1. What is yoga?

In the West we hear ‘yoga’ and immediately think of the physical postures. These postures, or asanas, were intended to purify the body and provide the physical strength and stamina needed for long periods of meditation. The asanas however, are only one of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. There are seven other limbs that provide guidelines on how to live your life with awareness and integrity (by following a code of ethics), to incorporate a meditation practice and the practice of pranayama (breath control). Collectively the purpose of these Eight Limbs is to teach us inward focus so as to relieve suffering in our lives.

2. What, or who, is a yogi?

Someone who practices yoga is broadly referred to as a yogi (more accurately a male is a yogi, a female is a yogini).

3. What are some of the benefits of yoga?

Both mind and body benefit from yoga:
—helps relieve stress and muscular tension
—quietens the mind
—improves muscle strength
—improves flexibility
—improves posture
—improves spine health
—improves range of motion in joints
—improves cardiovascular health
—improves circulation
—improves balance
—builds stamina and determination
—improves digestion and elimination
—improves bone health
—reduces high blood pressure
—lowers blood sugar
—improves mental clarity
—fills you with a sense of wellbeing
—boosts immune system
—eases pain (issues such as arthritis, back pain, fibromyalgia)
—can help with allergies, colds and minor ailments
—encourages self care and self respect

4. I’m overweight and not very flexible, is yoga for me?

Yes. Yes! Yoga is definitely for you. It’s for you more than the bendy people you see on Instagram:)  Everyone starts where they start. That’s the beauty of yoga. With regular practice and, most importantly, patience with yourself, your flexibility will improve (as will your cardiovascular health, your strength, your weight, your self esteem and your general well being).

5. I’m over 50, is yoga for me?

Yes! Definitely. Same thinking applies here as to being overweight, inflexible, etc. Yoga is for everyone. If you can breathe, you can do yoga. Starting anything new, be it yoga or hitting a golf ball, is best done with the instruction of a professional. So, as long as you’re in the company of a registered yoga teacher (and your doctor has cleared you if necessary), yoga is absolutely for you. It’s for you more than the 20-somethings who have yet to know what joint ache is. I suggest you find a studio/environment where you feel comfortable and seek out teachers who understand the realities of living in a body that’s racked up decades of living. At 56, Yoga Joi’s teacher (that would be me!) totally understands this 🙂

6. The thin, flexible people make me self conscious

They intimidate everyone. Despite the yoga teacher saying the opposite, group classes in big studios can take on a competitive nature and be intimidating. In theory it’s only about you and your journey, but the reality of a group class can be very different. Work on your self acceptance and see if you can overcome the intimidation. Look upon the flexible and beautiful as inspiration.  Or seek out another studio. One that’s a better fit for you. Studios all have different clientele. Yoga Joi private studio is exactly for people who have experienced this type of “I don’t belong here” class.

7. Do I have to be vegetarian to do yoga?

No. This is a very personal choice and confusion probably arises from yoga’s origins in India, where many people are vegetarians.

8. Is yoga a religion?

No. It’s philosophy. The fact that most yoga studios in the Western world have an image of Buddha probably adds to the confusion. Yoga originates from India, where Hinduism, not Buddhism, is the majority religion (although Buddhism is practiced there). More confusion. Yoga will not compete with your existing belief system. Nor do have to study any of it’s philosophical tenants if you have no interest.

9. How often should I do yoga?

It’s very personal. As much as you want, or can find time for. If you can do it every day, awesome. If your schedule means you can fit in once a week, then start there. It’s better than no yoga at all. Don’t let unrealistic goals get in your way. Just start. I think everyone benefits from 15 mins/day rather than a single 90 minute class a week. The important thing here though, is just to do some yoga.

10. How does yoga differ from other forms of exercise?

Initially many are drawn to yoga purely for it’s physical postures, which is great. There are many benefits. However, once you start you may stay, and practice for a lifetime, because of the journey of self discovery that the other limbs of yoga offer. On the physical level, yoga offers you the unique ‘workout’ of connecting movement of the body to the rhythm of the breath. Doing this helps us turn our focus inwards. In this way, we learn much about ourselves and the introspective journey, taken with a non-judgemental mindset, is what helps us find stillness. We learn to calm the busy mind (and every mind is hyper-busy in today’s device-oriented world). We gain the ability to live in the moment, to fill ourselves with kindness and empowerment rather than a range of negative emotions. Your body will develop strength and flexibility by doing the physical postures, but your mind also benefits.

