Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs
What does yoga mean?
Literally translated, yoga means “yoke”and represents the union of two sides of the coin – body and mind. At least 5000 years old, yoga promotes and maintains physical and mental health, flexibility and youthfulness. The Sanskrit word hatha means “union of opposites” (ha means “sun,” tha means “moon”). Hatha yoga combines physical poses (asanas), deep breathing (pranayama) and meditation (dhyana). Hatha yoga, the “yoga of activity,” is one of the most well-known forms of yoga and is the basis of many other styles of yoga.
What are some other styles of yoga and how do I know which is right for me?
Try different classes, talk to instructors and yoga students to hear about their experiences. Some of the better known types are:
- Ashtanga – aka, power yoga; it is athletic and not recommended for beginners
- Bikram – 26 yoga poses performed in a series; often called “hot yoga” because the room temperature is high
- Iyengar – poses are held for long amounts of time and body alignment is stressed; props (blocks, straps) are often used
- Kripalu – a slower meditative form of yoga; use of breathing is central
- Kundalini – combines poses, breathing and chanting; designed to awaken stored energy
- Viniyoga – a gentle form of yoga that emphasizes the breath
- Vinyasa – free-flowing yoga that emphasizes movement
I'm not in great shape. Is yoga ok for me?
Check with a medical professional before starting any sort of exercise routine, even one as seemingly gentle as yoga. Be sure to tell the instructor about any health issues or physical limitations so that he or she can guide you safely and offer modifications and/or alternate poses that are equally as beneficial.
Can you give me three good reasons to do yoga?
You bet! Yoga:
- Increases flexibility.
- Calms the mind and reduces stress.
- Promotes balance – physically, mentally and emotionally.
- Bonus reason! Yoga promotes overall vitality and health.
Can I use the yoga decks if I've never done yoga?
The decks are designed for anyone – from beginners to advanced practitioners. It’s still a good idea to take a class so you can experience the postures and see the correct way to do them. Although the illustrations and directions on the cards are clear, it’s possible you could misinterpret something. The Yoga Deck and The Yoga Deck II are not designed to be used instead of a yoga class but in addition to a class.
I’ve heard about “om” in conjunction with yoga. What does it mean?
The Sanskrit symbol \ (what we call “om”) has several meanings: the sound of all sounds, the sacred sound of the Universe, and the sound of creation. It is past, present, and future. If you have heard om being chanted, or have chanted it yourself, you may be aware of its extraordinary energy and vibration. (If you’ve never chanted before and feel self-conscious, start by repeating “om” silently; as you feel more comfortable, begin chanting aloud, gradually increasing the volume.) The sound of om has 4 parts: ah (corresponds to the waking state); oh (corresponds to the dreaming state); mmm (corresponds to the deep sleeping state); and silence (represents ultimate reality). Repeating the sound of om is a great way to release tension.
Is yoga safe to do during pregnancy?
Yoga is one of the best things an expectant mother can do for herself and her baby. It can help a woman cope with the demands and stresses placed on her body as the pregnancy develops and can prepare mothers-to-be for birth and labor. Of course, check with your doctor first.
How can yoga help during pregnancy?
Yoga promotes fitness and flexibility, tones the pelvic area, increases circulation, works the cardiovascular system, helps with breath control, and balances body/mind energies. A healthy, flexible body along with a clear, calm mind are tools that can be called upon during labor and birth, when it is important to release tension, relax muscles and remain calm.
I know how important breathing is during labor. Are breathing exercises included in The Prenatal Yoga Deck?
There are 10 breathing exercises in the deck. Full, even breathing is one of the most important things you can do. It helps slow the mind, calm the emotions and focus on the present. Start incorporating breathing into your routine now so it can be more easily called upon during delivery. The deck also features 10 meditation cards to help promote peace and serenity.
Can I continue to do yoga later into my pregnancy?
Again, check with your doctor first but you should be able to continue a yoga practice – with modifications – as your pregnancy progresses. After the 5th month of pregnancy (20 weeks), you should limit the time you spend in back-lying positions. Simply spending time each day sitting with a straight spine and breathing deeply is extremely beneficial.
What does chakra mean and what are the chakras?
Chakra is Sanskrit for “wheel” or “circle.” The chakras are energy centers that Eastern cultures recognize as crucial to our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health. It is through these centers that energy is received, processed and transmitted. Illness, trauma and stress can cause imbalances (blockages and/or deficiencies) that can result in an array of ailments and disturbances.
What are the seven chakras?
There are actually hundreds of chakras in and around our bodies but we focus mainly on the 7 major chakras: Root, Sacral, Navel Solar Plexus, Heart, Throat, Third Eye, and Crown. The first 3 chakras, the lower triangle, may be thought of as our foundation. Grounded in the physical realm, they cover basic life necessities: security, survival, sexuality, creativity, intimacy, identity, and ego. The fourth chakra, the Heart chakra, represents love and compassion and is the bridge to the 3 upper chakras, the higher triangle, which is associated with a more spiritual realm: expression, core truths, divine wisdom, intuition, connection to the higher self, and transcendence.
Do I have to know which chakras may be out of balance?
