Yoga: A Beginners Guide to Finding Zen

Originating from India, Yoga is not exactly new science. However, with the trending “wellness” theme replacing pure fitness, it is definitely something that is becoming more popular by the day.

If you’re new to yoga (often translated simple as “union”), the whole scene can be one big, confusing “I think I’ll just download the app”. With so many names thrown around on the yoga mat, how are you supposed to know which one will suit YOU as a new yogi/yogini?

Assuming you haven’t gotten deep into Sanskrit, and Hindi is NOT a language on the radar; I’ll leave the Bhagavad Gita by the bedside and help you get into the basics to start YOUR practise – however it may form.

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YOGA: Photo Courtesy of htttp://indabayoga.com, London

Today, in my best attempt, I’m going to help get your head around the yoga jargon and have your feet leading you to the studio of your choice.

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HATHA YOGA

The word Hatha means Willful or Forcefull, and is the word you’re likely to hear most associated with yoga. Put simply, this style is the traditional Indian format with a series of asanas (postures or poses) to align your body – muscles, skin, bones – so that your energy can flow freely. Ha (Sun) and tha (moon) is also related to balance. Not just in the universal sense, but of masculine and feminine; left and right and the union of the body, mind and soul. It’s a great way to introduce the concept of yoga into your life, and harmonise movement with breath at your own pace.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN CLASS?

Think a series of warm up postures, breath work (pranayama), holding postures for a few breaths before switching sides, balancing poses and if you’re lucky, a little bit of meditation and some Aum’s being chanted at the end of the class to send you into mindless oblivion. GREAT for beginners and to wind down at the end of a busy day; but always best to inform the teacher you are new to yoga. Some studios will advertise beginner’s classes also, so jump on those options! Classes will usually run for 60 – 120 minutes depending on your teacher, and if meditation and pranayama is included.\

Check out this YouTube clip Yoga For Complete Beginners by one of my favourite online Yogini’s, Adriene

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IYENGAR YOGA

Iyengar Yoga (Named after B.K.S Iyengar) is based on the Hatha practise, but with more attention to the anatomical detail and alignment of each posture. In short, it’s the practise of precision – great for the perfectionist in you.  It’s a practise used to cultivate strength, flexibility, awareness, stability and has therapeutic benefits when applied under strict guidance.  Great for beginner’s and those who haven’t exercised in a while.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN CLASS?

Poses are held for long periods and often modified with props such as blocks (foam or wooden to balance or align), straps (to emphasise a stretch or get deeper into your bends) and bolsters (to allow your muscles to “let go”) which were introduced by B.K.S himself. Great for deepening your stretches and developing a new appreciation for the limits you can push your physical self.

WHERE TO PRACTISE?

BKS Iyengar Yoga is an informative website that will tell you where to find a studio and teacher across Australia, and also has a list of retreats abroad to keep you interested.

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VINYASA/FLOW/SLOW FLOW YOGA

A cross between the traditional elements of Hatha and the strength of Ashtanga; Vinyasa (or “Flow” yoga) as it is commonly called, is a series of asana’s (postures) that are linked to the inhale and exhale of each breath.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN CLASS?

Generally, a few warm up postures are performed at a slower pace before setting forth on standing postures, twists, seated postures and lastly, inversions. The sequencing is of the teachers control, but anytime you feel you need a break; you can always sink into resting posture – childs pose. Usually a class will last between 60 – 90 minutes and the pace will vary based on the energy and experience of the room. The fast and harder postures are often performed at the start; but sometimes periods of Savasana (corpse pose – resting) are offered if the intensity of the sequence is high.

WHERE TO PRACTISE?

Want to try out a class in Melbourne? KX Yoga has studio’s dotted around the city, and consistently offer great classes. They also have staff offering adjustments in each class, allowing you to understand the depth of your movement, and offer fun workshops to keep you enthused.

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ASHTANGA/POWER YOGA

Ashtanga or 8 limb yoga, is a practise that goes far deeper than the asana, but I’ll just address the physical element for the purpose of this post. Ashtanga is a set series of postures known as the Primary Series or Advanced Series for those who have been practising for longer and want more physical exertion in their practise.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN CLASS?