11. What do I bring to class?

Yourself:) At Yoga Joi we provide everything (mat, towel, water, blocks, straps, blankets), but most folks like to bring their own mat. If you’re doing hot yoga then you’ll need a mat towel to soak up the sweat (otherwise you’re mat will become slippery). In commercial studios the services vary, although most will compliment or rent you a yoga mat and maybe even a towell. As a general rule, always take your own sticky yoga mat, a yoga mat towel (for hot yoga), a small towel to wipe your face and, of course, water.

12. How hot is hot yoga

Commercial studios range from 95-104 degrees F with humidity varying from 30%-50%.

13. How do I cope with the hot room?

It can be challenging. If you feel ill or dizzy sit down on your mat and try to calm yourself with your breath. The coolest part of the room is the floor. If sitting or lying on your mat doesn’t help you feel better, then leave the room. If the teacher tries to prevent you, leave and never return. This is yoga, not prison! There is definitely a mind-over-matter element to how you handle the hot room, and I encourage you to see if you can work through it and stay in the room. However, only YOU know how YOU feel. If you need to leave, then do it as quietly and as discreetly as possible. Avoid leaving when the rest of the class is in a balancing pose because peripheral movement can disrupt the concentration and balance of the other yogis.

14. Why the hot room?

There all sorts of benefits from doing yoga in the hot room:
—body burns fat more effectively (warm muscles burn more effectively)
—resistance to movement is decreased, which allows greater range of motion in muscles, joints and ligaments
—detox effects (sweat flushes toxins)
—metabolic process is increased
—circulation is increased
—breaks down glucose and fatty acids
—increased body temp helps fight infection, improved T-cell function, white blood cell production and proper functioning of immune system
—cardiovascular system is challenged, heart grows stronger
—heat helps with rehabilitating injuries
—warm muscles are less susceptible to injury

15. What are the general etiquette rules of the yoga room?

—arrive early and be in the room before the teacher enters (it’s rude to arrive late)
—only take your mat, towels and water inside the yoga room
—always bare feet in the yoga room (you’ll find places to park your footwear outside)
—no talking in the yoga room (whisper if you must)
—definitely no phones inside a yoga room (why would you?!)
—leave the room quietly when class is completed (others may be meditating)
—in the hot room stagger your mat in a brick-like fashion (so everyone can see the mirror)
—move your mat and make room for others if necessary (be welcoming)
—be aware of personal hygiene
—don’t wear perfumes and scents
—allow 15 minutes between classes (it’s rude and disruptive leave early and you are missing the best part of class and the whole point of yoga by rushing off – stay for Savasana)

16. Sometimes I get emotional and cry in class; I’m embarrassed

It’s ok. In fact, it’s not uncommon. No reason to be embarrassed. I always offer comfort to any student in this situation. Usually with a nurturing hand on shoulder, while continuing to verbally guide the rest of class if it’s a group situation. No judgements. I like to think of this emotional release as growth. The old, stuck, limiting emotions that have been held in your body tissues are being discarded. They are of no use to you anymore. You have accepted, dealt with, explored, rationalized, understood, processed something big. You are growing. That’s awesome:)

17. I’m pregnant (or menstruating), can I still do yoga?

It’s your body. Only you know how you feel. Err on the cautious side. If you have any doubt, consult your doctor. Extra caution needed for hot yoga. Remember if you are hot then baby is hot! Many feel that inversions (where your head is below your heart, being upside  down) are best avoided while menstruating. That said, it’s your body. Be smart, be mindful. Your body has a sophisticated bio feedback system, so set your expectations and ego aside and actually listen to it. Pay attention to what it’s telling you in relation to practice during this time. Perhaps a few days off is needed?

18. I’m injured, can I still do yoga?

Doctor’s approval is obviously your first point of reference. Yoga teachers do not claim to be medical professionals. That said, if you feel good enough to return to/or start doing yoga, then go for it. Be smart. Go slow. There’s no rush. This is not an easy approach if you’re an A-type personality. Listen to your body. Learn to identify discomfort from pain. A very general hint: sensation you would describe as hot or sharp pain is most likely your body saying stop right there!

Remember, it’s a journey and it’s your journey 🙂
Namaste, Kate