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– What is yoga anyway? Is it gymnastics, religion?
-Yoga is one of the 6 systems of classical Indian philosophy. “Yoga is the cessation of vibrations of consciousness” (Yoga Sutras). This is a practical philosophy. A yoga practitioner is engaged in self-exploration, self-study, self-improvement, comprehension of one’s deepest nature. Effects such as good physical and psycho-emotional health are, to some extent, side effects, but integral to the path to spiritual progress and a happy life. There are 8 components in the practice of yoga, which cover the rules of behavior in society, the practice of asanas (simplistically – physical exercises), pranayama (simplistically – the regulation of breathing), and meditative practices (calming the mind, concentration of consciousness).

-How to understand what kind of yoga should be practiced – meditation or asanas?
-If you have not previously engaged in such practices, then it is recommended to start with the practice of asanas, since an ordinary person perceives the body better than some incomprehensible fluctuations of consciousness. A properly structured asana practice will have a beneficial effect on all levels, contributing not only to the healing of the body, but also to calming the mind and nervous system, which will create a good foundation for the future.

-If I am not interested in meditation practices, but inspire the practice of asanas, can I do only them?
-You can, in yoga there are no prohibitions on this matter. If you only want to improve your health – that’s great! Yoga is a great way to improve and maintain health! After some time, someone becomes interested in higher levels of yoga, someone does not.

-I am, on the contrary,  interested in meditation, but I don’t want to practice asanas, can I learn meditation first?
-Of course, you can try it… Most likely, for a start it will be short sessions of 10-15 minutes. This is not even meditation, but only preparation. For  meditation lasting about an hour, you need to have a body prepared in a certain way – your back should remain absolutely straight and you should not experience any discomfort from staying motionless in one position for a long time, the feeling of discomfort will simply distract and disturb you.

-Now there are so many types of yoga, how do they differ?
-Now, indeed, there are a lot of different types of yoga, if you look at the advertisement, you will find hatha, ashtanga, kundalini, nidra, jivamukti, vini, yin, deep, relax, hot, power and so on, probably, every week someone comes up with another “new kind” of yoga… In a good half of the cases it’s just a marketing ploy! For yoga is one. But it is very diverse and multifaceted. There are hundreds of asanas. There are power ones, and there are in the prone position with complete relaxation. So much for “power” and “relax”. There is the practice of a dynamic sequence of asanas – ashtanga-vinyasa yoga, and there is yoga according to the Iyengar method, where attention is paid to the precise and deep adjustment of asanas. In general, it will be impossible for a beginner to figure out if this is really a “real” type of yoga or a marketing ploy. You will absolutely not be mistaken if you choose yoga according to the Iyengar method or Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga (but if you are over 40, then it will be difficult to start with the latter).

-When is the best time to do yoga, morning or evening?
-If we talk about the practice of asanas, then some beginners in the morning feel the body more constrained than in the evening. That is, in the evening it is a little easier to deal with them. But in general, it all depends on your employment. Asanas can be practiced with equal success both in the morning and in the evening, just in the evening practice you need to do a few calming postures at the end. Pranayama and meditation can be practiced at any time of the day, for me personally, meditation goes better in the morning immediately after waking up. All yoga practices are performed on an empty stomach.

-How often (or rarely) can beginners practice?
-The optimal schedule for beginners is 2-3 lessons per week for 1-1.5 hours. After a few months or a year, you can gradually increase the number of classes. Once a week is not enough (but better than nothing), and more often beginners should not do it, as the body must gradually adapt to new loads. If a person has not stretched anything for several decades, and then suddenly starts stretching every day, it will be stressful for the body and there is a high probability of injury. In addition, asanas are not just stretching, they have a complex effect on the functioning of internal organs and metabolic processes. So the body has to adapt very gradually. In general, any lifestyle changes are best done gradually.

