knees, and spread your fingers out flat on the mat. Turn your toes under, exhale and lift your knees up off the floor. Keep the knees bent slightly and focus on pushing your heels down to the floor. Hold for one to three minutes, and then bend your knees down to the floor on the inhalation.

Bridge

Bridge pose stretches the chest, neck and spine. Lie on your back with your knees bent, arms at your sides and the soles of the feet flat on the floor. Move your heels as close to your glutes as possible. On the exhalation, press your feet and arms into the mat and push your hips upward. Clasp your hands below your pelvis. Lift your chin slightly and press your shoulder blades down. Hold the pose for 30 seconds to one minute and release on an inhalation, slowly rolling your spine down on the floor.

Bound Angle

This pose is usually translated into English as Bound Angle, but is also known as the Butterfly. Sit on the floor, bend your knees and place your feet together with the soles touching. Pull your heels in toward your pelvis and press your knees down to the floor. Sit up straight, relax your shoulders and hold the pose for 30 seconds to one minute.

Seated Twist

A Seated Twist stretches your shoulders, hips and back while increasing your circulation and strengthening your oblique muscles. Sit on the floor with your legs extended. Cross the right foot over your left thigh and place it flat on the floor, and then bend your left knee. Move your left arm to the outside of the right knee, so your elbow is touching your thigh, and twist your body to the right. Hold for one minute and then release and switch sides.

Easy Pose

As the name suggests, the Easy pose isn’t difficult to master. Sit on a yoga mat or thick blanket, and cross your legs so each foot is below the opposite knee. Relax your feet and keep your pelvis in a neutral position. Position your hands either in your lap with your palms up or on your knees, palms down. Focus on lengthening your tailbone toward the floor and taking deep breaths. When you practice this pose, alternate the crossing of your legs each time you do it.

Staff Pose

The staff pose lengths your spine, opens your chest and stretches the back of your legs. Sit on the floor and extend your legs in front of you. Place your hands behind your hips with your fingers pointing away from your body. Press your hips into the floor and sit up straight to lengthen your spine. Relax your shoulders down and back, pressing your chest forward. Push your heels away from you, pulling the toes toward you. Hold for three to six breaths.

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