What is Yoga?

What is Yoga?

asanayogaYoga is a complete mind and body practice that focuses more on attaining harmony and self-awareness rather than a specific physical goal. There are a number of different types of yoga practices and disciplines, each with a slightly different focus and requiring different skills, but there is no doubt that one is right for you. Because of this, yoga really is attainable for everyone and no matter your age, fitness level, culture or religion it will provide you with significant benefits to many areas of your life.

Yoga teaches the cultivation of a healthy mind-body-spirit balance and makes us aware of our connection to the world around us through the development of discipline and self-awareness. It does this through the mastery of the yamas and niyamas, which are the basic ethics that guide you to the attainment of this balance. It is also accomplished more practically through the yoga asanas (or physical postures), pranayama (the breathing techniques), pratyahara (or withdrawal of the senses) dhyana (meditation), and dharana (concentration).

Originating in India, yoga is more of a philosophy than a religion. In fact, it has nothing to do with a specific religion at all and it can be incorporated into any faith with no conflict whatsoever. Based on texts written thousands of years ago, the concepts of yoga were originally held reserved for priests and scholars in the higher castes of society. It wasn’t until about 300 BC that the texts were translated and reworked into the sutras that we know of today. Not only were the sutras made easier to understand and in a language that was more accessible to the common individual, but it has since become accessible to most people in the world through the spread of the ideas and translation.

Though yoga is based on ideas that are thousands of years old, its popularity and focus on balance makes it a very relevant practice for the modern busy life. The complete teaching of yoga forces us to take time to focus on ourselves and our place within the world around us. Yoga can really positively affect a number of physical and mental ailments that many people experience or suffer from. To find out more information about yoga check out some of our great articles.

What’s The Best Yoga Mat To Use? What do I do About A Slippery Mat?

What’s The Best Yoga Mat To Use? What do I do About A Slippery Mat?

Have you found yourself slipping out of down-ward dog into an unintentional split? Has your back foot slid out from under you while holding Warrior pose? Because yoga is practiced in bare feet, the yoga mat is a fundamental part of practice for beginners and experts alike.

One way to get your hands on this important piece of equipment is to borrow one. Many studios keep extra mats for student use. While borrowing a mat is a great solution for those who don’t have the cash to spare for a mat of their own, it can also spread germs and viruses. Protect your health—and your family’s—by investing in your own mat.

Purchasing a mat also allows you the freedom to engage in yoga at any time—not just during formal classes. Perhaps you’ve had a particularly rough week, but class is still three days away. Just unroll your mat in the living room and practice a few of your favorite postures.

When it’s time to shop for a yoga mat, you can pick up any ol’ mat after all, a yoga mat is a yoga mat, right?

Wrong.

Use a poor quality mat and you might find yourself sprawled on the floor in a Twister-like pile. All that slipping and sliding is not only embarrassing, it’s also unsafe. Keep your feet and hands where they belong by looking for these qualities in your mat:

The standard yoga mat, also known as a sticky mat, is made of rubber or PVC. These mats provide cushioning for your joints, which is important if you have joint problems or a chronic condition such as arthritis.

Mat thickness is also an important consideration. A 3mm thick mat is just fine for students of gentler forms of yoga. Look for a heavy-duty thicker mat, perhaps 5mm, if you have joint problems, such as arthritis, or if you practice an intense style, such as Bikram or ashtanga yoga.

Are you so tall that people call you ‘Stretch’ or ask what position you played in basketball? While the standard 24 x 68 mat is suitable for most people, taller students may want to look for longer mats to accommodate their height.

PVC mats often have what’s referred to as ‘new mat’ smell, a chemical odor that fades with time and use. However, those with sensitive noses can find the smell offensive even after the mat has been used for some time.

Although standard yoga mats are supposed to keep you from slipping, over time they can lose some of their grip. For instance, oils from your hands might make your mat slipper. This is especially the case if you sweat a lot during class. Regular cleaning is a good way to get rid of the oils that cause slipping.

Cleaning your mat of slip-inducing oils is easy. Manufacturers of standard mats recommend soaking it in a bath of cold water and vinegar. After the soak, rinse it in cold water, squeeze out the excess, and then air dry.

Another anti-slip solution is to place a non-skid towel on top of your mat. One side of the towel you’ll practice on is made of soft absorbent material. The other side is a non-slip surface that grips your mat, making practice safer.

There are alternatives to the standard PVC mats. For example, some manufacturers have developed sticky mats made from PVC/latex-free materials. They’re free of harsh chemicals, which means they’re also free of overwhelming chemical smells. These mats are also ideal for those with latex allergies.

Another alternative to the typical yoga mat is a cotton mat or rug. These mats have a tight, sweat-absorbing weave that actually increases its gripping power. This quality makes the mats especially suitable for more intense forms of yoga.

