What is Yoga and what gear do I need?
Learning More about Yoga and Important Gear for You
Yoga has taken the Western world by storm. While it has been practiced in various forms for centuries in Eastern nations, it did not become popular in Europe and the United States until the 20th century. What is yoga and how can it benefit you? What should you know about gear and equipment needed for this practice? First, let's delve into what yoga is and then we'll learn more about the equipment you should consider purchasing.
What It Is and Is Not
Yoga is both a physical and mental discipline. However, it is not a religious one – those of any faith can practice yoga without worrying that it might go against any of their core tents or beliefs. Yoga is about strengthening the mind and body, and about improving both mental and physical health.
Of course, there is a connection between yoga and Hinduism, as well as between yoga and Buddhism. However, Western yoga does not include religious exercises and is aimed and promoting harmony and health within an individual.
Different Schools of Yoga
There are many different types, or schools, of yoga out there. Each of these different schools has a different goal for its teachings. For instance, if you were to become involved in Hindu yoga, then your goal would be Moksha, or the liberation of your spirit from the world and from the traditional cycle of life. If you were involved in bhakti, then a relationship with Vishnu is the goal.
However, most Western yoga classes use the physical and mental exercises of the art as a way to relieve stress, to promote physical wellbeing and better physical and mental health.
What Is Yoga?
Yoga is basically a series of poses or postures. These poses incorporate stretching, as well as meditation, balance, flexibility, stamina and strength. Different styles of yoga include different uses for these poses, so you will need to ensure that you choose the right style for your goals.
Hatha yoga is a slow, gentle type of exercise that is ideal for beginners, as well as for seniors and those who may have physical disabilities. It's the best introduction to the world of yoga. Vinsaya yoga is a bit more vigorous, and includes breathing techniques that must be synchronized with various poses. Ashtanga yoga is a very intense style, and is not a good fit for those not in good physical condition. A derivative of this class is "power yoga." Iyengar focuses on bodily alignment during each pose, and is slower than Ashtanga, but does require stamina as poses are often held for longer periods of time. This is also the type of yoga in which you will use the most numerous props, such as blocks, straps and blankets.
Kundalini yoga focuses on freeing inner energy through concerted physical movements and breathing techniques. Bikram yoga is one that focuses on sweating and loosening muscles by practicing in a hot room (up to 100 degrees). Viniyoga is a personalized program in which you will work directly with a teacher, rather than working as an entire class. Anusara yoga combines positivity with physical movements, and is good for releasing stress and inducing happiness.
Jivamukti is a distinctly Western style that uses meditation, spiritual instruction and chanting in conjunction with traditional poses. Forrest yoga is a new type that focuses in increasing strength as well as purity. Kripalu combines hatha yoga with Western health and wellness thought.
Types of Equipment Needed
While yoga does not require a wide range of different equipment, you will find that most types do require at least a few things. The most common piece of equipment needed is a yoga mat. This is the surface on which you will perform your poses in most instances. Many yoga classes will provide a mat for beginners, but having your own is always a good option. Generally, they are not particularly thick or heavy, but are designed to help enhance comfort during the class.
Yoga straps are used to help make your poses simpler to achieve, and can be useful for almost anyone. Yoga blocks are used when doing poses to provide better balance and support. Gloves are useful for some people and can help provide better grip on blocks and the floor, while an inflatable ball can help you with balance, as well.