How To Dress + A Beginner's Guide To Yoga
Yoga has many physical and mental benefits, so it is important to be aware of the different forms of yoga, standard yoga poses, and best practices surrounding attire and equipment.
Yoga is a combination of physical, mental, and spiritual disciplines. Yoga originated in India, and the literal meaning of the word translates to “union.” Throughout the years, yoga has adapted into many different forms and common practices that exist today. Below we outline a few of the most popular types and provide some basic guidance on how to start your yoga journey.
BREAKING DOWN DIFFERENT TYPES OF YOGA
There are a variety of different types of yoga. Each style differs slightly from the other and there are certain variations and hybrids of each. In order to understand which type of yoga will work best for you, it is important to understand the more common variations of yoga including:
Hatha: Hatha is a type of yoga that refers to all the other physical postures of yoga. Developed in Southeast Asia, Hatha is a beginner-level type of yoga that is slower-paced and focuses on breathing and exercise. Hatha is one of the most popular forms of yoga.
Vinyasa: The term Vinyasa translates to “to place in a special way” and this form of yoga focuses on breathing during the movement between poses. Vinyasa is taught in many different ways, but it is typically alignment-based. This is a good entry-level yoga practice.
Yin: Yin is a type of yoga that is done from a seated position. Yin is focused on holding poses for long periods of time. This is a great meditative yoga practice that is meant for all types of experience types.
Ashtanga: Ashtanga is a type of yoga that links breathing to movement in a physically demanding manner. This form of yoga combines a variety of standing and lying postures that requires high levels of yoga experience.
Iyengar: Iyengar focuses on alignment and precise movements. Iyengar was created by B.K.S. Iyengar and taught in a manner that focuses on a variety of postures with small modifications and a large emphasis on breathing. Iyengar is great for those who are recovering from injury or those who move methodically
Kundalini: Kundalini yoga refers to a balance of spiritual and physical methodologies. This style puts an emphasis on the core and breathing while performing fast-paced exercises that sometimes include chanting, mantra, and meditation. This type of yoga would be ideal for individuals with intermediate to high levels of experience in yoga.
NOTE: This list is not extensive, and there are many different variations of yoga out there. You are more than welcome to practice a combination of the types as well. Yoga is unique and individualistic to different practitioners.
EXPLORING BASIC YOGA POSES
It is stated that there are 8,400,000 asanas—or yoga poses—that were created by Shiva. Various poses are associated with different techniques, levels of complexity, and purposes, so it is important to look into the common types of yoga poses including:
Downward Dog: This pose is one of the most known postures that is considered a standing position wherein you are bent over putting your hands in front of your body. The body becomes shaped like a V, and it focuses on stretching the hands, shoulders, hamstrings, calves, and arches of the feet.
Cobra: The cobra pose is a lying position that stretches the spine, chest, shoulders, abdomen, buttocks, and lungs. The position requires you to lay prone, then place your feet, hips, and hands flat on the ground while straightening the arms to lift the chest off the floor.
Bridge: The bridge focuses on the core and back pain by lying on your back and placing the weight of your body onto the shoulders, arms, and feet while pushing your hips off of the floor with your core.
Crescent Lunge: This pose focuses on stretching the legs, groin, hip flexors, torso, and shoulders. The crescent lunge is often an extension of downward dog wherein one of the back legs is brought forward between your hands. You then bend your knee at 90 degrees and lift your chest and back knee off the ground while facing upward;
Child’s Pose: Child’s pose is positioning your back facing the ground with your knees tucked into your chest, your head resting on the ground, and your arms holding your knees. The child’s pose is great for conscious breathing and is often used as the resting position between more strenuous poses, stretching the hips, thighs, ankles, and back.
HOW TO DRESS FOR YOGA
Yoga requires a degree of flexibility, so understanding how to dress for the occasion can seem confusing. Certain clothing can restrict your yoga practice, so wearing the appropriate clothing is a must for getting the most out of your yoga experience. For example, wearing the best yoga pants—or alternatively, wearing the best joggers—can help you maximize your experience. Yoga attire should be loose and flowing, or tight to the body and stretchable. Some examples of acceptable yoga attire include:
- Stretchy t-shirts
- Yoga pants
- Gym shorts
- Tank tops
- Spandex/Compression shorts
For women, wearing the best underwear as well as the best sports bras to do yoga is important for staying comfortable, wicking moisture, and being able to maintain focus on breathing and stretching — rather than on bodily discomfort. Wearing less suitable clothing won’t prohibit you from joining in, though it can get in the way. For example, wearing an oversized t-shirt may seem like a viable option (since it is loose and flowing), but during certain poses, the shirt may fall into your face and become an awkward distraction.
PACKING FOR YOGA
In some cases, yoga instructors will provide items such as a yoga mat, resistance bands, or towels; nevertheless, it is important to understand what to pack when going to a yoga session. The most important item for yoga is the mat. The mat is the only item between you and the hard floor when practicing yoga, so you want to be aware of the best yoga mats available to you. Other items to consider are resistance bands, a reusable water bottle, a muscle roller, a towel, and a gym bag.
BENEFITS OF YOGA
Improves Flexibility. As you age, you tend to become less flexible. Flexibility is a key aspect of yoga, and it is important because it improves mobility, coordination—and most importantly—reduces the risk of injury and muscle fatigue/soreness. There are professional athletes that train with yoga in order to improve flexibility and a variety of other benefits.
Calms The Mind. When you focus on breathing during your stretching, your body may begin to feel at ease. Many use yoga as a coping mechanism for stress or mental illness. To elaborate, a study done by Harvard Medical highlights how yoga is used for anxiety and depression, finding that, when your mind is at ease, there are both physical and mental benefits that manifest.
Helps With Posture. Yoga helps build better posture by strengthening the muscles throughout the body and creating body awareness. When you strengthen muscles and become more in touch with your body it becomes easier to recognize and fix bad posture as a whole. Opening image: Photo by Dane Wetton on Unsplash