Yoga background and Primary Series

by Christine on April 28th, 2010

filed under Exercise, General Information

Bootcamp came to an end for me last week, and to take its place I decided to sign up for yoga. I know, it’s hardly the cardio workout that bootcamp is. I plan on supplementing the workout with some gym workouts. (Gotta spice things up, right?)  I love yoga though, and I’ve been missing its place in my life.

I was a little bit spoiled because I began taking yoga classes from a really great Ashtanga yoga instructor. I felt a little uncomfortable at first for the male instructor to walk behind me, put his hands on me, and adjust my stance accordingly. I don’t like strange people touching me — I’ve got real social phobia issues associated with it. However, I soon learned that there’s an incredible benefit to having proper position. Not only do you cut down on the chance of injuring yourself, but much of the time you can go further into the poses than you would have before.

Syntactically, yoga has many meanings. The word is derived from the Sanskrit yoj meaning “to control,” which is a definition I prefer. Yoga is all about control – controlling your body in the poses, controlling the pain, controlling your mind, controlling your breathing.  An alternate root from which the word is derived may be yujir samadhau which means “contemplation” or “absorption.” This, too, fits the practice of yoga; without contemplation, the practice is only half fulfilled. To me, yoga is also the absorption of meditation with physical being.

Most yoga courses follow a Hatha yoga form of instruction; at least, my yoga classes did so.  Hatha yoga combines moral discipline, postures, purification, breathing, and meditation. Hatha represents hot and cold energies flowing through the body (think of fire and water, or yin and yang, positive and negative.)  The goal is to balance the body and the mind of these opposite forces.

If you are looking to start a yoga practice, start with the Primary Series of poses, which is called Yoga Chikitsa. This series of poses builds strength and flexibility and stamina.  After your practice develops, you can move along to the Second Series, called Nadi Shodana. This series strengthens the nervous system. It’s essentially the same as the Primary Series, but goes further into the poses and periodically offers new poses and variations.   The four advanced series are called Sthira Bhaga, which I’ve never done but would love to try someday when my practice gets stronger.

If you are interested in checking out the Primary Series, check these PDFs out:

If you are just starting off, it’s best to have a better visual (than mere PDFs) because proper posture is SO important.  This YouTube video is a decent depiction of just a few poses in the Primary Series:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAaHx5qsqhY (60 minutes long)

This YouTube video series is something like a 17 part series (each segment is only about 10 minutes long, though, so don’t be too intimidated) that shows different poses. His physique is enough to inspire anybody! There is a strong emphasis on learning to do the Sun Salutation properly. The first video in the series is here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SsiwAw6OcZ0&feature=related

There is so much that could be said about yoga: its background, the people, the poses, the meditation, the different branches of it, etc.  The great thing about yoga is that it can be modified to fit your goals, stage in life, fitness ability, desire for meditation, etc. It is intrinsically a custom-built program! Why don’t you give it a try today?

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