What is yoga?
The word “Yoga” comes from Sanskrit, one of the world’s oldest languages, and means union. It is an integrative system of health balancing body, mind, emotion, and spirit. Today, most Yoga practitioners in the west practice Hatha Yoga, the physical aspect of Yoga which focuses primarily on physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation. The reasons for practicing are many: some take Yoga as a spiritual pathway, others as a form of exercise, and still others for the benefits of relaxation and stress-relief. Regardless of your reasons for practicing, Yoga is a diverse and individual practice that brings a myriad of benefits to all.
What are the benefits of yoga?
“Words cannot convey the value of Yoga. It has to be experienced.” — B.K.S. Iyengar,Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health
The benefits are many! At its most basic, practicing Yoga regularly will tone the body, increase flexibility, build stamina, and invigorate the system. A regular Yoga practice can also help address a wide range of physical problems, such as PMS, arthritis, insomnia, backaches, obesity, and fatigue. In the process of building a Yoga practice, students of Yoga are also likely to discover a number of other benefits. For example, especially when combined with meditation and pranayama (breath control), Yoga helps to counter the effects of stress, bringing mental clarity and a sense of tranquility and well-being.
Because Yoga is such an individualized practice, each person can choose the focus of his or her practice and gain whatever benefits are most desired. See the Top 10 Reasons to Try Yoga from YogaDayUSA.
How often should I practice yoga?
To really enjoy the benefits of yoga, you need to establish a practice. The more often you practice the better. In fact, it’s best to practice yoga every day, regardless of whether you come to a class or do yoga on your own at home. If you are busy, even 20 minutes is enough. And remember that yoga is more than the physical postures; every time you calm your mind by coming back to your breath or take a few minutes in silent meditation, you are practicing yoga. Attending yoga classes is helpful because, with the guidance of a skillful teacher, you can learn more about correct alignment, breathing and relaxation techniques to apply to your daily practice as well as to your life.
Can anyone do yoga?
Yes, yoga is for everyone! Today there are more than 20 million people in North America practicing yoga, according to the Yoga Education and Research Center. Modifications are generally given for whatever level of flexibility and fitness you enjoy. No pose should be painful and you should always inform your instructor if you experience discomfort and/or if you have any pre-existing injuries that limit your mobility. As with any new exercise program, you should consult your doctor if you have any issues that may be affected by Yogic practice. We aim to create a safe, nurturing environment for students to learn and experience at their own level and ability.
I’m not flexible – can I still do yoga?
Yes—Most everyone can practice Yoga. Many people think that they need to be physically flexible to begin Yoga, but Yoga is not just for the young and fit. Of course, it is important to choose a class that is suited to one’s abilities and experience level. So, come with an open mind and discover how your regular yoga practice can help you gain not only flexibility but also strength, coordination, mental clarity, a sense of peace, and a general sense of well-being.
I’m pregnant – can I still do yoga?
Yes. Of course! You should always check with your health care provider before beginning any new physical regimen. Provided you have the go-ahead from your doctor and don’t suffer from any complications or conditions, yoga can be a healthy and beneficial practice during pregnancy. When there is enough demand for it, the studio offers a weekly pre-natal Yoga class. See our Yoga for Pregnancy page for more information.
What should I wear?
You don’t have to buy expensive Yoga or exercise clothing to come to Yoga class. Most importantly, your clothing should be comfortable to allow complete freedom of movement. Typically, sweats and t-shirts are appropriate. However, avoid especially loose clothing, and in particular loose tops, which could become distracting to you during inverted postures.
What should I bring?
As your practice develops, you will probably want to purchase your own Yoga mat, but we have mats and other props available for your use at the studio. Yoga is typically practiced in bare feet, particularly during standing poses, but you may want to wear socks during final relaxation. You should also have a bottle of water in order to stay hydrated during the class; bottled water is available for purchase at the studio for $1.
Can I just show up to a class?
