Advertising

Last Updated on December 16, 2020

How to Learn Yoga (The Beginner’s Guide)

How to Learn Yoga (The Beginner’s Guide)
Advertising

If you think yoga can be learned on the mat, you’re wrong! To learn yoga is to learn yourself, your life and the world around you, which happens mostly off the mat.

Since 2000, I study, practice, teach and live yoga – I grow with it from year to year – hence life becomes more interesting and more meaningful from year to year, too. Through all these years, I observe the evolution of yoga in the western culture and see, how (mostly) wrongly, has been interpreted, taught and practiced. Little is known about how to learn yoga – about its practice, its effect and its application. Yoga is all about finding the simplicity and the meaning in the complexity of life.

But when we look around us, it doesn’t seem so simple, even for those who practice it, and for the most who teach it. Everything about yoga begins in its definition from the original yogic scripture Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.[1]

And the value for how to learn yoga, is in this article – showing the value of the above definition and how to practice it in the simplest way, effectively and efficiently.

What is Yoga?

Yoga-Citta-Vrtti-Hirodhah — and its translation is: Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations arising within consciousness.

The 195 Sutras, that the original yoga scripture consists of, are written in a strongly compressed manner with the idea to deliver a profound meaning and a lot of space for interpretation. However, the interpreter must be highly serious and competent, otherwise the interpretation will drastically deviate from what the message conveys.

When the definition about yoga is interpreted and applied the right way, it tells us how yoga is to be practiced and explored. To start the right way, we must know the right destination of yoga, which is Kaivalya:[2] The union between you, the other and the world.

Let’s see how to do that:

Beginning with the famous mainstream slogan “Union of Body, Mind and Soul”, brings up the question, “How to reunite the body, mind and soul?”

Advertising

Your feelings – created by outside stimuli result in the creation of thoughts, hence there’s connection between your body and mind. That’s easy to understand, right?

Now this connection and the thoughts must serve and improve the mind, making it capable to 1) understand the soul and 2) to unite it with the body and mind. That’s where our journey towards the goal of yoga (Samadhi) is interrupted – making the main part of the union not easy to understand, even less so to accomplish.

Yoga is More Spiritual than Physical

This is what makes yoga more spiritual than physical. To put it in numbers, yoga is 97% of psychological, philosophical and spiritual nature and only some 3% of physiological, considering that there are only seven out of 195 Sutras referring physiologically to sitting and breathing, of which I talked in my earlier post on Yoga For men.

But before experiencing any spirituality from yoga, there is the mental (emotional) part that needs to be mastered and that part is to establish a connection between the body and mind. How?

The simple thought and realization that you are conscious of how you feel within your body (cold, warm, relaxed, depressed, anxious, happy and so on), means that you have made the union between your body and mind. (below the step by step exercise for that).

But to establish a connection to your soul – to the finest part of yourself – the Self:

You must find out (through thinking) what is the subtlest thing that drives your body and mind – yourself as an individual and use that driver to go pass beyond your physicality and mentality.

It is right here that you use the definition about yoga and the realization – the moment, where you are not analyzing any thoughts or feelings. This is a state of Yoga – a state of union between body, mind and soul, in which your consciousness has ceased to identify with its fluctuations.

Yoga as Creativity and Expertise of the Individual

In such a case, there is no specific (like beginners, intermediate or advanced) technique for learning yoga. The moment of the state of yoga arises for everyone of us in an individual way as everybody’s physique and mental content are different. You might be very well advanced in performing the most difficult asanas for decades but still unable and incompetent to be in a state of union with your body, mind and soul. Whereas, if you are a beginner and possess the grace and other virtues, than it’s easier and quicker to establish that connection.

Advertising

As yoga is an inherent part of the human being, firstly, in order to pave the yoga path successfully and effectively, you must understand that yoga is not a technique for performance, but rather a creativity and expertise of yourself.

Your learning process cannot be focused on, nor conditioned by a certain handbook, someone’s instructions or some specific school.

Learning yoga requires your creativity to look within yourself and learn from yourself, become the expert of your feelings, emotions and desires. You, as a beginner might already possess many qualities and prerequisites for creating the union between your body, mind and soul, but your knowledge requires creativity for your growth to reach the state of union and then reap the fruits of that union. Once this happens there is no turning back – you’ll be pulled by the beauty and energy of your on being.

