A while ago, Esther from 100% YOGA wrote this super nice blog, in which she also mentions our yoga clothes. That is why we also like to share her story about yoga here.
If you have decided to start with yoga or if you are orientating whether yoga is something for you, this blog is highly recommended. Did you know that more than 1.6 million people practice yoga in the Netherlands alone? Not surprising, because this holistic (= world view that assumes that everything is connected with everything) sport has many health benefits and you can exercise from any location. You do not have to make large investments in accessories since you always have the most important part at hand, and that is you. In this blog everything about what yoga exactly is, what you should pay attention to before you start, useful tips on how to choose a good yoga studio and how you can experience yoga poses best suited to your body.
Surprising yoga facts: you won’t expect this!
Yoga Magazine is one of the most influential magazines in the Netherlands in the field of yoga. The magazine focuses on the modern woman who is interested in yoga and is published four times a year. Which is good for a reach of more than 107,000 people. The website is also regularly visited with 70,000 unique visitors per month. In addition to interesting articles and interviews, Yoga Magazine conducts a survey among its members, newsletter readers and followers, about the state of yoga in the Netherlands once a year. Below you will find some surprising facts from their latest survey:
- The 1.6 million people who do yoga spend € 325 million a year on this holistic sport.
- Women are the largest target group with 77%. The enthusiasm for yoga among men is growing the most and is expected to equal the number of women in the coming years.
- Although on social media the image may be sketched that every yogi can do a headstand, in reality only 5% can release a headstand without any form of support.
- 57% indicate that yoga is good for you and 60% indicate that it reduces stress.
- 44% sometimes falls asleep during the end meditation.
- 14% sometimes make a yoga selfie.
What is yoga: no out of body experience
Yoga has its origins in India and was developed centuries ago. In the last half of the twentieth century, more interest for yoga came from the West and this intereset is still growing daily. The word “yoga” is derived from the Sanskrit word Yuj which means “connection.” It stands for the connection between body and mind. Buddha is often called the Mahayogi or Great Yogi. Although there are many different forms of yoga, the origin lies with Hatha yoga. This is also the most famous form in the West. With Hatha yoga the connection between breathing and movement is central. By doing body postures (called asanas) in combination with breathing techniques (called pranayama), one gets to know the body and mind (much better) and makes them easier to control.
No matter how flexible you are and become through yoga, it is impossible to lick your own elbows. Try 😉
In addition to being a philosophy, this holistic sport also is a way of life that is about connecting and balancing opposites such as body and mind, outside and inside, tension and relaxation. By practicing yoga, the body not only becomes more flexible and creates more peace of mind, you also learn how to maintain a good balance for yourself in a hectic society. And that is the reason why this holistic sport is one of the fastest growing in the Netherlands. The 24-hour economy in which we live demands a lot from us, and yoga helps to find an even better balance that suits you both physically and mentally. It forms the basis of a healthier and happier lifestyle.
The benefits of yoga
Besides yoga providing relaxation it brings much more. Many scientists have been researching the effects of yoga for years. Below are a number of benefits based on scientific studies:
- It improves overall body posture because all muscles become stronger.
- After an average of 16 classes, muscle strength in the arms has increased by 12%.
- After an average of eight weeks, the flexibility of the entire body is increased by 35%.
- It provides better breathing and thereby increases lung capacity and an overall better condition.
- Better breathing also means less stress and better digestion.
- It reduces the risk of heart disease and strengthens the immune system.
- It reinforces the ability to concentrate so that you perform better in terms of quality.
- It reduces acidification of the muscles and therefore prevents injuries.
- It reduces joint pain.
- It increases the libido.
Just like any other sport, the benefits of yoga only come when you practice it regularly. Research shows that people in the Netherlands do yoga on average two hours a week. The more you practice it and let it become a regular part of your sport routine, the sooner you will experience the benefits of yoga.
We don’t think about it and yet we do it all and many times a day. Our breathing is fully automatic and on average we breathe 23,000 times a day and process approximately 10,000 liters of oxygen.
