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Yoga FAQ's

Posted Jan 25 2010 3:55pm
Everything You Wanted to Know About Yoga!
I get dozens of private emails every week asking many of these questions, and I thought it was time to put my answers together so that everyone can benefit.  

Enjoy my Q & A session with pictures of me in some of my favorite yoga poses mixed in!
Question: I have never done yoga.  How should I start?
Answer:I would recommend doing some research about beginner's classes in your area and going to either a local yoga studio or some actual place where yoga classes are offered with a teacher.  I do not necessarily recommend DVDs or podcasts for total beginners because with DVDs/Podcasts you could begin to practice bad habits which are not only hard to break, but you could injure yourself.   Once you have some real live classes with a real live teacher under your belt, and if you feel it is beneficial to your schedule and life to do DVDs/Podcasts, then go for it.
Question: What DVDs/Podcasts do you recommend?
Answer: See the previous answer about first making sure that you aren't going to be practicing bad form, improper alignment, or doing anything else that could set yourself up for injury or nasty habits that are hard to break...after we've established that you feel these are safe, I would say go with teachers that resonate with your style of yoga.  I personally don't listen to DVDs/Podcasts that much because I don't have much practical use for them, but these are a few that I know students like with my sidebar about what their style, in general, is.

Rodney Yee (he has a mere 67 choices on Amazon)-Nice, Middle of the Road, Hatha, Flow, Vinyasa Yoga
Shiva Rea- Flow, Vinyasa, Power, Surfer, Core Work

Seane Corne
Nicki Doane's Ashtanga Yoga-I do ashtanga so I am partial to anything ashtanga.- Intense, vigorous, flowing, heat-building, a "great workout".
Also see David Swenson's Astanga Yoga Store for DVD'sAnd, he had great laminated practice cards showing all the poses in the 1st and 2nd series in ashtanga which are the poses that I frequently show on my blog.-- Intense, vigorous, flowing, heat-building, a "great workout".

Mandy Ingber's Yogalosophy - Jennifer Anniston's yoga teacher
Yoga for Beginners II DVD (with Patricia Walden) by Gaiam

On itunes (must have itunes downloaded and search for these there) but most are free.  Full length 60+ minute classes.
Yoga to the People
Dave Farmar

On YogaDownload
Try whatever strikes your fancy.  Note that you have to pay for these downloads that are longer than 20 minutes whereas on itunes, they are largely free.
Question: What Yoga Music do you Play in Your Classes or What Artists Do You Like?
Answer: (all can be found on itunes,, etc.)