Be Fast Mentally and Slow Physically

As already mentioned, you don’t need to do physical performances like the split or the headstand to be able to immerse in a deep meditation or Samadhi. But you do need enough creativity for your self-inquiry.

Many of my students start working directly with meditation – attending the complexities of the mind, because that’s where the hindrances lie. There, the meditator is able to work on the cessation of identifying with the fluctuations of the consciousness – where intelligence expands, adversity ends and the individual is ready to pass through its physicality and mentality in order to reach the union with the soul.

But if you’re really a beginner and cannot start with that, then you can start enhancing your creativity on the body-mind level. The exercise follows in the next paragraph.

The greater your creativity, the better your expertise about yourself – the deeper your competence to inquire further into the union with your soul. Sure enough that a more pliable and healthy physical body has some advantages and better preconditions for that, but don’t get discouraged because your body-mind union will open up the way.

So here we are, you are at the moment to enhance your creativity upon that union. Please, take this as a very serious part of the practice as it is crucial for learning yoga – for learning yourself.

The Beginner’s Exercise – Creativity upon Body-Mind Union

The first and most important element to learn and practice yoga is of physiological and psychological nature: Stillness:

Advertising

  1. Make sure your body is still and comfortable.
  2. Focus on breathing to initiate observing.
  3. Observe your body and identify the first feeling that occurs to you.
  4. Keep identifying feelings and emotions, but without getting involved with them.
  5. Now create feelings and emotions as you please and let them go.

That’s it! That’s the creativity upon the body-mind union. The validity of this creativity lies in the stillness and observance of that union. In this practice you can learn to understand and catch the moment – the main ingredient of life.

Life is a sequence of moments and knowing that you’re able to manage that sequence is a new level of living life, called dharma – the practical and skillful way of living. An essential character develops as a result of practicing this discipline.

However, be aware that we are still talking about outward elements of yoga – the gross levels (from Yama to Pratyahara) whereas the subtle, inward elements (Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi) are yet to be approached, learned and implemented. It is on these subtle levels that you can realize the depth of spirituality and the essence of yoga.

It is remarkable how the science of yoga can take you in such heights and depths of exploring life and being. Little is known about the essence and the right practice of yoga in the west. There is a huge knowledge gap between how yoga should be learned and how it is practiced today in the west. You can bridge this gap by practicing the above exercise.

Know that yoga is of a very subtle nature – operating on a subtle energetic level – the level of your mental energies, your thoughts. That means that it is to be learned at that level and not on any other. A body posture alone cannot take you to that level if you don’t apply your creativity and self-inquiry.

Prerequisite for Yogic Success – Union between You and the Other

Yoga is nothing, if our relationships with others are not managed harmonically.

Learning yoga is also learning connecting with the other – with the stranger who’s not you but carries the same “core”, the same heart as you. We as individuals, possess the inborn feature of Ego – the “I-consciousness” that makes us feel separate from the rest of what makes the wholeness.

This separation is the second of the the five “klesah” afflictions[3] – that stand as major hindrance against the union (Yoga) – called “asmita” or I-am-ness / Egoism (Y.S. II.6.), and has to be cultivated and brought to a level of discernment that will lessen our disturbance that comes out the fragmentation between the “I-am-ness” and the “Other-ness”.

This is a crucial concept in Yoga and it is inevitable to be worked upon this hindrance in order to reach the inner “psychological” freedom or the ultimate liberation “Kaivalya” for which Yoga stands for. But, again, if you are beginner in this part, you want to know how to start dealing with all this. Here is the exercise:

Advertising

  1. Practice observance from the first exercise.
  2. Realize that the structure of your feelings, emotions, etc. is identical with the one of the other individuals.
  3. Practice witnessing, tolerating and gradually accepting the diversity between yourself and the other individuals.
  4. Observe for so long with equanimity, until you see the uniformity in that diversity.

This is one of the greatest accomplishments a human being can achieve. To be, means, to be in relationship – internally, as well as externally.

Yogic Lifestyle – Union Between You, The Other and The World

Here comes the last piece of the puzzle – the union – on the highest level of worldly existence – between you, the other and the world. This means that Yoga is also worthless if practiced only on the mat. So when learning yoga, especially when practicing the body-mind union, consider if:

You speak the language of nature and how you’re connected to nature and its basic elements? Do you complicate your existence by thinking that you are in the center of the world and require extra attention and acknowledgement?