As the postures are performed in time with the breath; they are performed at a quickened pace for each subsequent round of the series. Expect to work up a sweat and test your cardio vascular levels! Some studios will even utilise heated rooms (up to 37 degrees Celsius) to allow your muscles to warm up faster and get deeper into the pose. It’s strong, it’s repetitive and it’s highly addictive for athletes and those who love to be in control. Classes will run for 60 minutes and usually won’t include elements of pranayama (breathwork) or meditation.

WHERE TO PRACTISE?

If you’re a Melbourne local, I highly recommend starting out at Ihana Yoga in St Kilda. Not only is it a supportive environment, but the teachers have an aptitude of knowledge on anatomy and precision of movement. If you LOVE the yoga path – they also offer teacher training.

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BIKRAM YOGA

Not to be confused with hot yoga, although it is taught in a room 38 degrees or higher to replicate the birthplace of it’s founder; India. Similar to Ashtanga, it has a SET routine of 26 postures each performed in order and intensity is HIGH.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN CLASS?

The series of 26 postures are performed in a very strict order and will be led exactly the same way from one studio to the next – no suprises! It’s great for veteran yogi’s/yogini’s that want to push their limits and create a deeper level of union, and not recommended for someone who is less than athlete-style-fit. You will drip with sweat, so bring a towel and change of clothes for after class. Classes usually go for 90 minutes.

WHERE TO PRACTISE?

Keen to give Bikram a try Melbournites? Head to Bikram Yoga Melbourne in Phrahan or Richmond to get started with the best.

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KUNDALINI YOGA

Reserved for the more “spiritual” of the bunch, Kundalini focuses on breathwork, mantra, meditation and a series of postures designed to ‘wake up’ the kundalini (serpent) energy within your spine.  According to research, Kundalini yoga is the perfect meditative practise for increasing endorphins, relieving anxiety, releasing addictions and letting go of fear.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN CLASS?

Aside from the usual asana, kundalini also utilises Pranayama (Breathwork), Mudra’s (hand gestures) and Bandha’s (body locks) and will alleviate a lot of mind chatter if you have a qualified teacher – which are hard to find!

WHERE TO PRACTISE?

Kundalini House is well-known in Melbourne and has professionally trained teachers allowing you to escape into your own blissful enlightenment. Also, if you want to ensure your teacher is legit, head to Kundalini Yoga Teachers Association (AU & NZ). Not only will you be able to find a teacher in your region, but there are loads of updates on workshops, events and teacher training! Thanks to Marsha Tauber for passing on that info 🙂

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YIN

Yin yoga, is a chance for your body to fall quietly and slowly back into its self. It’s not vigorous or strength inducing; but rather a beautiful chance to bliss out to external forces and reclaim your inner calm.

“Essentially Yin yoga stresses the connective tissues of the body – ligaments, tendons, fascia, joint capsules, bones and of course the muscle fibre. Yin theory also encompasses Chinese Meridian Theory and the Indian Chakra system. There is a very strong energetic component to the practice of yin. A yin class can also include meditation techniques, pranayama etc…There is also a lot of scientific evidence about the benefits of applying slow, tensional loading to our connectivtissues, which is what we do in a yin practiceEastern philosophies have long known the benefits of the body having harmonious chi/prana balance. Slowly Western science has begun to map and find scientific evidence to support these age old traditions.” – Leonie Lockwood

WHAT TO EXPECT IN CLASS?

Yin classes are with or without props (depending on the teacher) with the aim of staying in one asana for a longer period of time (3-5 minutes) and really going deep into stretching the tissues. It’s about learning how to surrender mentally, emotionally and physically. In the process we become clearer and closer to our true being and of course, more mobile.

The class will usually consist of only 6-9 postures, and the emphasis is to focus on maintaining a strong balance of breath through each asana (this really depends on the teacher’s focus). If you’re going to try a class for the first time, ensure you let the teacher know so they can help with any adjustments.

WHERE TO PRACTISE?

My favourite places in Melbourne to practice Yin are Grass Roots yoga in St Kilda and The Yoga Place in the CBD – regarded as one of the TOP THREE studios in Melbourne. Senior Yin teacher, Leonie Lockwood has been kind enough to give me a greater understanding of the Yin practice, and holds regular classes and workshops in the Melbourne region.