Jai Uttal (my go-to guy for "yoga music".  Not too "out there", not too sleepy and relaxing, but not intense, either)
Krishna Das
Donna DeLory
Deva Premal (the most amazingly soothing voice, perfect for relaxation, meditation, slow yoga, or svasana/resting)
Random Current Hits & Artists Mixed Into my Playlist (i.e. Lady Gaga, R. Kelley, Black Eyed Peas, and whatever strikes me)
Question: I am overweight/underweight/out of shape/just had a baby/have an injury/worried that I will make a fool of myself/etc.  What should I do?
Answer:  First, no one really cares about what you look like or don't look like, in yoga.  I hate to break it to you, but the person next to you really doesn't care if you can't do a pose, if you're little out of shape, they've got their own thing going on, as it should be!  When I am taking classes, of course I notice, in a very general sense, what the overall level of ability of the other students' is, but I don't pay much attention.  Yoga is about going inward, respecting your limits, not comparing, not judging, being mindful and present with your practice.  That said, just go for it.  Really.  The worst that can happen is that you actually have fun...kidding!  Really, what's going to happen?  You fall over?  Who cares!  We all fall!  If you feel it is appropriate to discuss your situation with the instructor, go for it.  If not, then don't and just do your best and if something doesn't feel right or you can't or don't want to do it, then don't.  This is not the Army.  You don't have to do anything you don't want to; it's Yoga!
Question: I'm broke and cannot afford yoga.  I guess I can't do it or have to settle for a DVD or a Podcast.  Any advice?
Answer: I recommend looking into yoga classes where you may not necessarily think you'd find them, but often times, you will:
  • The Public Library.  Especially check branches which are either the "Main Branch", near a college or university, or in a part of town that is more affluent, or there's a high percentage of soccer moms/young children.  Classes at libraries are usually free and although they are often only a few times per month, it's somthing.
  • YMCA and Boys & Girls Clubs.  Again, same advice as the library applies.  Call around, be persistent!
  • Health Food Stores (especially smaller or independent-owned ones)/Food Co-Ops/Stores that are Hippy Dippy Crunchy Granola in Nature/Coffee Shops.  Check the bulletin boards in these types of stores for yoga teachers advertising their classes at a grassroots level.  Or ask the employees if they know of a yoga teacher.  Someone always knows someone who teaches yoga in settings like this.  Once you find out who the teacher is, call him/her and get the run-down.  They may be willing to offer reduced class fees, or you can barter/trade.
  • Barter/Trade Services with a Yoga Teacher (Trade a manicure for a yoga class, trade your knowledge of quickbooks, gardening, your cooking knowledge; offer to babysit the yoga teacher's children in exchange for yoga, offer to cook for the teacher, off to run errands, fix something around her house; but trade your services/skills/time.  Most yoga teachers love trades & barter, so ask!)
  • Check Craigslist under Services or Jobs sections-Yoga teachers often advertise their classes or services here because it's free; many times they will be willing to work with you on the price, so ask.
  • Check independent/college/offbeat newpapers- i.e. CityPages, City Beat, those free newspapers you'd find outside of a coffee shop, find yoga teachers and classes that way and then make contact and ask for reduced fees.
  • Intro of First Class is Free at Many Studios
  • All You Can Do Yoga for $25 for 2 Weeks type of offers.  Most studios offer this to new students.
In order for any of the aforementioned reduced/no-cost yoga classes with a teacher to work for you, you do have to find out who the teacher is and approach them, call then, etc. and be willing to Ask for It!  You may have to swallow your pride a bit, but hey, if you don't ask, you'll never know.  As a teacher, I don't mind when people ask for free classes.  Sometimes I say yes, sometimes I say no, it just depends on my circumstances at that time.  But I actually respect people for asking and seeking out yoga in whatever way they can!
Question: What should I look for in a teacher in terms of his/her credentials?
Answer: This is a biggie for me because I have put thousands of hours into training, studying, learning, seeking, living & breathing all things yoga by way of Yoga Alliance recognized Teacher Training Programs.  At the time of publication of this post, I am a RYT-200 with Yoga Alliance and my am studying for my RYT-500 which I will complete in February, 2010 and will apply for my RYT-500 Credential with Yoga Alliance in February.  

If your teacher is not Yoga Alliance credentialed, it does not mean they are a "bad teacher"; however, it could.  As in the case in many industries, and the health & fitness industry is no different, there can be diamonds in the rough (awesome teachers who aren't certified) and there can be bad apples (horrible teachers even though they are certified)

As a student, taking classes from a Yoga Alliance Registered Yoga Teacher is one thing you can do to help ensure the level of instruction you receive in class is up to par and that the teacher is mandated to adhere to a Code of Conduct which is as Follows:

1. Uphold the integrity of my vocation by conducting myself in a professional and conscientious manner.

2. Acknowledge the limitations of my skills and scope of practice and where appropriate, refer students to seek alternative instruction, advice, treatment, or direction.

3. Create and maintain a safe, clean, and comfortable environment for the practice of yoga.

4. Encourage diversity actively by respecting all students regardless of age, physical limitations, race, creed, gender, ethnicity, religion affiliation, or sexual orientation.

5. Respect the rights, dignity, and privacy of all students.

6. Avoid words and actions that constitute sexual harassment.

7. Adhere to the traditional yoga principles as written in the Yamas and Niyamas.

8. Follow all local government and national laws that pertain to my yoga teaching and business.  

As a student, wouldn't you prefer to know your teacher has invested the time, resources, and energy it takes to become certified rather than someone who is just calling themselves "a yoga teacher"?  Food for thought!   
Question: Do Yoga Teachers Carry Liability Insurance?