Thinking this way interferes with the practice of yoga. And surely, you might wonder, what should be done here in order to create that harmony in union? You’d be amazed to know that there is one important yogic movement that needs to be done. That is:

The action of not doing anything but contemplating! Then yoga happens.

Yes, this goes beyond the physicality and mentality of your being. As our bodies play just a tiny part of the evolution of existence, we must not attach to the world in that sense – clinging to worldly life with that insatiable urge that generates worries and anxiety – but rather grow through life with detachment and the attitude that life has been gifted to us with the purpose to realize that gift and attain the wisdom of life.

Go Beyond Your Physicality and Mentality

Attaining greatness like connecting to the world and to your soul, we must pass beyond the thoughts, feelings and emotions, and the influence they have on us. Hence we want to make the mental fluctuations to cease and let yoga shine its light through this yogic movement:

The stillness and the watching within.

Can yoga be understood and achieved in one single session and then practiced continuously, productively and effectively? Of course it can. Your union within yourself, the other and the world is lot simpler and easier than you think. Practice these simple yogic movements diligently, seriously but also effortlessly and your yoga will be flourishing and fruitful. I salute the spirit in you!

Advertising

More About Yoga

Featured photo credit: Avrielle Suleiman via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
[2] Wikipedia: Kaivalya
[3] Plato Stanford: Klesah

More by this author

Marcin Gil

Marcin is a spiritual being just like anyone challenging to uncover what we already have โ€“ spiritual freedom.

relaxation techniques 6 Relaxation Techniques to Calm Your Busy Mind 3 Mindfulness Techniques for Living in the Present Moment 5 Techniques to Quiet Your Mind And Stay Present 4 Signs of Emotional Exhaustion (And How to Get Over It) 3 Self-Help Techniques for Better Mental Health

Trending in Exercise & Training

1 7 Best Foam Rollers for Muscle Relaxation 2 15 Static Stretches to Totally Enhance Your Workout Routine 3 10 Ways to Quickly Boost Your Workout Motivation 4 15 Important Benefits of Stretching Before, After, and During a Workout 5 The Ultimate Workout Routine for Men (Tailored for Different Fitness Level)

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Published on July 23, 2021

7 Best Foam Rollers for Muscle Relaxation

7 Best Foam Rollers for Muscle Relaxation
Advertising

Foam rollers are one of those pieces of equipment where if you do it right, they can provide you with a deep-tissue massage. They’re commonly cylinder-shaped and they push up against sore muscles while you lay on the floor.

Because foam rollers are such handy tools, there is a wide selection of foam rollers you can choose from. Depending on what kind of exercises you do, a foam roller can aid in relaxing different muscles in your body. Below, I picked out the best foam rollers available on the market depending on the types of exercises and needs that you have.

How I Picked the Best Foam Rollers

Before jumping into the list, here are the criteria that I used when putting together this list of best foam rollers.

  • Weight – Foam rollers, as their name suggests, are designed to be light enough for you to roll around without exerting effort.
  • Compact – Because you’re laying on the ground, you want to have plenty of space. As such, a roller should allow you to lay down and easily perform the exercises you need without too much issue.
  • High-density – The material should also be dense enough so that you won’t accidentally crush the roller under your own weight. The rollers on this list are very durable.

1. Best Overall: LuxFit Premium High-Density Foam Roller

    From dealing with sports injuries to relieving tension points in your body post-workout, this premium high-density foam roller is the best. This foam roller is entirely made from molded polypropylene foam, which means that it has a high density and won’t be losing its shape for a very long time, even if you use it daily.

    Beyond that, it can also repel liquid so it won’t get soggy or wet if you’re particularly sweaty or you’re using the roller near water.

    It comes in three different sizes and can be used to assist your core, cover spinal stabilization, balance, re-educating your muscles, and boost stamina.

    Advertising

    Pick up LuxFit’s foam roller here.

    2. Best Grid: TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller

      If you’re new to foam rollers, this one might be the best choice for you. The reason for that is that each purchase of these TriggerPoint GRID foam rollers comes with a free online instructional video. This video shows you the best practices and how to use a foam roller properly.

