Yoga Poses For Beginners - Where To Start?
Your Definitive Guide to All the Yoga Lingo
Let's start at the beginning. "Yoga is best described as the union of body and breath," Dolan tells SheKnows, adding that it comes from the word yuj, which can be interpreted as "union, yoke or bind."
"The connection of body and breath through movement: poses ('asanas' in Sanskrit) or stillness: meditation. It’s all yoga," she says.
According to Dolan, asana is simply a yoga pose.
“Originally, asana meant 'seat,' but more recently, it has come to mean the practice of yoga poses," she explains. "Asanas can improve strength, flexibility, circulation and [the] general well-being of those practicing them.”
This style of yoga is named after its founder, Bikram Choudhury, Dolan explains. It is the same series of 26 postures done twice in a heated room (usually 95 to 105 degrees F with an increased humidity of 40 percent).
“There is not much variation on the teaching script," she notes. "It is a common misconception that Bikram is the only heated yoga. This is not the case, as there are also heated vinyasa classes that are very popular. The heat and humidity allow you to sweat more and possibly go deeper into each pose.”
Chakras are energetic centers in the body, Dolan explains.
“They are thought of as spinning wheels of energy, like energetic processing centers," she notes. "Each chakra has its own set of emotional or physical components. There are seven main chakras but many others throughout and around the body.”
According to Dolan, the seven main chakras are located: at the base of the spine (root chakra), below the navel (sacral chakra), on the diaphragm (solar plexus chakra ), on the heart (heart chakra), on the throat (throat chakra), between the eyebrows (third eye center) and above the crown of the head (crown chakra).
They correspond with the colors of the rainbow: red (root), orange (sacral), yellow (solar plexus), green (heart), blue (throat), indigo (third eye) and violet (crown).
Chaturanga is a four-limbed staff pose, or more commonly, a low push up, says Dolan.
“Chaturanga is that difficult — in the beginning — hovering transition of high to low push-up, into your Upward Dog," she explains. "You really are straight like an arrow or staff to start, with hands and feet, [all] four limbs, planted on the ground. You lower to hover the Earth, with your elbows brushing your side body.”
Child's pose, also known as Balasana, is a restful calming posture, Dolan says. You start by kneeling on the Earth, arms overhead, forehead on the mat. Press the tops of your feet into the Earth, allowing your knees to separate and dropping your belly in between that space, bowing to your practice.
It's a pose that is both a hip-opener and a stretch for the quads and back, bringing length to the spine and ease to your practice.
"We must remember it's important to practice rest," Dolan says. "Spending time in Child's pose is a calming, soothing and a perfect respite from a vigorous vinyasa practice.”
Dolan called Downward-Facing Dog, also known as Adho Mukha Svanasana, “the ultimate backstretch." You place your hands and feet on the Earth, with equal weight distribution in both hands and feet. Your body forms an upside-down V shape while sending breath to the calves, hamstrings, entire back, shoulders and cervical spine. "With your heart above your head, this is a calming posture,” she says.
Hatha is the effort or force of actual physical practice, Dolan explains. It is the branch of yoga that is the physical practice of breath work, poses and meditation.
Also known as “skull-shining breath,” kapalabhati breathing is an energizing, warming, internal purification and cleansing style of breath, Dolan explains.
You can try kapalabhati breathing by sitting down and breathing in, filling your lower abdomen with breath, then drawing your abdomen in to exhale. Place your hands on your belly if you are not familiar with this type of isolation of the abdomen.
When you do kapalabhati breathing, fill your body about three-quarters of the way with air and exhale in a quick push as you pull your abdomen in and out in a staccato fashion.
"Your inhale should be passive as you emphasize the exhale and the belly engagement rapidly," she notes. "You want to start with 10 to 12 exhales each round, building up over time. Think, 'Forcefully exhaling while passively inhaling.'”
The moksha flow style of yoga was founded by Ted Grand and Jessica Robertson from Toronto, Dolan explains. It takes place in heated, environmentally friendly studios and utilizes 40 poses and adds a little more variation than Bikram.