Answer: If your teacher is not teaching in a studio or gym or other public venue where they would otherwise be covered by their employer's liability insurance policy, ask them what kind of liability policy they personally carry.  I carry a 3 Million Dollar Aggregate Policy because god forbid something happened to a student, I would feel ethically obligated to pay for the student's medical care and treatment and would want to keep myself out of financial ruin.  If your teacher does not have insurance, what would happen in the event you became injured? Make sure you know the answer to this!
Question:  I am a Total Beginner, what classes should I look for?
Answer: Classes with the words: basic, gentle, intro, beginning, are your speed.  And styles such as Hatha, Anusara, Gentle Vinyasa, Restorative, may be good fits for you.

Question: I want a really good workout.  What classes should I look for?
Answer:  Classes with the words advanced, flow, power, vinyasa, ashtanga are your speed.  Beginners, please stay out of the more advanced classes until you're ready.  Don't be a hero and waltz into a 2 hour heated power yoga class.  You will injure yourself, take the teacher's time away from the more advanced students, and it will be a frustrating experience for you, your teacher, and the other students.  Respect yourself, respect the practice, respect everyone's time and attend classes that are appropriate in level.

Question: What's the difference between the different styles of yoga?
Answer: For more in-depth information about yoga styles, and more than have mentioned here, go to the Yoga Journal website's "Yoga Style Guide"
While you're there, browse through the website; you will find a ton of yoga information.

Here's a Basic Run-Down of Yoga Styles- 
Please Note the ** in front of some of the styles, indicating Vinyasa-style yoga.  Vinyasa yoga combines a series of flowing postures with rhythmic breathing for an intense body-mind workout.  Styles with an asterisk* are vinyasa-based, all are derived from ashtanga, the grandfather so to speak of vinyasa/power/flow yoga.
  • Anusara - an aerobic form of hatha yoga similar to Ashtanga yoga but not as vigorous and with more awareness of alignment; emphasis on "opening the heart"
  • **Ashtanga - very aerobic form of hatha yoga where the breath is synchronized with a progressive series of postures
  • Bikram - similar to Ashtanga but at a more moderate pace, consisting of 26 poses; the yoga room is heated to help loosen muscles
  • Iyengar -  very precise with emphasis on proper alignment of the body
  • **Jivamukti - highly meditative but physically challenging
  • **Power Yoga - rigorous workout that develops strength and flexibility while keeping students on the move. 
  • Sivananda - sequence of 12 basic poses (with possible variations); pranayama (breathing exercises) is incorporated into the class 
Question: Do you ever do Bikram or Hot Yoga?
Answer: I am not a huge Bikram fan as I believe most of what you do in a Bikram studio is sweat solely due to heat rather than the actual intensity level of the yoga.  Basically, the heat that made you feel like you were working really hard.  With ashtanga (which is what I gravitate toward), you will always get a phenomenal physical workout in, as well as the mental boost.   No disrespect towards any Bikram lovers, that's just not what floats my boat quite as much.  I do enjoy rooms to be warm, in the high 70s or low 80s, just not 100F Bikram-style.  And I actually teach a heated power flow which I love.  And that's the beauty of yoga and have find what works for you and make your path your own.
Question: Sanskirt names totally confuse me.  Help me with some basic translation!
Answer: Below is a list of Sanskrit names of some common yoga poses and their English meanings. (Recommended book: "How to Use Yoga" by Mira Mehta - Rodmell Press)

Names of Common Poses ("Asanas")

Standing Poses:
· Ardha Chandrasana - half moon pose
· Parsvakonasana - lateral angle pose
· Parvsvottanasana - extreme sideways stretch
· Prasarita Padottanasana - forward stretch with wide apart legs
· Tadasana - mountain pose
· Trikonasana - triangle pose
· Utkatasana - fierce pose
· Virabhadrasana - warrior pose (three variations)
· Vrksasana - tree pose (a balance pose)