It isn’t necessary to know which chakras are unbalanced, whether they are deficient or excessive or what is the cause. Chakras can be cleared, rebalanced and energized through yoga postures, deep breathing and meditation, as well as the use of sound, gemstones, certain foods, and flower essences.
What can I expect if I work with my chakras?
As the chakras begin to clear, you may find that habitual thought patterns start to change, emotions may shift, new actions and reactions occur. You may experience increased energy and perceive things more clearly or differently. Working with the chakras is a transformational tool that can greatly enhance your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health.
Why should I stretch?
Stretching is the best way to promote and maintain flexibility. As we age, flexibility may decrease due to habitual ways of holding and/or lack of use. The tendons (which connect muscle to bone) are not being used through the full range of motion and begin to tighten. This reduces flexibility, restricts movement, and can result in muscle imbalance. A regular program of stretching can counteract this, resulting in increased suppleness and improved coordination.
Who should stretch?
Everyone! It is beneficial for those who don’t consider themselves naturally flexible and whose muscles are tight. Office workers won’t feel as stiff after long hours spent at the computer, sitting at meetings, or commuting. It also can help prevent repetitive stress injuries. Athletes will experience improved performance levels, less muscle soreness, and a better chance of preventing common injuries. Whatever age or shape you’re in, stretching will improve your flexibility and mobility, your muscles will be more supple, stiffness and pain will be reduced, and you’ll enjoy better range of motion and coordination.
Stretching seems so easy. Is there anything special I should know?
- Stretch regularly – a minimum of 3 days a week.
- Warm up before you stretch. A light warm-up (3-5 minutes, enough to increase heart rate and circulation slightly) that addresses the areas you intend to stretch will prepare your body and decrease the possibility of injury.
- Stretch slowly and gently. Each stretch should be gradual, elongating connective tissues and muscles. Once you feel the stretch, hold it for 10-15 seconds, focusing on the area being stretched.
- Don’t overstretch, bounce or jerk. This causes muscles to tighten rather than relax, which could result in physical damage (microscopic tearing of the muscle fibers). Muscles become sore and stiffen, leading to loss of elasticity…the opposite of what you want to achieve.
What if I feel pain when I stretch?
If you feel pain or your muscles tremble, ease off. Aim for a slow, steady, relaxed stretch that you can sustain without overexertion or discomfort. Stretch to where you feel mild tension, not pain.
When I work out, I often skip the stretching part. Is it really important to stretch?
As mentioned above, stretching loosens muscles and tendons and prepares your body for the upcoming workout. After you’ve exercised, stretching is a great way to cool down and prevent muscles from tightening by gradually allowing them to return to their normal resting length.
What kinds of exercises can you do on a fitness ball?
A lot! And many are exercises you’re probably familiar with: abdominal crunches, bicep curls, squats, push-ups. The difference is a fitness ball is an unstable platform (i.e., it rolls!) You have to use your core stabilizer muscles to stay on the ball as you move…it’s like two exercises in one!
What do you mean, "two exercises in one"?
Consider “just” sitting on the ball. With nothing to lean on, you’re forced to sit up straight, engaging your core stabilizer muscles (abdominal, pelvic and back muscles). Slight movements (even those caused by breathing) mean constant adjustments to maintain your balance. If you add light hand weights for bicep curls, you’ll be working your bicep muscles while maintaining your balance through utilizing your core. The result is not just bigger biceps but improved posture and postural awareness, stronger abs and better balance.
What if I fall off the ball?
Until you get more accustomed to working with a fitness ball you might want to place the ball against a wall. Don’t lean your body against the wall or you’ll lose the benefit of using core abdominal muscles. A covered surface (mat or carpet) may also assist with stability as will separating your legs wider when sitting on the ball.
So many people seem to have back problems. What’s up?
Back problems are the second most frequent reason to see a doctor. It accounts for 25% of absenteeism rates, and in industrialized countries a whopping 80% of the population will suffer from it at some point. Collectively, the US spends around $50 million a year in search of relief. Low back pain is the most prevalent cause of disability for people under the age of 45. The causes are many: injury, trauma, illness, degenerative disorders, conditions such as arthritis and spinal deformities as well as muscular tension, poor posture, insufficient rest, lack of exercise, ergonomic problems, nutritional deficiencies, and stress.
What kinds of things help prevent back problems?
When it comes to prevention, a regular program of proper exercise and stretching, followed by relaxation is the best thing you can do to keep your back strong and flexible. Remember: you’re only as young as your spine is strong!
What else can I do?
In a word (or three!), strengthen your core. Strong abdominal muscles support your back. Proper sitting is also important. We’ve heard it a million times: “Sit up straight. Don’t slouch.” It turns out that advice is only partially correct. Slouching is indeed a no-no, causing wear and tear on the lower spine. However, the vertical pressure caused by sitting upright (with your back at a 90° angle) for long periods of time can also damage the spine, forcing discs and muscles out of alignment. When possible, sit with your back tilted slightly – at about a 30° angle, which reduces pressure on your low back. But try not to sit too much. Get up at least once an hour and walk and stretch.
What if I’m already suffering from a bad back?
Check with a medical professional for advice about what kinds of exercises might be helpful, or conversely, harmful. Don’t do anything that causes undue pain.