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Cheat Sheet

Yoga For Dummies

From Yoga For Dummies, 2nd Edition by Georg Feuerstein, Larry Payne, PhD

Yoga is an ancient practice that still provides numerous benefits today to the people who practice it regularly. Some people are scared off by certain myths they’ve heard about Yoga, but in truth, there’s no reason why anyone can’t and shouldn’t practice it. If you’re new to Yoga, finding a class and a teacher that fits your needs is crucial. After that, you need to make sure you’re doing all you can to make your Yoga practice as successful and beneficial as it can be.

Debunking Yoga Myths

Many myths and misconceptions surround Yoga and Yoga practice, scaring off many would-be practitioners. The following list debunks some of those myths and gives you the real story so you can confidently add Yoga to your day.

  • Yoga is only for double-jointed people. Yoga is for everyone and can be tailored to your individual needs. It doesn’t require you to turn into a pretzel.

  • Yoga is only for Asian people. Yoga originated in the East (India, to be precise), but it’s universally applicable. Besides, many of its practices have been modified to suit contemporary Western needs and tastes. Yoga is even recommended by knowledgeable physicians around the world because of its great restorative power.

  • Yoga is just a bunch of mindless exercises. The popular image of Yoga as gymnastics is wrong. The physical exercises form only a part of its comprehensive approach. What’s more, the exercises are far from mindless but instead call for focus and mindfulness.

  • Yoga is only for weaklings. Yoga favors a gentle approach, but its advanced exercises certainly call for strength and stamina. Many athletes use Yoga to complement their other forms of exercise.

  • You can’t gain muscle strength through Yoga. Yoga has a whole range of exercises that help strengthen your chest, back, stomach, arm, and leg muscles. Take a look at advanced practitioners; their muscular strength and development may surprise you! In addition to improving your strength, Yoga can help you combat stress and keep you generally fit.

  • You need a guru to do Yoga. If you couldn’t try out some basic Yoga exercises by yourself, Yoga publishers wouldn’t do the business they do. Consulting with a Yoga teacher or instructor can be helpful, but a guru is only necessary when you want to engage in Yoga as a full-fledged spiritual practice.

  • Yoga requires you to believe in all kinds of strange ideas. Yoga is based on universal principles shared by many other systems that have a holistic orientation to life. The fundamental approach of Yoga is for you to test those principles and find out for yourself whether they work for you. You either find them useful or you don’t, but no belief in bizarre ideas is necessary.

  • People over 50 can’t learn Yoga. Yoga is for people of all ages. Some people start in their 70s and 80s. It’s never too late — or early — to start practicing Yoga.

  • Yoga can only offer a handful of exercises. Yoga has a vast repertoire of exercises, and Yoga teachers are constantly adding new variations on these exercises to refine the system and make it suitable for the widest range of people possible.

  • You can practice Yoga once a month and achieve good results. As with any other exercise system, you get out of Yoga only what you put into it. Regular daily Yoga practice gives the best results, but rest assured that a little effort does go a long way.

Finding the Right Yoga Class for You

Finding the right Yoga class can be intimidating, but choosing the Yoga class that fits you is easy when you take time to evaluate your Yoga needs. So how do you know the right class when you see it?

When you visit a Yoga center or classroom, pay attention to your intuitive feelings about the place. Consider how the staff treats you and how you respond to the people attending class. Stroll around the facility and feel its overall energy. First impressions are often (although not always) accurate.

When checking out a potential class to join, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How do I feel about the classroom’s atmosphere?

  • What’s my gut response to the teacher?

  • Do I want a male or female teacher?

  • What are the teacher’s credentials?

  • Does the teacher or school have a good reputation?

  • How do I respond to other students?

  • How big are the classes, and can I still get proper individual attention from the teacher?

  • Would I be happy coming here regularly?

  • Can I afford the classes?

Examining Keys to a Successful Yoga Practice

Yoga practice success may seem daunting, but remembering some key tips helps you succeed from the get-go. These keys help you examine your Yoga needs so you can enjoy the most successful Yoga practice possible.

  • Be clear about your goals. Decide exactly what you want to accomplish (such as flexibility, fitness, better health, inner peace, and so on).

  • Make a realistic commitment. Promising yourself you’ll practice for an hour every day sounds great, but it doesn’t do you any good if you can’t reasonably maintain that schedule. Just 15 minutes a day is a great start.

  • Get your physician’s approval. If you have a health challenge or are pregnant, be sure to consult a physician before embarking on a Yoga exercise program. Make sure your physician is basically sympathetic to exercise and is reasonably familiar with Yoga so that you can be sure you’re getting the best — and most relevant — advice.

  • Enjoy gentle Yoga. You don’t need to be competitive with yourself or anyone else. Allow Yoga to gently unfold the potential of your body and your mind. Don’t overdo exercising. Keep the enjoyment factor high.

  • Keep a practice journal. Chronicle your experience with Yoga, and periodically read through your journal to see the progress you have made. Progress is the best motivator.

  • Create a support system for yourself. You can always find strength in numbers. Find other people who enjoy Yoga so that you can motivate and inspire each other. If you prefer to practice on your own at home, you may still want to consider participating in a Yoga class occasionally, if only to get feedback or find encouragement.

  • Vary your program periodically. Even the best program can get boring. Prevent your enthusiasm from flagging by changing your exercise routine occasionally.

  • Educate yourself. Continue to educate yourself about Yoga. Education helps to make your Yoga practice more meaningful. Many good books and magazines are available on the subject. Take the time to read and study; you’ll be pleasantly surprised about the depth you can discover in Yoga.

  • Be a Yoga enthusiast, but not a bore. By all means, be enthusiastic about your Yoga practice, but know that not everyone shares your enthusiasm, including the dearest members of your family. Yoga’s positive effect on your body and mind is the best advertising, so let those effects speak for themselves rather than annoying your family and friends with constant talk of Yoga.

  • Focus on a personal role model. Everyone needs ideals. You don’t need to worship a hero, but being able to look up to someone who, in your eyes, has succeeded and whom you find inspiring is always a good idea. Keep your role model(s) always vivid in your mind.

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