Inverted Poses:
· Adho Mukha Vrksasana - downward facing tree/handstand
· Halasana - plow
· Pincha Mayurasana - peacock tail pose/elbow balance
· Sarvangasana - shoulderstand
· Sirsasana - headstand
· Viparita Karani - restful inversion (legs up against wall)

Forward Bending Poses:
· Baddha Konasana - bound angle pose
· Janu Sirsanana - head-to-knee pose with one bent leg
· Navasana - boat pose
· Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana - revolved head-to-knee pose
· Paschimottanasana - seated forward bend
· Supta Padangusthasana - lying down finger-to-foot pose
· Upavista Konasana - seated angle pose
· Uttanasana - standing forward bend

Back Bending Poses:
· Adho Mukha Svanasana -downward facing dog
· Bhujangasana - cobra pose
· Dhanurasana - bow pose (2 variations)
· Eka Pada Rajakapotasana - one-leg king pigeon pose
· Matsyasana - fish pose
· Natarajasana - dancer's pose (a balance pose)
· Salabhasana - locust pose
· Setu Bandhasana - bridge pose
· Ustrasana - camel pose
Other Poses:
· Ardha Matsyendrasana - half spinal twist
· Garudasana - eagle pose
· Gomukhasana - cow face pose
· Padmasana - lotus pose
· Savasana - corpse pose (a relaxation pose)
· Virasana - hero's pose

Me with Pattabhi Jois (Guruji), 2005 Encinitas, California.  
His Last World Tour.

The Man Crediting with Bringing Ashtanga Yoga to the West

Me with Dharma Mittra-January 25, 2009
Scottsdale, AZ

Dharma Mittra has been teaching daily, since 1967
 Question: What is Pranyama?
Answer: Pranayama is, simply put, breathing exercises. But it is more than a mere exercise; it is a part of yoga practice that is considered as important as doing asanas (the physical poses)
Question: What's your Favorite Yoga Mat?
The Black Mat® PRO Answer: Hands down, the Manduka Black Mat ProStandard length (I am nearly 5'11" and I still don't need/enjoy the Long length.  It is simply too much excess; it takes up too much room in crowded studios and is extra bulk and weight to lug around).  I love this mat because as many thousands of jump backs, handstands, arm balances, you name it that I have done, my toenails & fingernails cannot erode or shred this mat which is what happens after about 2 weeks with any other less expensive mat or any other brand of higher end mat; it doesn't matter.  This is my mat for life.
Question: Do you use a yoga towel or rug?
Answer: I have used Lumi microfiber towels for years and they work very well for me, if I am perspiring, but as I have mentioned before, I am not a huge sweater.  However, so far, I can vouch for this product holding up after hundreds of washes and years of use.

Question: What's your Favorite Yoga Apparel?
*Warning: Rant Ahead*

Answer: First, contrary to popular opinion and belief, I don't believe we need to spend an arm and a leg on yoga apparel.  I have a few pairs of practice pants and shorts that I have had for half a decade and they were not very expensive when I purchased them.  Under $50 bucks each and they have held up to thousands of hours of practice and hundreds of washes.  I don't think it's right, normal, or in the spirit of yoga to be spending $100 or more on a single pair of yoga pants.

I also don't enjoy the fit of certain brands on my body or enjoy looking at others in certain styles and brands.  I believe in a sense of modesty.  I don't believe our butt cracks or stomachs need to be showing during yoga!!  Have some modesty ladies; please keep all your goodies well-covered.  If not for yourself, for your teacher who needs to come around and assist you during class and who does not enjoy staring at 20 butt cracks up in the air during downward dog from uber lowrise practice pants.  Not cool.  Please, cover up.  This is yoga not a nightclub. 
*Rant over.  Thanks for reading,  I had to mention that!*

Companies I love for clothing & yoga accessories:
BePresent.  Their Lotus Mobility Pant, which is a longish Capri, is my hands down favorite pair of pants to walk around town in AND practice in.  Who needs expensive jeans?  Just give me my... 