The science behind yoga
That yoga brings so many benefits on a physical and mental level does not go unnoticed. The United Nations declared World Yoga Day on June 21st. These international days are opportunities to inform the general public about worrying issues, to mobilize political will and resources to tackle global problems and to celebrate and strengthen the achievements of humanity. Research shows that when an entire generation grows up with yoga, there will be no more wars.
Every international day offers the possibility to organize activities related to the theme of the day. Organizations and offices of the United Nations, and especially governments, civil society, the public and private sectors, schools, universities and, more generally, citizens, turn an international day into a springboard for awareness campaigns. That is also one of the reasons why on June 21st many yoga teachers and yoga studios offer classes for free or on a donation basis, so that everyone has the opportunity to experience yoga.
This 20-minute video explains why so much research has been done into the science behind yoga. And what are the reasons why yoga has such a positive effect:
Let’s roll out your yoga mat
After reading all the benefits this holistic sport gives you, you probably want to start immediately. You are totally right! To ensure that you have a good start and to experience yoga poses best suited to your body, I have listed a number of useful tips for you.
Doing yoga works best on a good mat. That means a mat that gives you sufficient grip (anti-slip layer) and is not too thick (between 6 and 9 mm). The anti-slip layer is handy, so that you can stand in an asana (yoga pose) more easily. And the thinner the mat, the more you feel the effect of the asana it has on the body. The standard size of a yoga mat is 183 x 60. If you are taller or want a wider yoga mat, that is certainly possible. A wider yoga mat gives more freedom of movement, so you never have to place your foot or hand outside the mat ensuring yourself to always have enough grip.
There are many different mats with and without print(s), in all colours of the rainbow, and made from all kinds of materials such as rubber, (natural) cork, PVC or sheep wool. If you properly maintain the mat and clean regularly, you can easily use the mat for a number of years. It is therefore worth investing time in finding a good mat. Prices vary between € 25 and € 150. Below I share my favourite web shops where you can find excellent yoga mats:
Comfortable clothing so that you can move easily is essential. A pair of jogging pants is great just like a T-shirt, but certainly the last can sometimes crawl up in a Downward Facing Dog (see image). Feeling a breeze might be nice, but you may not want to show everyone your bra. Wearing a sports bra or sports top (possibly under your T-shirt) can be pleasant. I would leave jeans at home and exchange them of shorts or leggings.
My personal favourite in terms of yoga clothing is the HOESSEE brand. They specialize in sustainable yoga clothing. It is like a second skin and the print is colourful and cheerfully. In addition, this clothing is produced from recycled plastic. So you not only look great, but you also contribute to a (much) better environment.
Incense: what do I smell?
In some yoga studios incense is used during class. Many think that this smoke gives spiritual relief. But that is not the purpose of incense at all. It contributes effectively to a very important part during a yoga class. The smell of incense is perceived by your nose and stimulates your nerves. The nerves send a signal to the brain and decide whether a scent is pleasant or not. Smelling ensures that you pay attention. It improves the ability to concentrate and relax.
For example with the Savasana yoga pose (see image). The use of incense can help you do this asana with more ease. Because this pose may look easy, it is by far one of the most challenging to do. Savasana, is the prototype for a supinating posture. The biggest challenge in this asana lies with gravity and mental focus. This asana is perhaps the easiest to execute, but the most difficult to fully control. In contrast to other yoga poses that require an (active) effort of muscles, tendons and joints, the basic principle of Savasana is to completely release all tension in every part of the body and to free the head completely from all thoughts. This makes Savasana the most challenging pose for every yogi. The most used scents for incense during a yoga class are cedar wood, musk, white lotus and the scent of autumn leaves. Did you know that you can also make incense yourself? Through this link you can read (in Dutch) exactly how you can do that.
Research shows that there are eight different types of noses. This is what your nose says about your personality.
Food: donuts and chocolate
Your body will not respond well when eating a large meal just before a yoga class. It is best not to eat four hours prior to class. If you feel like eating, eat something light like a salad or fruit or a cracker with cucumber at least one hour before class. This ensures that the body is no longer engaged in digesting food, making it easier for you to come along in yoga poses (asanas) and also experience its effects. Drinking water and tea is always a good idea, especially after class. This ensures that your metabolism will work (even) better.
