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Getting started with yoga

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Yoga is a relaxing and rejuvenating activity, but it is also a good workout that helps with flexibility and increases your strength. When you think of yoga, you might think of flexibility, but yoga also works out your core and strengthens your muscles. 

Yoga also has a long history. And while it is now focused more on the physical benefits, yoga was originally meant for the spiritual and mental benefits.

“Old yoga started with really just sitting, meditation, and awareness building practices,” mindfulness manager at UW Recreation Danny Arguetty said. “The postures are actually not very old at all. We see around the 13th century some writings on postures, but there’s not a lot of them and they’re often used for cleansing practices.”  

It wasn’t until about 200 years ago that the current yoga people practice today came into place. Yoga in general has existed for a very long time, but it also changed over time. It consisted of mostly static poses, and static and meditative poses are the ones found in the ancient texts like “The Hatha Yoga Pradipika,” Krishnamacharya’s “Yoga Makaranda,” and “The Yoga Korunta,” whose authenticity has been questioned, debated, and considered a legend as the original text does not exist. 

For UW students, faculty, and staff, there are a variety of yoga class options available at the IMA for people at all levels. There is gentle and restorative yoga, vinyasa yoga, hot yoga, acro yoga, and more. Different types of yoga have different intensity levels, and beginners should feel comfortable starting at any level they wish.  

To go more in depth on the types of yoga available, gentle and restorative yoga helps with breathing and relaxation. Vinyasa yoga is more vigorous in that the poses are more continuous rather than static. Acro yoga is yoga done with a partner that combines circus, yoga, and gymnastics. Hot yoga is yoga done at high temperatures ranging from 80 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit.  

If you have never taken a yoga class before, here is a pro tip: Stay until the very end of the class. At the end, people do a pose called savasana which translates to “corpse pose.” People lay on the floor and just stay quiet and still. Some beginners leave because the pose done at the end can be uncomfortably still. However, the end is the most important part of the practice in each class. The physical practice is meant to lead people into a resting state of non-doing and being. 

For poses to do in your spare time that help with stressors, one pose that may help is the downward facing dog. It is a really good stretch for your hamstring, which can be tight for people, and for your back. For beginners, it is recommended to do the pose against a wall. To do this, place your hands on the wall as high as your hips and walk your feet back until you create an L-shape with your body. Then, you lean in through your spine and feel the stretch all the way through.

“People in the yoga world tend to be very kind and supportive and want people to try,” Danae Moore-Downing, a yoga instructor at the IMA, said. “We all come to the practice with a different background including past injuries or different things going on in our bodies, and if you listen to what feels good in your body and follow that intuition, that’s just a really good place to start.” 

Reach reporter Monica Mursch at Twitter: @MonicaMursch

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