Lotus Mobility Pant

OmGirl-Found at Barefoot Yoga too

Prana -I love BePresent for their pants, and Prana is my Go-To for tanks/tops/t's
Tonic-Found at BodhiShop
Love Tan Jane- Streetwear with Funky Flair

If these don't scream Flower Child Earth Goddess, I don't know what does.  But OMG these things are sooo comfy!   And I want to buy the entire collection!


Question: What Resources on the Web to Find Clothing, Practice Mats, Rugs, Towels, Yoga Art, etc do you like?

Barefoot Yoga-For everything from clothes to eye pillows to mats to rugs to mat bags!

Gaiam-Great for yoga clothes & props, and also eco-friendly housewares/linens/green choices for the home

Martha Stewart did an Entire Show on Yoga
Yoga Journal-Everything from Yoga Pose Names, Articles, Q & A, Practice Sequence, Shopping, Downloadable MultiMedia, Health, Wisdom, Tips, You Name it, YJ's Your Hookup!

Question: Do You Lift weights? 
Answer: No.  Why would I?  If I can lift my own body weight and hover against gravity, that is all the weight I need to lift.  From my perspective and most yogi perspectives, if you can lift your own body, that's plenty.  Everyone has to do what works for their body, but for me, no weightlifting is needed.  I haven't touched a weight since 7th grade gym class.
Question: Do You Do any Kind of Exercise/Working Out Besides Yoga?
Answer: I power walk with my husband and Skylar every day for about 45-60 minutes.  We view this more as relationship & family time than we do exercise time, but yes, it is exercise.  And, usually in the morning before anyone else is up, I will go for a 20 minute run or walkJust to be alone with my thoughts and out of the house.  To tally it up, I do about an hour of walking/running-based cardio per day and some yoga.  Some days I do 15 minutes of yoga.  Some days it's 90.  On the more yoga-intensive days, I don't do separate walking/running cardioListening to your body and fitting yoga into your life, whether it's your entire "workout", a supplementation to it, or just a tiny piece of what you already do, is the goal of yoga; to find what works, at this moment, for you, and to go with it!
Question: I can't do any of the lifts, hoovering maneuvers, or arm balancing postures.  When will I be able to?  What should I do?
Answer: These are poses to work towards.  I have been practicing yoga 10 years.  Although I have not practiced every, single, day for 10 years, I have probably practiced 340 days a year, every year, for the last 10 years. The physical practice of yoga is like playing the piano, learning a foreign language, running, or hiking.  In the beginning, no one sits down and bangs out a Beethoven Symphony or runs a Sub 3 Hour Marathon, but if you keep practicing, stick with it, don't give up, don't quit, don't get down on yourself, stay positive, then this will all come!  And if it doesn't happen for you, because this is not something your body wants to do, then that's fine, too, because that is YOUR YOGA, your path, your reality, your situation, unique to you.  Embrace yourself for who you are, both your strengths and your challenges, and don't compare yourself to others! 

Haven't had enough Yoga Talk?  Please see This Post where I answered some other common yoga questions.  Do I have to be a vegetarian to do yoga? Is yoga a religion?  And other fun stuff like that!

Reminder about My Yoga and Raw Vegan Foods Retreat!
s_Namaste_102209_15 by meisler4.

newnamaste_3 by meisler4.
On the Beach in San Diego
San Diego Beach by

This Summer in August!

Be there and get your Om Shanti Shanti on while eating your weight in veggies.
  Namaste_102209_24 by meisler4.

Stay Tuned For This Post to Grow if People Start Asking me the Same Questions Over and Over.  I will post my answers here so you all can benefit!

Questions for You!!!!!

Is there anything You Want To Know that I Didn't Cover?
Has This Post Been Helpful or have I Helped Clear Anything Up for You?
Are you Inspired to Try Yoga?  Do You Practice Already?
What other Questions do you Have??!!! (leave your email address in the comment field if you want a reply so I can get back to you)

Namaste, Friends!!!!

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