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What Is Yoga?

In Sanskrit (the ancient language of India) the word yoga means “union”1. This union occurs between the body, mind and spirit, and is about creating balance in all “aspects” of one’s life. There are many different types of yoga. However, in the West what is commonly practiced and referred to as yoga is actually “Hatha” yoga.

Hatha yoga is the physical aspect of yoga. A hatha yoga class will usually incorporate the practice of physical postures (asana’s) to develop strength and flexibility as well as various breathing practices (pranayama), meditation and relaxation techniques.

Is Yoga a religion?

Having its origins in ancient India yoga is historically associated with the religious-cultural traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism and as such some of the concepts of these traditions have influenced the teachings of yoga. However, yoga within itself is not a religion. It seeks to put us in touch with our inner most nature, who we really are and can be used as a way to explore the depths of our spiritual selves. Therefore yoga can be undertaken by individuals of any faith, and in turn should help to enhance whatever one’s individual beliefs may be.

What are the benefits of yoga?

Physical Benefits:

  • With practice, yoga will help your body develop greater strength, flexibility, muscle tone and balance. The yoga postures incorporate various weight bearing exercises that require you to support your weight in a number of different way. This in turn helps to target, strengthen and tone different muscle groups and parts of the body.
  • Over time, the stretching involved in yoga helps to bring greater range of movement to muscles and joints.
  • Yoga improves body posture and alignment which can have benefits in the prevention and alleviation of number of ailments; especially those that are associated with muscle tightness and spinal compression e.g. back pain.
  • While it is common for most people to breathe quite shallowly yoga breathing practices (pranayama) enable us to use our lungs more effectively helping us to breathe better and increase lung capacity. Better breathing clams the nervous system stimulating the relaxation response, which brings benefits to the whole body both.

Mental Benefits:

  • Yoga practice helps to promote mental calmness which flows on to assist in the reduction of stress. Dharana
  • (focus / concentration) and Dhyana (being still / aware of the inner self) are an integral part of yoga practice.
  • Yoga focuses on mindfulness, being in the moment, experiencing every posture (asana), being with your breath. This allows a much needed break from the stressors of everyday life and can assist you to detach from your thoughts helping to calm the mind leaving you feeling refreshed and less stressed following a class.
  • Meditation and relaxation practices also have this benefit, bringing a sense of stillness to the mind and promoting feelings of greater wellbeing.

Who can practice Yoga?

Even if you do not feel you are flexible or strong you can still practice yoga. Although you are in a class environment, your yoga practice is an individual experience. Every student experiences something different. Yoga promotes a non-competitive spirit, a letting go of one’s ego and working to a level which suits your needs at any given time. Your level of experience and your abilities will develop and change over time, as will your yoga practice. Yoga postures can be taught in various ways. They can be undertaken more quickly generating heat in the body, or slowly to increase stamina focusing on correct alignment in the pose

What type of class can I expect at the Kuring-gai Yoga School?

At the Kuring-gai yoga school we focus on correct alignment of the body in each posture (asana), holding the asana for a time to promote strength and flexibility, whilst breathing into the stretch.

Each of our classes runs for 1hour and 15 minutes. The class commences with a short relaxation to centre the mind and let go of the day’s events, and is followed by some gentle limbering ( vinyasa) and warming up movements to prepare the body for the stronger asana practice. Breathing (pranayama) practices are incorporated throughout the class either on their own or in conjunction with the asana’s. A longer deep relaxation is undertaken at the end of each class.

Meditation techniques and practices are also given either in the yoga class or more intensively through our meditation courses and workshops offered throughout the term.

We have a number of teachers at our school who bring their individual experience, skills and personalities to each of their classes, and we are sure we can help find the right class for you.

I've had a previous injury / operation can I still come to class?

Most of the yoga postures can be adapted or modified to cater to an existing injury, or changes to the body following an operation. It is important to talk to your yoga teacher about your injury needs so that they can guide you safely through your yoga session making any adaptations necessary.

Yoga emphasises getting to know your own body and making decisions that are right for you. Over time, you will come to understand where your body is at, when to “go ahead” and when to “hold back” from certain postures.

If you should sustain and acute injury you may need to take a short time off from your yoga class while the body is healing. Talk to your teacher so that arrangements can be made to ensure you are back to class as soon as possible.

Can I do yoga if I'm pregnant?

Whether you are a beginner or experienced student, yoga is an excellent form of exercise for pregnant women. Yoga can help prepare you for birth, counteract fatigue, stretch sore muscles and improve the breathlessness that can often be associated with pregnancy. Modifications can be made to your practice as your baby grows.

At the Kuring-gai yoga school we require that you do not commence classes until your second trimester ( about 15 weeks) and that you bring a letter from your obstetrician or treating professional stating you are able to attend class.

When can I come back to class following birth?

It is usually recommended that you wait 6-8 weeks before coming back to class after a vaginal birth, and a little longer following a caesarean. If you are not sure talk to your treating professional before resuming classes.

It is important to ease yourself slowly back into your practice. It may take some time to rebuild your strength and endurance. If you are breastfeeding and it is not comfortable to lie on your stomach or undertake certain postures modifications to certain poses can be made.

Are Health Fund Rebates available?

There are a number of health funds who will give benefits for yoga classes. These include the following:

  • Australian Health Management (AHM) – Letter from a Doctor, Physiotherapist, chiropractor or Osteopath required before starting a Yoga Class. Claims will be approved if it improves or prevents a condition stated on a members letter of Execise Approval form
  • BUPA, MBF, HBF – Living well Program – Letter from Doctor required and appropriate form from fund and receipt from Yoga School
  • CBHS – As part of a health Management program and supported by Health Professional (Doctor), must complete Health Management Program authorisation form from CBHS and receipt from yoga School.
  • Teachers Federation Health – Receipt from the yoga School provider.

We find now that the (IYTA) International Yoga Teachers Association and (YA) Yoga Australia have streamlined the claims process with health providers and a letter from us with our member numbers for both associations is adequate proof of our credentials.

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