      As for the roller itself, the big benefit here is the overall design. It has a rigid hollow core, and the materials used to make this roller are rigid so it won’t be breaking down easily.

      Another aspect to it is its multi-dimensional surface, making it a go-to roller for masseuses to athletes. These rollers can also assist in oxygen flow and heal tissues.

      Pick up TriggerPoint’s foam roller here.

      3. Best for Physical Therapy: Rolling With It Therapeutic Grade Premium EVA Foam Roller

      Advertising

        Even though this roller is fantastic for physical therapy, it can also be helpful for general use, particularly before you go to work out. By rolling in advance, you’re allowing your muscles to get warmed up for the exercises that you’re doing.

        This is big because when muscles are more relaxed, you’ll be able to extend the period of your workout. You’ll want to care about this if you normally do high-impact routines such as Crossfit, bodybuilding, or general weight training.

        Using this regularly is smart and unlike LuxFit’s roller, this one is eco-friendly and resists flaking and chipping.

        Buy Rolling With It Therapeutic’s foam roller here.

        4. Best Half Roller: OPTP PRO-ROLLER Soft Density Foam Roller

          While rollers are nice, they do have a tendency to slip and slide around. If you prefer to stay still and relax your muscles, OPTP’s half-roller will be a good fit. It’s highly durable with its cross-linked, closed-cell foam. Because of that, it has a perfect balance between softness and firmness.

          Beyond that, because it’s a half roller, you have the option between a flat surface or a rounded surface for versatility. If you’re looking for a softer roller, this one is a good option.

          Advertising

          Buy OPTP’s foam roller here.

          5. Best Stick: Tiger Tail Massage Stick

          While your standard rollers are great for back rolling, they’re only able to cover large areas of muscles. This becomes an issue if you’re looking to relieve tension to smaller muscles or in specific areas.

          This is where massage sticks are able to shine as they pinpoint specific areas in your body. Out of the various massage sticks we’ve checked, the one from Tiger Tail is ideal. It has three size options to pick from (11-inch, 18-inch, and 22-inch) letting you have good flexibility in what you’re looking for.

          The Tiger Tail is made from a high-quality, non-absorbent, and non-deteriorating closed-cell foam. This ensures that it won’t hurt your skin when using it, making cleaning easier, too. It’s also ergonomically designed so that your hands won’t tire out when using it.

          Buy Tiger Tail’s massage stick here.

          6. Best for Cyclists: Kieba Massage Lacrosse Balls for Myofascial Release

            While it’s no foam roller, lacrosse balls are excellent ways to relieve tension in areas where foam rollers are awkward to reach, such as shoulders, glutes, and neck. All in all, they’re a great addition to your muscle relaxation routine.

            Advertising

            Every purchase of these lacrosse balls provides you with two balls to use. Through these durable balls, you’ll be able to reach smaller muscle groups easier than you could with any typical foam roller.

            Purchase Kieba’s massage lacrosse balls here.

            7. Best for Shoulders: RumbleRoller Beastie Bar and Stands

              Lastly, if you’re looking for a great way to relax your shoulders, this product from RumbleRoller is ideal. The thing with foam rollers is that reaching your shoulders with these rollers can be awkward. Paired up with shoulders tend to carry a lot of stress, we’re more likely to experience muscle pain in that area.

              Instead of pulling out your roller, this option could be significantly better. This wand features two “Beasties,” which are spiky foam massage balls. Similar to Lacrosse balls, these are able to target small pressure points on your body—in this case, your shoulders and neck.

              It comes with stands that are detachable so you can use just the ball to relieve various points over your body too if need be. Each of the balls is durable and firm so you shouldn’t have issues in relieving muscle pain.

              Buy RumbleRoller’s beastie bar here.

              Advertising

              Final Thoughts

              You don’t need to be constantly seeing a masseuse whenever you experience muscle pain. In many cases, it’s simply that you put your body through a bit too much stress. Whether it’s from your posture or from working out, foam rollers and other physical therapy tools can help you in dealing with those aches and pains. Just try out a few products from this list of the best foam rollers out there, and choose one that best fits your needs.

              Featured photo credit: Ambitious Creative Co. – Rick Barrett via unsplash.com

              Read Next