A Quick Look
at Yoga

by Jessica Michele Garcia

One of the first things
to keep in mind
when you choose
to immerse yourself
in yoga is to approach
it gradually.
AS POPULAR AS YOGA IS in 2014 there are still people who are now approaching this discipline for the first time and have some basic questions about it. For beginners the following information can be valuable.


In order to choose a style of yoga, the best advice is to take part in different classes to see which one is the most suitable for you. There are varieties that focus more on body workout whereas others have a more meditative approach. The search for the appropriate yoga style goes along with finding the right instructor. That is why you should attend some lessons taught by different teachers before deciding with whom you find yourself comfortable. You might prefer a trainer who pays attention to the details, corrects his students and does not talk too much. Or you might prefer teachers who demonstrates the poses rather than explains them. Your instructor should be someone you feel comfortable with to have a brief chat before and/or after class.

One of the first things to keep in mind when you choose to immerse yourself in yoga is to approach it gradually. This means being gentle with your body and not rushing into hazardous movements. As a result you will not hurt yourself and your advancement will be more effective.

Have a long term perspective instead of feeling the urgency to progress within a single class. Admire your classmates’ achievements but do not compare yourself with them because it is useless. Rather, concentrate on your work and your results to understand what things you can improve.

After the first yoga classes, you will probably be sore because during this practice you are deeply engaging muscles that you usually move only superficially. A great way to alleviate this pain is by getting a massage or going for a swim. The stiffness will easily go away, however, do not let too much time pass before you take another class so that your body will get used to these new movements. If you attend lessons sporadically you will ache every time.

the yoga kit

In most classes you will practice on a mat and you will have ‘props’ close to you (props can be a block, a pillow and a strap). These objects can help acheive the correct outcome of the postures, especially in the beginning, when your body is not yet that flexible.

The pillow is a soft prop and is used to support the knees and the hips in some sitting positions. The block, usually made of wood or foam, is used to place hands or to support the back. When bending forward and your hands do not touch the floor, it is possible to place them on the block instead. The strap is a kind of extension of the arms. There are positions in which you will have your leg stretched and are unable to hold your foot with your hand. By putting the strap at the sole of your foot it helps to hold the position.

The props allow a gradual development of the practice so that it is possible to gain flexibility and ensure the complete benefit of the postures.


During your first class you may be overwhelmed by the number of yoga postures and also by the strange vocabulary. Some instructors use Sanskrit, the ancient religious and classical language of India, while others will use English instead. In both cases the lexicon will sound new to you.

You soon will notice that the word asana recurs often. It means posture in Sanskrit and when preceded by another term refers to a specific position (siddhasana means ‘sitting pose’).

English names of the poses often contain references to animals (‘downward-facing dog,‘ ‘crane,’ ‘monkey’), natural entities (‘half-moon,’ ‘mountain’) or tools (‘plow,’ ‘bridge’). It is a great way to visualize and associate the physical movements to the posture's name. Moreover, while holding the pose it helps to focus on the image. Try to imitate a cobra or a tree and see if the correspondent positions in yoga match your interpretation.

calming the mind

Generally, at the beginning or at the end of the yoga lesson, you will be asked to spend some time seated or lying. This is a time to relax and breath while you have your eyes closed. It is usually a very pleasant moment because you are loosening up your body and trying to have your mind free of thoughts. This is also sometimes the most difficult task of the exercises. There is not a standard recipe to avoid distractions and everyone should find her/his own way to calm their mind.

It is quite improbable to have a clear and empty mind the first times you practice yoga, so try to focus on something related to the yoga practice. It could be the act of breathing (Is it short or long, relaxed or excited, deep or slight?). You could also observe what your body is feeling. Whatever method you choose, make sure that any other issues do not disturb your mental repose.

If you decide to embark on a yoga experience you will soon notice physical benefits like increased flexibility and better balance. Both improve the skeleton's postures and the motion of the limbs, and also help relaxing the muscles and prevent injuries.

In addition, you can look at yoga as a metaphor for the attitude we have towards life. It is worth observing how we react to physical obstacles or limits during the practice. We may want to overcome it at any cost, but is that tenacity, obstinacy or determination? On the other hand, we may give up easily, so does this mean that we are afraid? Or that we feel inadequate? These subtle distinctions make a great difference. How do we deal with endurance? Do we take care of our body and mind?

The practice of yoga can not only achieve physical well-being, but can also bring balance to some aspects. Whether you consider practicing yoga as a new personal challenge or even if you just want to learn how to relax better, you may see that your first intentions will soon grow into other goals. •

March-April 2014