Yoga is a derived from a Sanskrit word "yuj" which means to yoke, bind, attach or to form a union. Though the practice of yoga has a deep philosophical root, the modern western derivative of yoga has evolved from "hatha", meaning forceful or willful, yoga that is built around "asanas" or poses.
In this guide, we will discuss the basics of yoga while helping you incorporate a practice that may suit your needs.
Though the practice of yoga is highly subjective and evolves over time, the goal is to create a routine from basics and build upon it over time. This is a never-ending journey.
Though yoga is an avenue for spiritual and mental growth, adequate nutrition and creating a healthy diet for yourself is critical to your success within and beyond the practice.
Proper rest and sometimes taking a step back to recover will only help you grow as a practitioner. This requires listening to your body for signals of pain and fatigue while stepping outside of your comfort zone.
2. Basics of Nutrition
For a more detailed information on nutrition, check out the basics of nutrition. However, for the sake of muscle building we will focus only on the ones extremely relevant to muscle growth.
They form the building blocks of the body. During the day, body takes wear and tear and needs to be repaired. Proteins help with this process while serving as raw materials for creating new muscles. They can come from plant and animal sources where plant protein are incomplete while animal proteins are complete sources of essential amino acids.
Though proteins can be potentially used by the body as fuel, the body utilizes either fats or carbohydrates as the main fuel sources. Proteins are extremely important and the demand for it increases as your physical activity levels increase.
Carbohydrates are molecules that can be used as fuels by turning into simple sugars that can be used as fuel for the body.
Main sources of carbohydrates are sugars, starches, grains, vegetables and fruits but they also also exist in smaller quantities in nuts. Trace amounts can be found in animal products as well. Depending on your goals and athletic requirements, carbohydrates can provide you with rapidly available fuel that can potentially improve your performance and results.
Fats are another source of fuel for the body and are prioritized to be burnt when consumption of carbohydrates is restricted or removed or under extreme endurance routines. The body, under such states, taps into fat as a long term fuel to maintain its performance.
Fats are primarily found in animal products, nuts and seeds. They can be further extracted to make butters, ghee, tallow and various oils.
3. Forming a Mindset
One of the most important aspects of yoga is developing a mind and body connection which involves an internal focus and building a strong connection with our muscles. This allows the body to perform poses or asanas that will help you develop both your physical and mental strength.
Yoga can be very simple to basic breath work while in a simple pose or as complicated as a series of advanced poses that requires a deep understanding of the body, developed mobility and proper control of breathing. It is best to start simple and understand our limitations before pushing past them.
FOCUS ON BREATHING
Breathing is key when it comes to yoga. Focusing on the exhale and inhale, from the quality of breath to the flow of the breath in your body, will help you focus more on your practice and develop a mindful practice.
IT'S OK TO BACK DOWN
Though the goal should be to improve and refine the practice, it's ok and perfectly fine to step back and transition back to an easier pose.
LOOK IN THE MIRROR
Many times it is easy to look at social media or the practitioners around us and feel a bit low. However, you should focus on your own journey as it will be different from other people. Your progress is what matters above all.
4. Building a Physique
Many people utilize yoga to focus on both the body and the mind. Many poses that come with yoga involve co-ordinated movements and a full body workout. Intense forms of yoga which involves constant movement can be highly demanding. Though this can help sculpt and build muscular mass, having the correct diet and nutrition(especially adequate protein) is critical to recovery, growth, scultping the body and maintaining positive health outcomes.
You can also take a moderate intensity form of yoga along with a weight training program to cross-train and build both mobility and strength at the same time.
5. Types of Yoga
There are different types of yoga and each of them have their unique styles and potential benefits. While there may be more and evolved versions, here are some of the basic ones which can be found locally or can form a foundation for your own practice or adapt to your existing workout routine. The goal should be to find what works for you and tailor it to your goals, mentally and physically.
Since much of modern yoga is inherited from Hatha yoga itself, in the modern context it's a relatively beginner friendly and slow paced style that can be great for anyone new to yoga.
Founded by B.K. Iyengar, this form of yoga is built on precise movements, holding the pose and proper breath work. Since this form of yoga relies on proper form, it can be excellent for beginners as well.
Relatively on the faster side, this yoga develops focus while also stimulating the body. The classes involve chanting and can get intense over time.
Ashtanga stands for the "eight limbed path" and is associated with Mysore, India. Though this practice is extremely physically demanding and could be considered advanced, beginners can modify poses to make them easier and take the practice at their own pace as they catch up. The practice is non-stop and fast paced.
Meaning "To place in a special or sacred way", Vinyasa evolved from Ashtanga yoga and is used as a parent term for different types of yoga. Teachers may have different styles and moves are choreographed with focus on breathwork. Beginners may be able to take this class with some initial practice.
