Frequently Asked Questions
What is yoga?
The word Yoga is derived from the root sanskrit work “yug” meaning to yoke or join together. Yoga aims to cultivate awareness of both the seen and unseen worlds and join them in fruitful harmony. When our physical bodies are strong and open it is much easier to be happy and kind human beings. Yoga is a practice of expanding our awareness of these relationships between our physical patterns and the energy we experience and consciously shifting them to be more life enhancing.
Is yoga a religion?
No. Yoga is a lifestyle, a set of physical and mental disciplines that enhance the function of our bodies and minds as channels of our creative power. The iconography and characters used to unfold the yoga philosophy are not Gods and Goddesses in a religious sense. They represent energies of nature and humanity and are used to help us understand and intelligently respond to the challenges of life and love.
When did yoga begin?
The exact date is not clear. The written guidelines of yoga (called the Yoga Sutras) date back 2,130 years ago, but it is postulated that the oral tradition and physical practices were around for many centuries before the Sutras were written. About 5000 years ago, during a time of peace and abundance in the Indus valley, a group of seekers called the Rishis (the “seers”) was formed. These were people who devoted their lives to observing nature very closely and contemplating the inherent order, intelligence, and beauty of nature. It is said that this study of the dance of energy and form in nature inspired the disciplines that make up the Yoga Practice.
Are yoga and meditation the same?
Essentially, all of yoga is meant to be a meditation on the Source Energy we arise from and the brilliant form we are in while here on Earth. Seated meditation, where the mind is cleared of agitating thought patterns and allowed to contemplate the mystery of life, can be part of an individual yoga practice and is often part of a yoga class. Remember that there is no expected outcome from meditation: it is simply an opportunity to calm and clear the mind to feel into your own mystery.
What is Om? Why do we chant Om before class?
Om is simply a clearing tone. It gently sweeps the mind clear of habituated thinking and prepares us to be present during class. Om is also the frequency of creation. It was originally spelled AUM. The “Ah” sound of the A is the rising of new creation. The “Oo” sound of the U is the top of the wave representing nectar from creations in fullness. The “Mm” sound of the M represents the natural dissolving of creations when they have run their cycle and are ready to crumble. Chanting the sound reminds us to “go with the flow” of these natural waves of creation, fullness, and release.
What is Namaste? Why do teachers say it after class? What should I say in response?
Namaste (Nah-Mah-Stay) literally means: “to you, I bow.” It is a recognition of our unshakable unity with each other and all life. It is a reminder that God and Goodness are within each of us. Teachers say it after yoga class because the asana practice is meant to shed the armoring that can hide our natural light, and when it is revealed, we want to bow in reverence to the light we see in others. When someone says “Namaste” to you, it is expected that you would say “Namaste” in return. In class, you are free to simply bow in silence as well.
If I’ve never been to yoga and I am stiff, how should I begin?
Many people begin yoga by taking private lessons in the comfort of their own home. This way the beginner student gets clear, careful instruction suited to his or her current conditions. The fundamentals of breathing deeply and moving with balanced action can be established before the student enters a busy classroom. Familiarity with some of the basic poses also adds to the comfort level when the student is ready to join a public class. Wisdom Flow Studio offers an 8-week beginning yoga course twice yearly (March-April and October-November) as another alternative for new students entering into the practice.
How often should I practice?
It depends. When we first begin yoga classes, coming face to face with our tight and weak places can be overwhelming. We want to push gently on the edge of our limits and expand them in a way that feels interesting rather than irritating. We want to feel the soreness of muscles growing stronger without limiting our ability to move through our day. Ultimately a devoted yogi practices every day, but that does not have to mean s/he comes to class every day. Breathing consciously while you drive to work, standing on one foot while waiting in line at the bank, taking a deep breath before responding to a challenge – these are all yoga practices. Most students who settle into a lifelong practice will come to class 3-4 times a week. Those wanting to become teachers or enhance their athleticism will come 5-6 times per week.
What is Ujjayi Breath?
Ujjayi (U-JAI-EE) breathing is the breathing technique used when we move through asanas (poses). It tones the deep core and pelvic floor to create stability to support us in vigorous movement. It also builds heat in the body to help bring suppleness to tight muscles. The sound of this breath keeps the mind from wandering or panicking as we practice. There are many layers of awareness to this breath, and seasoned yogis agree that it is a never-ending practice to refine ujjayi breathing and reveal more of it benefits. The basic description of Ujjayi breathing is this:
– Relax the root of the tongue, rest the tip lightly behind top front teeth
– Gently tone the top of the throat and draw breath slowly in and out of a relaxed nose
– Open the inner ears to hear the hissing sound as the breath passes over toned throat top
– Contract pelvic floor and deep abdomen on inhales, flare side ribs and upper chest
– Exhale slow and steady finishing exhales by drawing the navel back towards the spine
What am I supposed to feel in Savasana?
Savasana is the deep relaxation period at the close of an asana practice. It is typically 6-10 minutes – anything shorter is not effective. This pose is meant to allow the body to absorb the energetic benefits of the physical and mental practice. It is a time to be absolutely still and quiet so the old energetic patterns can dissolve and make room for new ones. You may feel uncomfortable with the stillness and silence at first. Try not to fidget or open your eyes. Soon you will come to enjoy the quiet respite from the spin of the outer world and find that savasana can be hugely refreshing. Some people have revelations and inspirations during savasana; other people feel like they’ve slept 10 hours. Each person has a unique experience of savasana, and it evolves as our practice deepens.
Basic Class Etiquette
– Arrive 5-10 minutes early
– Arrive clean without perfume or cologne
– Pay before class
– Turn cell phones off
– Make room for people in a crowded class
– Do not leave during savasana
How is Wisdom Flow Yoga different from other styles?
Wisdom Flow Yoga focuses on teaching students the fundamental architecture of their bodies and how to honor it through the dynamics of vinyasa (transitional moments). Wisdom Flow Yoga also emphasizes that our life force energy is meant to flow, and the practice is a check-in to see where the flow might be stuck or where it might be overflowing. When we move in optimal alignment with core strength supporting the flow of movement, strength and fluidity are appropriately balanced to support spinal integrity and joint congruency (even pressure across joined surfaces).
Alignment principles are presented with clear titles that are easy to remember and apply off the mat. For example, “The Four Corners of the Torso Live in the Back of the Body”. The four corners are the shoulder heads and the top of the thighbones. Students learn to press them back to keep hip and shoulder joints optimally aligned as they move. So Wisdom Flow Yoga is very intelligent and easy to apply as a therapeutic practice. At the same time, the dynamic movement set to music is fun and invigorating, building cardiovascular strength, core strength, and graceful movement.