Zen Dog here - talking complete Yoga.......
A lot of people associate yoga with contorting themselves in a class of super skinny people! Infact most of us can't, and never will be able to, put our leg around our neck but that doesn't mean you can't have a yoga practice. Yoga is for everyone and can help to keep you supple and strong and also dissipate stress and release tension.
My yoga practice started with some free dvd's in the Daily Mail a few years ago and eight months later I was in India, sweating profusely and trying to elegantly slide around on my mat whilst doing Warrior poses in an Ashtanga class in Mysore. If you are interested in trying to start a yoga practice or deepen your existing yoga practice I have come up with a few ideas that will hopefully inspire your yoga wherever you are and whatever you are doing (I have listed all websites at the end).
The main objective when practising yoga is to be safe and not push your limits so you are experiencing any pain or uncomfortable sensations. Going into and coming out of postures safely and with awareness, combined with building strength alongside the flexibility are key factors to a long and healthy yoga practice. Normally you would only get this knowledge from attending some classes, so investing in a yoga course could help your long term practice. Normally a beginner course is one night a week for 6-8 weeks and it should build you up progressively with good foundation skills you can take home to your mat.
Once you feel you have some grounding then there are so many ways to keep it going at home so you can integrate it into a busy life. One of the fantastic websites I use for a home yoga class is My Yoga Online. It has a huge variety of yoga levels and styles and a lot of them have been filmed during an actual yoga class. My Yoga Online also has classes in pilates, meditation and dance and the price per month is the equivalent of about £6.50 (its a US site) to have access to all of them!
Some other ways of practising at home are with dvds or podcasts. The free dvds I got with the Daily Mail, back in 2007, were by Yogi Marlon and they were 20 minutes snippets with a lot of guidance (I did spy some on Ebay going for about a £1 today!) Also when I was first interested in yoga a friend lent me the Geri Yoga dvd. The yoga on the dvd is actually led by Katy Appleton and I found her very clear and thorough.
It is very common now that yoga teachers are teaching to a wider audience via download and there are some very diverse and interesting ones out there. One way of checking out a teacher before buying a dvd or download is to look on YouTube. This is what I do if I am researching a new teachers' perspective or teaching technique and to make sure it will work for me.
There are some great free podcasts on iTunes by Bristol Community Yoga and also a meditation download for £7.99 by Sparkling Meditation, Elena Mironov. Yoga Journal magazine online has some mini classes for specific postures you may be having difficulty with and also pictures and descriptions of the postures that can help any level of practice. It is also a fountain of knowledge when it comes to the philosophy and spiritual aspects of yoga with short articles and guest writers.
Once you start your practice you could then combine this with the occasional one day or weekend retreat either in the UK or abroad. A retreat could also start you on the road of Yoga if you didn't want to do a course. Short retreats can be a cost effective way of enhancing your knowledge and developing new ideas to add to your practice. If you are really keen for an intensive experience then go for a week long retreat somewhere warm and exotic. If you think a week of just yoga may be too much for you then there are holidays combining yoga with spa treatments, festivals or even something like surfing so you can have the variety and also meet like-minded people.
Sometimes people go to yoga classes/practice at home for a while and then start to wonder about the yogic philosophy. If you are looking for a more intensive experience then maybe a teacher training is the next step. You don't have to go and be a teacher after the teacher training, some people do it because it is a structured way of learning more about the practice, philosophy, history, anatomy and different styles of yoga to then be able to have a deeper self practice or help others with theirs. A 200 hour Yoga Alliance registered teacher training is normally 4 weeks at 5.5 to 6 days of study a week or one weekend a month for 18-24 months, but do your research as they vary greatly in price, standard and location.
One thing to always make sure when looking at courses or home classes is that teachers are either British Wheel of Yoga or Yoga Alliance registered so you can be sure of the safety and standard of the teaching.
I have recently invested in some Yoga Paws so I can practice yoga without carrying my mat with me. They are super-gripping palm and foot gloves to help provide traction on any surface. (http://www.yogapaws.com/). It provides much more freedom of when and where you can practice yoga as they fit in your handbag/rucksack and are very light.
Remember that you don't have to pressure yourself into a 60-90 minute practice everyday like Madonna (actually she probably does way more than that!) as even 15-20 minutes is enough to feel the benefit and make changes to your body and your health. Research has shown that the body prefers the regularity rather than the length of your practice. The time you do take on your yoga mat is your personal nurturing time and your body will love you for it.
On a final note - Yoga is unity. Unity within you and unity with what is around you. Yoga is not all about practising postures. Yoga can be practised any time, anywhere. You are in yoga when you are swimming and for a moment you have the perfect stroke and your body is floating and you are totally in that moment. It is yoga when you are running and feel like every care in the world has fallen away and you could run forever because your body is being carried along. It is also yoga when your body tells you that is feels unwell and would like to just sit quietly today rather than stepping on the cross trainer or going to a hot yoga class. Create the awareness and you create the yoga.
Here are just a selection of websites to explore the different ways of getting into and furthering any yoga practice you embark upon. I hope you enjoy the exploration....
Geri yoga (about £4 on Amazon)
Shiva Rea DVD 'Yoga for Beginners' (+ many other yoga dvds for different levels)
Ana Forrest Strength & Spirit DVD for beginner and intermediate
Gaiam selection of DVD's have very good teachers
yoga app on iTunes:
Yoga Journal iPractice
podcasts on iTunes:
www.yogadownload.com (20 min yoga classes)
Kelly Morris Yoga Podcasts
UK Yoga Conference
one day/weekend courses
retreat ideas - further afield