-Do yogis have to follow a specific diet?
-In the Yoga Sutras, for example, nothing is said about nutrition at all! And this work is one of the pillars of yogic philosophy. But there, by the way, there are no instructions at all in the imperative mood regarding anything. The fact is that by practicing yoga a person becomes more conscious, and this awareness extends to all spheres of life. As the years go by, practitioners become more discriminating in their diet, as they feel better what they eat nice and what not. And for less healthy food (even if there were such habits), cravings gradually disappear, so the change in nutrition occurs gradually and, as it were, by itself, without any painful diets. Regarding nutrition for different types of human constitution, read my article about Ayurveda. As for me personally, I do not eat meat (but I have gradually given up on it over several years, and I do not encourage anyone!), I try to minimize the consumption of sugar and flour 00 and eat natural and fresh food, not subjected to industrial processing, and observe sufficient intervals between meals for 4-6 hours, sometimes I’m fasting for 24 hours (2-4 times a month).

-Does yoga philosophy conflict with my religion?
-From the point of view of yoga, yoga does not contradict any religion and does not require you to give up your faith. Yoga is self-exploration, self-study and self-improvement. But it is possible that with practice your religious orientations will change by themselves. If we talk about christianity (considering the teachings of Jesus set forth in the New Testament as the basis), then the values ​​preached by Jesus and the commandments set forth in the Yoga Sutras are identical. I do not find not only contradictions, but even differences in the teachings of christianity and yoga philosophy. Much less familiar with buddhism and hinduism, but in this case I have not heard of any contradictions. I can’t say anything about other religions because I haven’t studied them.

-If I am no longer young, I have back pain (knees, neck) and some other health problems, will yoga harm me? Maybe at my age it’s better not to start?
-I have students who are 60-70 years old, and so they are very sorry that they did not start practicing yoga at 40, or even better at 30. The Queen of Denmark began taking yoga lessons from Iyengar when she was under 90! Of course, for people of age, the practice is selected accordingly. As well as in cases with existing health problems, asanas must be modified, here the professionalism of the teacher is especially important. In Iyengar yoga, we study in detail how to practice with various diseases in order to achieve improvement or at least slow down the deterioration of the condition. Wrong, unsuitable practice can easily harm.

-If I’m not flexible at all, can I exercise?
-See what goals you are pursuing. If you want to definitely sit on the split, and even in 2 weeks, and even starting to practice at the age of 55, and even leading a sedentary lifestyle, then this is very unlikely. But in order to exercise for health, the presence or absence of flexibility does not matter at all! Absolutely! For spiritual enlightenment or for good health, there is absolutely no need to be able to unconditionally throw a leg over your head, sit on a twine or “tie a knot” in an intricate pose! Although there is a connection between the flexibility of the body and the flexibility of the mind, you will start your journey from where you are, and the path itself is important, not just the goal! It is important that there is progress between you yesterday and you today. There are the most worthy people who cannot sit on the splits, and there are people who demonstrate miracles of flexibility, but at the same time they do not have special virtues or knowledge. It is also very important not only WHAT you do, but HOW. You can make a rather complicated pose barely, on the verge of risk of injury, while not understanding well what is happening with the body, or you can make a simple pose with full awareness of what, how, and why you are doing. In the second case, it will be useful.

-How to choose a teacher? How can a beginner assess the degree of professionalism of a teacher?
-It is naturally difficult for a beginner to assess the professionalism of a teacher. The question is complex and this will be a separate article. Briefly, what is worth paying attention to. If your friends have been studying with a certain teacher for a long time and have a positive impression – good. You shouldn’t feel bad after class. A good teacher speaks in a simple, understandable language for students, clearly expresses his thoughts, without abstract lengthy reasoning. A good teacher does not hide who he studied with, moreover, he proudly talks about his teachers, if they are great famous masters of their craft! Also, he will not be embarrassed at all if you ask what certificates and diplomas he has. In yoga, there is the concept of parampara – the transfer of knowledge from teacher to student. So if a teacher says that he “learned from a lot of people”, without naming specific names, and then “developed his own style”, I would be very alert.

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