Frequently asked questions about yoga
Where do I start?

Choosing a yoga class to start is a daunting task with all the advertisements and hype. Choosing a yoga class is similar to choosing a mortgage company - don't waste too much time doing research. Set a deadline of one month to research classes in your area and then just go ahead and join one for a trial period. If you find that the teacher does not satisfy the guidelines, that I have outlined in Choosing a Teacher then quit and join the next one in your list. It should not take you long to find a good teacher. There are plenty out there.

Can I learn yoga from a book?

No you cannot, just like you cannot learn baseball or golf from a book? Most yogic postures are precise and if not done properly, will not give the maximum benefit. Yes, after attending several yoga classes and learning the postures, you can always practice from a book.

For how long should I practice everyday?

In my experience you should devote at least 4 hours every week to regular yoga practice in the beginning. Once you see the short and long term benefits, you can reduce the practice to 3 hours per week. If you don't have enough time in a single day you can always break up your practice into 30 minute sessions per day. You should cover the full yoga postures routine in the whole week. Remember to always do at least 10 minutes of Shavasana (corpse pose) after every yoga session. But never stop practicing yoga, make it a lifetime activity.

I have not done any stretching or bending since years. Can I still do yoga?

Sure you can. Just remember to take it easy in the beginning. Tell the teacher that you have never done any yoga before. Yoga is not intense as many people believe. At the beginner's level, yoga is very gentle. As you progress, the teacher will introduce you to more intense stretches.

Can I get hurt while doing yoga?

You can also get hurt while reaching out to get that cookie jar from the top shelf!! Yoga is no exception. Even the best and careful teacher cannot prevent you from getting hurt if you do not follow the simple guideline of yoga. That guideline is pretty simple : 'Listen to your body'. A good teacher WILL tell you to follow that guideline. Don't be embassared to take rest in the middle of a yoga session if you think you need it. And don't worry if your neighbor in the yoga class is able to touch her head to the knee and you cannot even get within 2 feet of your knee. 'No competition' is another guideline in yoga.

When will I see benefits?

Yoga has immediate benefits and long term ones. People just beginning yoga almost always notice the immediate benefits within one or two weeks of practice. These include relief from lower back pain, neck pains, sciatica and leg pains. The long term benefits are more subtle and include relief from allergies, asthma, hypertension, stress and a general feeling of more happiness and well being. The long term benefits appear after a around six months of regular practice.

How long will it take me to do a difficult pose like the head stand?

Don't even think along those lines. Progress in yoga is not measured by your ability to do difficult poses but rather by the health benefits. In principle even a novice can be taught to do the head stand after a few weeks of dedicated instruction but that is not the goal of yoga. What is the use of yoga if you can do the head stand but still did not get rid of your allergies.

So then what is the purpose of learning a difficult pose like head stand?

The head stand has enormous benefits but not if you get hurt doing it!! A good yoga teacher will introduce such difficult poses after he has seen you progress into more flexibility. A flexible physique is needed before you can go deeper into a pose or do more difficult poses. Regular practice is paramount. It takes years of regular practice before you can safely do head stands or extreme bends. Once the teacher notices such progress he/she will automatically introduce you to the difficult poses or add the intensive motions to poses you already know.

Is it neccessary to perform a relaxation pose after yoga?

Absolutely. Even if you cannot finish your yoga session always keep at least 10 minutes at the end for Shavasana (look in the Postures section). If you performed yoga correctly you gave a lot of stuff for your mind, muscles and organs to absorb. Shavasana allows the mind, muscles and organs to recover back from their activated states. This is especially important for the mind to make it ready for the more mundane activities of the day. In addition, Shavasana promotes stress relief in itself, therefore you can perform it even independently.

I have been attending yoga classes for sometime now. Why am I not noticing much improvement in my health?

From my experience this is usually due to a 'mindset' problem. Get rid of the mindset that 'yoga is exercise'. The mind and breath play a major role. Look again at the Choosing a Teacher and the Yoga Gems links. Yoga is a holistic system - the word 'holistic' is derived from the word 'whole'. Unless you really look at your mind and body as one integrated system you will not perform yoga with the right technique and attitude. A good yoga teacher will always take a holistic approach to teaching yoga.

I still don't understand. How can the right attitude help in yoga?

Let me explain. One of the Yoga Gems that I have listed says "Watch, Observe, Feel". When you go into a pose, close your eyes and deeply observe the pose, feel the stretch in the muscles and breathe deeply. Have you noticed sometimes, when you are listening to a lecture, a particular sentence grabs your attention and gets embedded in your memory forever while the rest of the lecture sort of flows over your head. In a similar way, when you observe and feel a pose, its effects become more permanent and get integrated into your constitution.

I can understand how yoga helps muscles and flexibility but how exactly does it help with health problems like allergies and hypertension?

Do you think you were in better health five years ago? The answer is almost always 'Yes'. What happened that made you less healthy in these five years. Something happened for sure right? Yoga is a process that takes you back to what you were five or ten years ago by undoing all the abuse you have heaped on you body. Let us take just one example of the psoas muscle. Here is a quote from "Buried deep within the core of your body, the psoas affects every facet of your life, from your physical well-being to who you feel yourself to be and how you relate to the world...Whether you suffer from a sore back or anxiety, from knee strain or exhaustion, there's a good chance that a constricted psoas muscle might be contributing to your woes". A muscle affecting your anxiety levels? You bet. Remember the word holistic always. You are one large integrated system and a problem in one part causes problems in the other parts.

But what about more complex problems like multiple sclerosis, acne or Parkinson's disease?

Once again I ask you the same question - Did you have acne 5 years ago? B.K.S. Iyengar the grand old man of Yoga and author of the excellent book 'Light on Yoga' talks about the 'soak and squeeze' effect of yoga postures. Many yoga postures cause our internal organs to get squeezed and get released again when we come out of the pose. This 'soak and squeeze' effect causes fresh blood to flow into that organ thus rejuvenating it. The root cause of problems like acne is an inefficient circulation and healing system. The supply of fresh blood to the organs causes them to work more efficiently thus curing the very root of the problem. In addition to this, yogic postures when combined with breathing practices (see Pranayama) cleans up the nerves thus further improving the efficiency of our body's communication network.

But then what about general happiness? How can yoga make us happy?

Ah Ha! now we are getting somewhere! That is why this web site is called ''. Believe me, the regular practice of yoga will make you a happier person. Firstly better health will take you out of the vicious circle of pain and mental anguish. But there is much more. As you progress on the path of yoga and go on to practice more advanced breathing techniques like Ujjayi, Bhastrika and Nadi Sodhana Pranayamas and deep relaxation techniques like Yoga Nidra, happiness will embrace you. Here is where no scientific explanations are possible. This is just from experience. Trust in that deep inner intelligence called 'Prana' in Sanksrit or 'Chi' in Chinese medicine or 'Ki' in Japanese (as in Reiki). Deep within you somewhere there is an image of your good health and happiness. Yoga will connect you with that image.

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