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RESTORATIVE

Although initially I thought restorative and Yin were interchangeable, I’ve had some great insights from two of Melbourne’s well versed yoga guru’s to help clear things up! With the help of both Leonie and Gena, I hope that the explanation below can help you find your final flow:

“Restorative Yoga turns on the healing relaxation response by combining supported yoga postures with conscious breathing and awareness. Restorative yoga helps to bring back balance, to build resources and expands vital life force energy. With the correct guidance, students can learn more about their subtle body. In time, the subtle body becomes a never-ending exploration of learning and inspiration. Through the practice of Restorative yoga, you can begin to release the deepest layers of tension in both body and mind. This is a practice that rests the body but engages the mind; it is in the ‘non-doing’ that the magic happens. Restorative yoga is not a ‘passive’ practice of collapsing, instead it is an active process of focusing the mind on healing thoughts, feelings and sensations.” – Gena Kenny

WHAT TO EXPECT IN CLASS?

Depending on the teacher, restorative classes run from between 60-90 minutes and use a combination of bolsters and blankets (often rolled into shapes) to aid in the natural release of deep tension set within the body – and mind. The magic of restorative appears not only in the physical body, but at a deeper level, it allows the mind to rest by engaging it in play. Initially, restorative can look as though the body is relaxing into oblivion, while in FACT, the art of ‘non-doing’ is allowing the mind to work at deeper levels to cease that monkey mind and allow healing thoughts and sensations to arise from within.

Restorative is a practise for anyone who would like to reduce deep tensions of stress, illness, injury and more simply; the daily pressures that life throws our way.

WHERE TO PRACTISE?

Gena is a Melbourne local teacher, and is both the founder and director of Ohana Yoga in Port Melbourne. Not only is she regularly teaching on the schedule, but also holds workshops on the art of truly letting go into the deeper realms of restorative yoga.

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BHAKTI, SIVANANDA, SATYANANDA, KRIYA, ACRO, PARTNER, YANG… While that’s it from my perspective, there certainly are a WHOLE lot more yoga options to discover, but as always, I recommend starting at the start. Perhaps advancing over time when you’ve realised your purpose of practise.

On a final note, a little etiquette for your first class is ALWAYS appreciated:

  • Make sure you turn up 5-10 minutes early to secure your spot and sign in
  • Check if you need to bring your own mat to avoid missing out or having to hire one
  • Where comfy clothes you can stretch in – make sure they’re not see through!
  • Bring a towel to shower afterwards if you’re doing hot yoga or sweat a lot
  • Be open minded, leave your ego at the door and don’t compare to the person on the next mat.

Another trending option, is to immerse yourself in a Yoga Retreat. I work with Love Me Retreats whom have female based retreats in Bali, Queensland and Regional Victoria; but another great website is Book Yoga Retreats which offers training and retreats all over the world. The possabilities are ENDLESS!

Hope this helps you get started on your own yoga journey and start enjoying the endless benefits of becoming one with yourself – on and off the mat.

Love and light,

Monique Elouise xx

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Passionate about self growth, Im traveling the world to learn more about holistic fitness from varying cultural perspectives. While I stay put for a few months at a time, I like to 'live as a local' volunteering at health retreats, getting deep into workshops, training, cooking, meditating, dancing and anything that will keep me holistically fit while letting intuition guide me. My end goal is to help others how become deeply in tune with themselves, learning to listen to theit inner voice, conquer their demons and create a stronger version of themselves through health and fitness.

4 thoughts on “Yoga: A Beginners Guide to Finding Zen

  1. Ciao Monique, i already follow you on Instagram (I am, on Instagram “pilatesforyou”).
    This is the first time I read your Web pages, once again congratulations.
    I wish I could find a person like you in Milan Italy to start practicing yoga. Xxx

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    1. Thanks Raffaele! I really appreciate your fellowship and comments on my instagram, and so happy to hear you’ve read my blog!!! I’m sure you will find a teacher that’s perfect to start you on your path in Milan too 😊😊😊😊

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