Yes! Most of our classes are ongoing (see list of class descriptions) so you can begin at any time. You do not need to register in advance and can begin attending classes at any time. Just arrive 10-15 minutes prior to the beginning of class to sign-in, pay, and grab a mat if you need one.
Can I observe a class?
From time to time, IUP students ask to observe a yoga class in fulfillment of course requirements for an exercise science class. While we do not allow someone to sit and watch, which can feel invasive for those taking the class, for $5 students are welcome to participate in the class, take notes if needed and talk with the instructor and ask questions afterward. It is best to let us know in advance, so we can advice you which class would be most appropriate and so instructors can plan to make time to talk afterward. Just call the studio beforehand at 724-388-6327 to make an appointment.
Will yoga conflict with my religious beliefs?
No. While the word, ‘Yoga’ does refer to a number of spiritual practices developed in Hinduism, Hatha Yoga – the practice of physical postures – is not a religious activity. Rather, it is a system of stretching and balancing poses, breathing and meditation practices, that aims to increase flexibility, strength and the ability to relax.
What is the meaning of the word “Namaste”?
Anyone who has taken a Yoga class will be familiar with this term, most often uttered aloud by both teacher and students at the close of the Yoga practice. Namaste (nah-mah-STAY), like many other Yoga terms, is Sanskrit in origin. Namaste is a greeting and literally means “I salute and honor you.” The connotation, however, goes even further, acknowledging the divine force that vibrates through every living thing and through all of nature.
What is “Om” and why is it chanted?
Om is a mantra or vibration that is traditionally chanted at the beginning and end of Yoga sessions. It is said to be the sound of the universe. Everything that exists in the universe pulsates, creating a rhythmic vibration that ancient yogis acknowledged with the sound of Om.
What are Sun Salutations?
Sun Salutation (Surya-Namaskar) – Derived from the Sanskrit words “surya” meaning sun, and “namaskar” which stems from the word “namas” meaning “to bow to” or “to salute.” Traditionally done in early morning, sun salutations provide the opportunity to greet the day, to give thanks for the warmth and light and sustenance the sun provides. Today sun salutations can be done any time and are very often part of a yoga practice. For a common variation of a sun salutation sequence, see http://yogasite.com/sunsalute.htm.
What is the significance of the number 108 (as in 108 Sun Salutations)?
The number 108 has been considered sacred for thousands of years in India. The Hindu prayer necklaces contain 108 beads, each one representing an individual mantra or prayer. Chinese Buddhists and Taoists also use a 108 bead mala. In yoga, it is believed that our heart center is where the soul resides. From the heart center 108 channels, called Nadis, radiate out to all parts of the subtle body. By chanting a mantra 108 times, the energy of the mantra enters each of those channels so that it reaches all parts of the body, having a spiritually transformative effect. Likewise, coming together as a group to welcome each new season and cycling through 108 sun salutations provides the opportunity for a challenging physical workout as well as a focused, meditative experience.
What is the difference between Yoga and Pilates?
Yoga is a holistic and integrative system developed nearly 3,500 years ago that incorporates a number of practices (physical postures, breathing techniques, meditation) and offers a range of benefits, among them a greater sense self-awareness and well-being. Derived from Yoga postures, the Pilates exercise system was formulated by Joseph Pilates about 80 years ago for more specific and limited purposes. Pilates focuses mainly on cultivating core strength in the body and lengthening the spine. Practiced for decades by dancers, Pilates has become popular in recent years for its largely aesthetic body sculpting effect.
What is Hot Yoga and does the studio offer this?
Hot Yoga is a style of yoga first introduced by Bikram Choudhury, founder of Bikrim Yoga, which has become popular in the past few years. Following Bikrim’s lead, many studios now offer Hot Yoga classes, a practice of heating a room to anywhere between 95° to 105°F with high humidity to create the conditions for better flexibility and a detoxifying sweat. At the studio we offer “warm yoga” for our Level II Yoga class (based on the primary series of Ashtanga Yoga) Mondays 7:15 – 8:30 pm.