Yoga is a very popular practice in modern times and it often seems like you can find a yoga studio on nearly every corner of the world! But although we all have an idea of what yoga is from seeing it portrayed in movies and on TV, yoga is actually a very complex practice with many different elements to it.
For a beginner, it can be difficult to know where to start with this practice. But a great place to start your yoga practice is by learning some of the base yoga poses like downward facing dog and cobra pose. Contrary to popular belief, yoga is much more than just the physical poses, it also incorporates breathing exercises, meditation, and philosophy. So, to understand all aspects of yoga and begin your holistic yoga practice, here is an overview of the 4 key elements of yoga practice for beginners:
Asana – The Poses
Asana is essentially the practice of the physical poses. This is the aspect of yoga that most people are familiar with. Asana practice generally consists of a sequence of poses that are both standing and sitting. Many yoga asana classes begin with sun salutations or a flowing sequence of poses aimed at waking up the body. Some of the most popular asanas are downward-facing dog pose, boat pose, cobra pose, and warrior 2 pose.
Pranayama – The Breathing Exercises
Pranayama is the practice of breathing exercises in a yoga class. Many yoga classes will have a separate time at the beginning or end of the class to practice some basic breathing exercises. However, some yoga classes incorporate breathing exercises throughout the entire class and the teacher will often cue you to move your body in combination with your breath. Breath awareness is an essential component of yoga practice because it helps you to move into a more mindful and relaxing state of awareness.
Dhyana – Meditation
Meditation is also a key practice of yoga and is commonly incorporated into a yoga class through the final resting pose called savasana. Savasana is often every person’s favorite pose of a yoga class because all you need to do is lie flat on your back and relax your entire body. Although many people use this time for a quick nap, it is best to try to practice meditation during this pose. Meditation is an essential component of yoga practice because it can deepen the mental benefits and help calm down your nervous system.
The Eight Limbs of Yoga – The Philosophy
Besides the physical aspects of yoga practice, yoga is actually an intricate philosophical system that provides a set of principles for how to live your life in a healthier way. Yoga philosophy is a very broad subject and consists of 8 limbs or aspects, but the most important aspect of yoga philosophy to understand is the 2 limbs of the Yamas and Niyamas. The Yamas and Niyamas are essentially ethical principles for living your life in a more compassionate and peaceful way so that you can move closer to inner awakening or self-actualization.
How to Practice Holistic Yoga for Beginners
As shown, there are many different components of yoga practice and as you move deeper into yoga it is good to try to delve more into these various topics. But for a beginner, the best way to start your yoga practice is by focusing on the physical poses or asanas. Once you begin to move your body in a more mindful way through the physical poses, you can gradually begin to incorporate more breath awareness and breathing exercises as well. There are many different styles of yoga to try, ranging from slow to fast, so make sure to investigate these different styles to find what works best for you.
A trained yoga teacher should be able to skillfully guide you through these various practices and components of a yoga class as well so that you don’t need to keep so many things in your mind all at once. To get started on your yoga practice, try visiting your local yoga studio or check out some free yoga classes online, like Youtube.
Yoga has many different elements to it and as a beginner, you do not need to be too concerned with some of these deeper practices. But over time, try to explore the different parts of yoga so that you can gain the many benefits of this holistic practice to your body, mind, and soul!