Also known as "Hot Yoga", the temperature of the room is increased up to 105F and 30-40% humidity with a series of 26 basic postures. This is a relatively intense form of yoga.
With a slow style, Yin can be relaxing and stresses heavily in breathwork and holding simpler poses for a long period of time. The classes are relaxed and most poses are friendly to beginners.
This is a blanket term which can vary depending on the teacher but the focus is on relaxing the mind and body with easier poses that allow you to wind down. This is friendly for beginners or athletes looking for a relaxing activity after a draining routine.
6. Muscle Groups
Upper body muscles help you with daily tasks and they are critical to maintain to ensure proper functionality throughout your life. You can train them together in the form of a compound movement or target specific muscle groups using isolated movements.
LATS (LATISSIMUS DORSI)
Lats are large back muscles on either side of the spine and provide a defined upper body.
Small muscles that run from upper back to base of neck. They support posture and prevent back pain.
These muscles fortify your central core of the body and help prevent injury from lifting weights and loads
Top shoulder muscles that give the definition and strength to shoulders
Triangular shaped muscles in the center of upper back
Improving chest muscle increases upper body strength as the chest is connected to the rest of the upper body
Strong abdominal muscle and core allows lifting heavy objects without causing much injury while giving definition to muscles in the area
These exist on either sides of the body and help strengthen the core of the body.
Biceps are top front muscles of the arm and help you with day to day functional activities, especially pull movements
Triceps are top back muscles of the arm and help you with daily activities and aid with pushing movements
These muscles help you with your grip strength which allows you to lift heavier objects
Lower body muscles boost strength general, help support body weight, help burn fat and provide you with strong and powerful movements.
Other than giving boost to leg strength, these muscles tone and tighten up the rear end!
Hips reduce injury risk and contain the adductor which help move legs towards the mid of the body while abductors help move legs away from the body's midline.
They are located at the back of your thighs. They provide muscular definition and functionality in every day routines
Quadriceps are located at the front of your thighs and play an important role in sports and intense workouts
They are located at the back of your lower legs. They provide stability and strength in the legs
Mindfulness or connecting the mind with the body requires a mind and muscle connection. This involves building a focus on your breath while trying to mentally isolate which muscle groups you are engaging to hold a certain pose.
Here are some ways you can create a mindful yoga practice.
When practicing, focus on the inhale and exhale while noting the quality of breath. Sometimes visualizing the flow of the breath from nostrils to lungs within the body can be a great focus point.
You can also focus on the areas of the body that are under tension or load because of the pose you are holding. You can note how it feels, how slight adjustments can relax or allow you to get deeper into the pose. You can also observe the muscles as you are transitioning from one pose to another.
Yoga doesn't require extensive equipment.Your practice should be based on your goals and how much time you have. Dedicate at least 10 minutes per practice to have a mindful practice. Focus on quality rather than quantity.
The success of a practice depends on creating routines and healthy habits. Yoga is no different. Whether you spend 10 minutes or an hour, ensure that you make it sustainable. Commit to doing it at a specific time and for a specific period of time whether alone or with a class.
8. Progressive Overloading
SORENESS ISN'T PROGRESS
Many people fall into the trap that being sore is what makes a yoga practice. This can be counterproductive as proper rest and nutrition can help repair muscle damage and preparing for the next session. Progress over soreness!
HOLD POSE LONGER
Holding a pose in a series or in isolation for slightly longer can help you increase the load and potentially creating progressive overload.
Yoga poses can be varied based on your limitations and goals. Find the simplest variation and ensure proper posture and form. Then advance accordingly.
FOCUS ON FUNCTIONAL GROWTH
Yoga can help develop balance, strength, mobility and flexibility alongside mindfulness, improved breath work and focus. You should evaluate your progress on all these domains and even improvements in life outside of your practice such as relationships with family and loved ones.
DECREASE REST TIME
You can decrease rest time between each pose. This will potentially engage your cardiovascular system and improve your endurance as well.
IMPROVE FLOW AND CONTROL
Alongside form, you can also record your own practice and perform movements slowly with more control rather than explosiveness.
9. Defining Your Goals
Though yoga is very broad and can be subjective, here are some of the areas that you will notice progress over time, given a good yoga routine and proper nutrition.
Ability to lift heavier weights in a controlled manner
Ability of a muscle to lengthen
Ability to perform sustained physical activity
Performing something repetitively to get used to it
Performing something freely that requires a range of motion
Improving focus and forming a mind-body connection along with breath work
10. Life Outside of Yoga
Your yoga practice should add value to your life. The end goal should be to add a routine which allows you to grow and improve as a human being. We should strive to form positive relationships with those close to us and with our own body. Through your own self-growth, you can aspire and inspire while constantly giving back to others so that we create a better world for tomorrow.
Now that you understand the basics, you can either read further guides or start a plan which will allow you to apply what you just learned. Find a plan and get started now.