If you’ve never practised yoga before, but you’re interested to learn, you’ve come to the right place. With more than a decade of yoga knowledge and practice up her sleeve, we sat down with Fernwood Yogi Emma to discuss almost everything you need to know about yoga.
What is the primary benefit of practising yoga?
“Yoga (Yog – the original Sanskrit word) essentially means union, to join, unite, and unify. The two main unifying practices in yoga are: mind to body and body to breath,” Emma says.
“For me, the benefits of yoga come from the entire philosophy of the practice. Yoga benefits range from what I call the ‘surface level’ benefits such as physical flexibility, strength and fitness, to more profound physical benefits of active relaxation on heart rate, blood pressure and so on, as well as the cognitive benefits of mindfulness and mental resilience and then finally to the much deeper more spiritual and emotional improvements of finding new meaning and perspective of self and life as a whole.”
How does yoga benefit both the body and mind?
“Physically, yoga both stretches and strengthens the muscles (something a lot of traditional exercises don’t do - generally it’s one or the other) and of course it helps to mobilize joints. All practices typically finish with total body relaxation pose – Savasana. The relaxation aspects of yoga can help to physically relax not only our muscles but our nervous system, bringing our body into a restful state for better digestion and better sleep and restoration,” Emma says.
“Mentally, yoga challenges us through the toughness of some of the physical poses, but also through the mental space. Yogic practices invite us to expand our thinking and our mindset, of which the benefits can spill over into other areas of life.
“It also benefits energetically. Not all yoga includes physical movements. Yoga also includes breathing and cleansing practices that purify the body and give clarity of mind and balance the flow of energy. Yoga can also include Karma yoga which involves charitable work and ‘giving back’.
"Never compare yourself to others in the class – yoga is about your journey from exactly where you are now, to wherever you want to be. It’s not about doing perfect and beautiful postures, it’s about making time for yourself."
How often should people practice yoga to experience the wonderful benefits?
“As often as they can! Aspects such as meditation and mindfulness can be practised every day. Even a single stand-alone practice can be of benefit because the changes for some people can be acute and instant,” Emma says.
“With regards to the physical practice, because starting out can be a real challenge for the body, it’s important to give the body time to recover and adapt in between. This might mean initially practising only 2-3 times per week until the body gets used to it, then daily physical practice (changing up intensity levels) is optimal.”
Should people balance yoga with other forms of exercise?
“Yes of course! Yoga is just one way to move the body and strengthen the mind. For some people, myself included, if you practice a range of techniques, yoga can provide all the physical health benefits of other forms of exercise. However, exercise should always be specific to your goal. If you want to run a marathon, yoga can help with mental preparation and physical conditioning, but it doesn’t beat running, if this is the sport you wish to be physically equip for!”
What’s your top tip for practising yoga?
“I actually have two! Never compare yourself to others in the class – yoga is about your journey from exactly where you are now, to wherever you want to be. It’s not about doing perfect and beautiful postures, it’s about making time for yourself – even as little as 30 seconds a day – to simply breathe and tune in to ‘you’; to tune in to what you want and what you need in any given moment, bring union to your thoughts and actions – that’s yoga,” Emma says.
“The second is make time! Like anything, you have to take action to know the benefits.”
Check out these eight yoga poses for instant relaxation.