Mountain pose, also known as Tadasana, is a standing pose and a mainstay of your yoga practice, Dolan says. Start by standing with your feet grounded into the Earth, hands by your side, palms facing forward, drawing your shoulder blades down your back. Lengthen the crown of your head toward the sky with each inhale, drawing the abdomen to the spine with each exhale.
"You can ease compression and find optimum alignment and posture with the practice of Tadasana," she notes. "It's an incredibly grounding pose.”
Namaste means "the light in me recognizes or bows to the light in you" or "the good in me recognizes or bows to the good in you,” Dolan says. Most yoga classes end with a seated bow followed by the instructor saying, "Namaste."
According to Dolan, prana means “life force energy. Known as many things: chi, energy, the life force, breath or vital energy.”
Savasana, also known as Corpse pose, is the final resting pose of yoga practice, which Dolan describes as "the practice of letting go or the practice of relaxation.”
“For our very goal-oriented culture, this may be one of the more difficult aspects of one's practice," she says. "I believe as a teacher that Savasana is when we allow all of the benefits of our practice to soak in. We quiet and/or observe the mind, relax the body and practice our state of rest.”
Sun Salutations are a strengthening, moving meditation, Dolan explains, adding that she finds it the "perfect way to start the day."
But the Sun Salutations are more than just vigorous meditation; they are also an energizing cardiovascular workout. Dolan says that they are best performed in the morning on an empty stomach.
"Sun Salutations are the 'star' — no pun intended — of vinyasa yoga," she says. "They can be slow, medium-paced or [done] as a rapid sequence of yoga postures with little variation."
Dolan notes that they are always coordinated with breath — specifically, ujjayi breath, which is breathing in through the nose and out through the nose — and doing so in a way that's audible and strong.
"Your practice is your waves of breath," she says. "You go deeper into each pose with your breath, not your mind."
Toppling Tree is a pose that is a bent-knee variation of Tree and Airplane poses, Dolan says.
“You balance on your standing leg, bend both legs and fold forward with your hands bound behind you," she explains. "This creates an active balancing pose with a heart opener.”
Tree pose, also known as Vrksasana, is a balancing hip-opener pose, says Dolan. To do it, place one foot on the Earth and the other foot on the inside of the opposite thigh. The lifted knee rotates away from the midline of the body, opening your hip.
According to Dolan, this pose strengthens the ankle and legs as you and balance in your Tree and is beneficial for balance and strengthening of the mind and body.
Vinyasa is a style of yoga that coordinates each posture with breath, Dolan notes, adding that each posture sets you up for the next pose.
"There is a flow from pose to pose, and it is closely compared to a dance," she explains. "Vinyasa yoga practice consisting of yoga flows or sequences that are usually vigorous and focused on the breath. Sun Salutations are a great example of vinyasa yoga. The focus on the breath allows one to truly clear their mind during the practice and the vigorous postures give many a good workout.”
The Warrior poses are the standing peak poses of your Sun Salutation, Dolan explains. Start with your feet on the ground, then move your right leg forward with the knee stacked atop the ankle. At this point, your left leg is behind you in a lungelike stance, with the toes facing the top left corner of your mat.
Inhale as you rise, with your arms reached out overhead. Dolan says that Warrior I strengthens the legs and ankles but, most important, acts as a heart opener. Reach your arms overhead as you draw your shoulder blades down your back while your upper arms, shoulders and chest are lengthening and stretching toward the sky.
“As you exhale into Warrior II from Warrior I, you reach your arms out like wings,” Dolan explains.
Your right arm reaches forward, while your left arm reaches behind you, and your palms are down, creating length between the shoulders and upper back. Your left toes and torso are open to face the side wall. "This is a hip opener," she notes. "Maintaining the posture strengthens your arms, thighs and glutes.”
Yin yoga is a passive yoga practice, Dolan says.
“Many postures incorporate a joint, and attempt to access the connective tissue or fascia that connects the muscle to the bone, usually involving the hips, pelvis and lower spine," she explains. "Longer-held postures are held anywhere from three to15 minutes, most often three to five minutes. Its benefits are calming, reduced stress and anxiety, improved flexibility, fascia release and joint mobility.”
Video: Yoga Lingo
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