Namasté: what do you say?
When you do yoga you will notice that the word Namasté regularly comes along with a hand gesture, also called hand mudra. The word Namasté originally comes from Sanskrit and stands for bowing. In yoga, this hand mudra has the symbolic meaning of “I bow to the divined in you.” It symbolizes respect “The soul in me, greets the soul in you”. The word “Namasté” does not necessarily have to be spoken when performing this hand gesture. With this hand mudra the left hand represents the moon and the right hand the sun. At the same time, the left hand is the giving and the right hand the receiving. Each finger represents one of the five elements. In addition, each fingertip represents a different interpretation.
- the thumb stands for emptiness;
- the index finger stands for air;
- the middle finger represents fire;
- the ring finger represents water;
- the little finger represents earth.
- thumb represents the insight;
- index finger represents activity;
- middle finger represents perception;
- ring finger represents admissibility and;
- the little finger represents the form.
When the yoga teacher says “Namasté”, it is an option to bend slightly forward and also pronounce namasté. You don’t have to, you can also bend slightly forward and say the word in silence. The meaning remains the same.
Location: how to choose a good yoga studio
When you have a mat and your outfit has been determined, the next step is to find a yoga studio that suits you. There are many to choose from and these four questions help you determine what is important to you:
- How many minutes do you want to travel for your yoga class?
- Do you want to take classes close to home or are you willing to travel x minutes; walking or by bike, car or public transport?
- Do you want to take private classes or participate in group classes?
- Do you want to participate in large or small groups?
If you have answered the questions, look for a yoga studio and try some before making a final choice. The teacher is an important element of your yoga practice. It is important to take classes with someone where you feel comfortable, so that you can actually experience all the health benefits that yoga offers.
In addition to taking yoga classes outside, now a days it is possible to follow them online. The advantages are that you do not have to leave the house, there is always room and can do yoga at a time that is ideal for you. Just like there are many physical yoga studios, the choice of online studios is also big. Below you will find a number of useful links that will help you find a physical and online yoga studio in your area:
Physical yoga studios and outdoor lessons
- In the summer months it is wonderful to do yoga outdoors such as on the beach, park or forest. The website of Buitenyoga provides an overview of all outdoor classes in the Netherlands.
- On the website of Yoga Magazine you can search for yogascholen yoga studios in your area.
Online yoga studio’s
- There are many yoga classes to find on YouTube. With over 5.5 million subscribers, Yoga with Adriene is one of the best known.
- As the only yoga teacher in Europe, I have a live online yogastudio. Every week you can follow classes that are broadcast live with always real-time interaction and guidance. You can follow the classes relaxed from home or any other location that you like. And play the classes from your phone, tablet, laptop and even TV with internet connection.
The most famous yoga poses
A sun salutation is a series of yoga poses that follow each other on the in- and exhalation. This series is almost always done in a yoga class and is an ideal exercise as a warming up. It prepares all muscles, tendons and joints for all poses that follow. If you have never done yoga before, practicing the sun salutation is an excellent starting point.
A study by the International Journal of Yoga shows that practicing sun salutations for 20 minutes has a great effect on your body and mind. Researchers divided a group of 124 participants with a high stress level into two groups: one group did the sun salutation for 20 minutes every day for two weeks, the other group did nothing about yoga or other stress-reducing activities. After two weeks the group that did yoga clearly experienced more rest, more pleasure and much less stress than the control group. Below you will find a step-by-step guide how to do a standing sun salutation. Try it and do the pose with kindness towards your body as that is what yoga is all about: doing what feels great!
YouTube | Yoga Magazine | Uplift.tv
More about Esther from 100%YOGA
After having two physical yoga studios, Esther Schippers decided in 2018 to completely change course and focus on online. “Nowadays we do everything digitally, so why not yoga.” With her 100% YOGA online studio, Esther is the only yoga teacher in Europe who gives live online yoga classes. Relaxed from home and at a time that suits best, participants join a live interactive yoga classes with always real-time professional guidance. The classes can be followed from telephone, tablet, laptop and TV with internet connection. “It’s just like Netflix, but without being a coach potato.”https://www.100procent-yoga.com/yogalessen/