What is yoga?

The word yoga has many meanings but is literally translated as “union.”  In our yoga practice, we work to create a joining or union between the body, breath and mind.

In the U.S., Yoga generally refers to the practice of physical movements or poses that are coordinated with the breath.  Yoga classes typically include centering techniques to bring your awareness into the body, breathing exercises, a series of physical poses and a relaxation exercise at the end of the practice.  Meditation and mudras (hand positions that focus breath into specific areas of the body) may also be incorporated into the class.

Yoga postures and breathing techniques have specific benefits.  Poses can be done quickly to create heat and energy or more slowly to promote relaxation, increase stamina and improve concentration.  Some postures increase flexibility in the body while others build strength.  Specific breathing techniques may be used to enhance the benefits of the physical posture, promote relaxation or increase lung capacity.

Yoga can be practiced by anyone regardless of age or physical fitness level.  When seeking  a yoga class, talk to the instructor about the style of the class and any special needs you may have.  For instance, if getting up and down is difficult, a chair yoga practice might be the best class for you.  In these classes, all or most of the poses are done while sitting in a chair.  If you have an acute or chronic injury, find a teacher who can modify the class with blankets, blocks, or alternative postures that will ensure you have a safe and enjoyable practice.

According to the National Institutes of Health, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) website, there is “growing evidence to suggest that yoga works to enhance stress-coping mechanisms and mind-body awareness.  Research is under way to find out more about yoga’s effects, and the diseases and conditions for which it may be most helpful.” (

T.K.V. Desikachar in The Heart of Yoga, defines yoga as a way “to attain what was previously unattainable.”  What would you like to accomplish today that you thought was unattainable?

The practice of yoga can create amazing changes in your body and mind with even a small effort.  Discover a healthier and happier you by starting your yoga practice today!


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