Cotton yoga mats are also machine washable, making it easy to clean up the sweat and germs it will collect. As a bonus, cotton mats lack any offending chemical smell. If you’re environmentally conscious, you might also consider mats or rugs made with organic cotton.

By choosing a high-quality mat that suits your size and the style of yoga you practice, you can stop focusing on how you’re going to stay on your feet and start focusing on building a better you.

What is Ayurveda?

What is Ayurveda?

Tired of being sick and tired? Know you need to make fundamental life changes but don’t know where to start? Then it’s time to start adding an ancient Sanskrit word to your daily vocabulary: ayurveda. This go-to guide will give you the 411 on this eons-old practice.

The question most people ask first is “How do you pronounce that?” Never fear—it’s not as hard as it seems. Pronounced “ah-your-vay-dah,” the word means “knowledge of life” and the practice is recognized as one of the oldest forms of holistic medicine. Taking influences from both Buddhist and Hindu sources, its roots go back over 5,000 years. While the modern medical community has increasingly accepted this practice, it considers ayurveda to be a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).

Wellness is the word
In ayurveda, the ideal is to create a state of wellness for the body, mind, and spirit. In other words, the goal is to nurture a healthy lifestyle and prevent disease rather than popping pills as the first line of defense against aches and ills. The key to health is balance—in eating, sleep, medication, and even sex.

Although ayurveda is not yoga, the two are considered to be “sister” practices that complement each other. Both recognize that balance is a core part of maintaining wellness. What’s more, they also agree that good physical health is a must-have for maintaining emotional, mental, and spiritual wellness. With so many common beliefs, ayurveda makes an ideal partner for your regular yoga practice.

Go old-school
Practitioners of ayurveda prefer traditional medical treatments—the kind created by Mother Nature rather than a laboratory. As a result, an ayurvedic medicine cabinet isn’t filled with little colored pills that offer heavy-duty side effects; instead, it would be filled with natural herbal supplements. Not surprisingly, a growing body of clinical research demonstrates the effectiveness of these treatments. For instance, a 2003 study found that the common herbs cardamom and cinnamon help ease digestive troubles. Findings from another study suggest that salvia, a member of the mint family, relieves Alzheimer’s symptoms.

If you decide to add traditional medicines to your wellness arsenal, be sure to purchase them from a reputable source because of concerns about the toxicity levels and heavy metals that have been found in some herbal products. And, as with any supplement, always check with your health care professional to be sure traditional medicines won’t interfere with any other medications you might be taking.

Meditation matters
Connecting to the spirit is a must-have part of creating harmony in our lives, according to ayurveda experts. The simple act of sitting still and focusing can go a long way toward living a well lifestyle. Scientific research has confirmed that meditation has a host of benefits, from decreasing the heart rate to lowering blood pressure.

You don’t need to be an ancient yogi to practice meditation, either. An ayurvedic healer can give you simple tips that allow you to “ohm” away the stress that’s making your body unwell.

Hygiene happiness
Did your mom ever remind you to wash behind the ears? She may have been onto something. Good hygiene is a critical component of ayurvedic practices. Regular bathing along with good care of the teeth, skin, and eyes are viewed as an important part of maintaining wellness. For example, ayurveda teaching recommends brushing teeth several times each day and using tools like dental floss and tongue cleaners to ensure healthy gums and teeth.

Doin’ it with diet
In ayurveda, what goes into the body plays an important role in creating a healthy balance within the body and mind. As a result, a balanced diet is a core principle of the practice. According to ayurvedic teaching, each person has individual needs that cannot be addressed with a generalized diet plan. Instead, ayurvedic healers specialize in assessing a person’s unique needs and creating a specially-designed diet. Healers consider a number of factors, including age, gender, and other characteristics.

If you don’t have access to an ayurvedic healer, there are still principles you can easily incorporate into your diet. For instance, include each one of the six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, pungent, astringent, and bitter) in every meal. The idea behind including all tastes is to balance digestion as well as stave off cravings. That doesn’t mean you need to cook a six-course meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner—a spicy fruit chutney or a spice blend can provide the balancing tastes within a single dish.

The ayurvedic diet also balances the physical attributes of the food as well. Live in the frosty north? Then dive into warm comfort foods, like soups. If you’re sweating in the south, then a light meal of cool fruits and lighter foods are your go-to menu items.

There are many components to an ayurvedic diet, so if you’d like to learn more, be sure to consider visiting an ayurvedic center or finding a quality book written by an expert.

Ayurveda is a healthy way to improve your quality of life.

Stop feeling so ‘blah’ all the time. Take control of your wellness by considering the ayurvedic way of life. Your body and your mind will thank you.