Yoga 101 – A Beginner’s Guide to Yoga


Yoga is a vast system of physical postures, breathing exercises and meditation techniques. It also includes a philosophy on life and ethics that are non-religious.

Its aim is union between body, mind and spirit, as well as individual self with Cosmic Spirit. This intuitional science can be practiced by people of all faith traditions and those who are agnostic or atheist.


Yoga focuses on breathing techniques that are intended to calm the mind and balance the energy flow in the body. These deep yogic breathing exercises, called pranayama, also help to improve the quality of sleep and boost energy levels.

Ujjayi breath is a common breathing technique used in yoga to create a sound that helps in synchronizing the breath with movement and makes it easier to focus on the pose. This cooling breath meditation reduces anxiety, anger and agitation.

Brahmari pranayama is another breathing technique that is practiced seated upright in a comfortable cross-legged position. This calming breath releases endorphins and encourages deep breathing, which strengthens the lungs. The inhalations and exhalations are equal in length, which is calming and balancing. This breath works well before and after yoga or any time during the day to calm the mind.


Yoga relaxation techniques can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and improve sleep. They also help relieve back pain and neck pain, as well as improve balance, and mental/emotional health.

One common technique is progressive muscle relaxation, in which you systematically tense and relax the muscles of the body. You start with the feet and toes, then work your way up through the body, tensing and relaxing each group of muscles until you reach the head and face.

It’s important to practice these techniques on a regular basis to reap their benefits. Getting into the habit of doing them can help you relax in your daily life, even when you’re not practicing yoga. Practicing regularly can also give you more control over the mind-body connection.


Strength techniques are used throughout yoga to build core, upper-body and lower-body strength. They also help develop balance and stability, and — in the case of handstands — increase bone density and improve mental sharpness.

Many new students assume that yoga is just stretching and finding their calm, but poses, class styles and variations on poses can build muscle strength as well. Yoga instructors often encourage students to repeat a pose, or to hold a pose for a longer time than usual, to build endurance and strengthen the muscles in the area being worked.

Active styles of yoga, such as Vinyasa, Ashtanga or Power yoga, are the most effective for building muscle strength. But even slow-flow yoga can be a good choice for building endurance and strengthening the muscles of the arms, legs, back and core.


Yoga uses stretches that increase the range of motion and flexibility of muscle groups. It also helps you strengthen the muscles that support these movements.

As with any activity, the more you practice yoga, the more flexible you will become. However, don’t rush it. Be gentle on your body and always listen to it, releasing the pose as soon as you start to feel uncomfortable.

Many studies have compared yoga to other exercise and found that it improves flexibility and balance. But these studies may not be generalizable to people outside of the white, well-educated, wealthy demographic that is most often included in yoga research.


The practice of yoga encourages you to notice what is happening in the present moment. This may not seem relaxing at first, but by observing your thoughts and emotions you can learn to let them pass without dwelling on them. This technique can be applied off the mat and throughout life.

It is also a good idea to journal about your yoga experience before and after each session. This can help to uncover unconscious patterns of thinking and emotions that may be holding you back. Bringing these patterns to light through journaling can give you the tools to replace them with more positive statements of truth.

A consistent practice of self-awareness can provide a strong foundation for health and well-being. It takes time to build awareness, but by creating a space free from distraction and making your yoga and meditation practice a priority, you can cultivate a strong sense of self-observation.