Facts About Yoga
Q & A with Dr. Larry Payne
What is Yoga?

Yoga is a profound system of holistic health which originated in India over 5,000 years ago. It was first put into written form as the Yoga Sutras. The author was Patanjali (pronounced pa-tan-ja-li). Since the original work was in Sanskrit, there are many translations and interpretations. Yoga is defined in the sutras as having eight limbs or branches. It is the third limb "Asana" (pronounced a-san-a), which refers to postures or Yoga poses that most people perceive as Yoga. The study of asana and physical culture is called Hatha Yoga (pronounced hut-ha with the "th" aspirated). There are possibly more people doing Hatha Yoga now in the state of California than in the entire country of India.

Do I have to tie myself in a knot to do Yoga?

Certainly not. The goal of Yoga, according to the Yoga Sutras, is liberation (kaivalya), not to do the head stand or the lotus pose. An intermediate step is to "Quiet the mind," something that most Westerners could certainly benefit from. The Yoga poses that you use should be selected to fit your individual needs based on your physical and mental condition, as well as your age.

What are some of the benefits of Yoga?

Perhaps the first and most profound benefit that most Westerners notice is stress reduction. The next benefit that all physicians support is circulation. Although Hatha Yoga does improve your flexibility, most people are not aware that Yoga asanas are also good for strength. The whole idea is a balance of strength and flexibility. Once the system comes closer to balance, most practitioners notice an increase in vitality and an overall sense of well-being. The benefits of Yoga do not occur overnight but the results are lasting.

Is Yoga safe?

In most cases yes. However, if you select the wrong level of difficulty in a large group class and have some physical limitations, you could have some problems. It is very important to be sure you are in the right class and inform the instructor of any potential problems.

How do I find the right place to take a Yoga class?

Since Los Angeles has so many Yoga centers, it is advisable to try and compare several places. Most important is, which place has the overall environment that makes you feel most comfortable. There are currently no city, state or federal guidelines for Yoga. There is a very wide spectrum of environments in Yoga classes. It is almost amusing. The biggest differences are between the physical difficulty levels of the classes. You need to decide if you want your Yoga class to be a work-out, a work-in, or some where in-between. A good Yoga class should incorporate the concept of body, breath and mind. In no case should you allow someone to push or intimidate you into doing something that does not feel intuitively right.

How often should I go to a Yoga class?

Ideally, at least two or three times per week. Some people keep their life on track and make some progress by coming once a week, and many people get really motivated by Yoga and come everyday. It depends on the individual and his or her needs.

Is Yoga co-ed?

Yes, on the average there are more women in Yoga classes than men; however some of the more physical Yoga schools have an almost equal ratio.

How much does Yoga cost?

The cheapest Yoga classes are available at adult schools and community centers, in Los Angeles, as low as $5 per class in a course. Or, your health club may include Yoga in the package. However, most Yoga centers average around $10 a class in a series. A one-time drop-in fee varies widely. Many schools offer the first class free, some charge up to $25. You can do research by using the phone and the fax.

What do you wear to a Yoga class?

There is a wide variety of clothing worn in Yoga classes, depending on how physical the class is and the temperature of the room. Women often wear leotards, shorts or sweats. Men often wear shorts or sweats. However, Yoga clothing, like that of other fitness classes, is also a personal expression .

How long should a Yoga class be?

The length of a Yoga class varies from 50 minutes to one and a half hours. Health clubs and corporate classes are usually close to one hour. Yoga centers are usually one hour and fifteen minutes to an hour and a half long.

What is Yoga Therapy?

A simple answer is that Yoga Therapy is usually offered one on one for people that are not able to participate in a regular group class. Some of the many ailments successfully treated with Yoga Therapy are: lower and upper back problems, hypertension and heart disease, asthma and diabetes. A good Yoga therapist often works in conjunction with or is recommended by doctors.

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