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Eights ‘N’ Weights with Suzanne: Learning the Basics of Yoga

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A lot of Nigerians tend to have a negative impression of yoga; mention it, and you get dismissed. But I have found that it seems to be dismissed because people don’t have the right information, or just don’t know where to start. Well, as always, we are here to help

Contrary to popular thinking, yoga isn’t just some “sit and breathe” meditative activity. There are so many different forms of yoga, but the emphasis is on both meditation and loosening the tightness in your muscles. One of the forms of yoga that has gained the most popularity because people have seen tremendous improvement in their strength and flexibility is Power or Vinyasa yoga. It focuses a lot more on the physical aspect of yoga.
I know men are probably reading this and thinking this is for the ladies, but it’s not just a feminine thing. In fact, yoga started as a male practice because the strength required to hold some of the poses was quite significant. However, now, I believe both sexes should try it because we all could use the strength we derive from yoga in our daily lives.

So what are the benefits? If you spend a lot of time doing cardio exercises (like running), usually, you put a lot of pressure on your joints. If you spend a lot of time doing strength training, you usually put a lot of stress on your muscles since strength training is pretty mush breaking down and repairing the muscular tissue. You need to improve strength all over your body, especially your core, and improve flexibility in your joints and muscles so you can continue to exercise safely and rigorously. That’s where yoga comes in. Also, it usually calms you and allows you to focus.

In the short time I have been practicing yoga, I have seen such an increase in my upper body strength (you do a lot of pushups with yoga!), an increase in my core strength (this works better than doing 100 sit-ups a day), and an increase in my overall flexibility (and all the boys said ‘Amen’).

For now, let’s walk through the five most basic yoga poses that you can start to practice on your own. Note that each stretch should be held for about 30 seconds with deep breaths.

Chair pose: With your arms above or in front of you, sit back with your bum like you are about to sit in a chair. Make sure your knees do not go beyond your ankles, and your upper body is as straight as possible. This is a great stretch for the butt, the hips, and the core as you need that ab strength to hold your upper body up.

Upward facing dog: Lie on your stomach with your toes outstretched, and place your palms on the floor right underneath your shoulders. Lift your upper body up until your arms are straight and your elbows are right beside your waist. Your knees should be on the floor if you are a beginner. This is a great stretch for your lower back, core, and your shoulders.

Downward facing dog: Come to your hands and knees with your palms on the floor. Lift your bum in the air so your body is in an upside down V shape. Try to keep pushing your heels towards the floor as your press into the middle of your palms and lift your hips higher. This is a great stretch for the whole body really, but especially the shoulders, back, hips, and feet.

Forward fold: Stand up straight. Keeping your legs straight, bend your upper body forward so it’s like you’re trying to fold yourself. Stretch your palms towards the floor (they don’t have to touch) or cross your elbows under your head. Try to relax the neck so the whole motion is coming from your waist, not forcing from your head. This stretch is great for the waist, the legs, the shoulders, and the lower back.

High lunge: Kneel with one knee in front of the other like you’re trying to propose. Lift your upper body, and lift the back knee off of the floor so that leg is now almost in a straight line. Keep the forward knee bent at about 90 degrees. Lift your arms. This stretch is really for the inner thigh, but it is not the most comfortable stretch. You want that flexibility? You have to work for it.

Doing the poses right could be the difference between seeing progress or not seeing any. Stretching is very very very very important (how many times did I say that?), and yoga gives you an avenue to do so while also working on your strength. It will not be perfect automatically so you may find that you struggle with getting this right so keep practicing.

So now, you may be thinking that you want to find out more, but don’t know where to start. All November, I will be hosting a “New to Yoga” challenge on Instagram and Twitter, where I will post pictures of the basic yoga poses, and guide you through how to get started. All you need to do is follow me (@eightsnweights) and stay tuned!
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Suzanne Brume is a fitness blogger and yoga enthusiast who strives to live a healthier lifestyle and helps others do the same. She blogs consistently at Eights and Weights (www.eightsandweights.com), and gives tips and demonstrations on Twitter (@eightsnweights) and Instagram (@eightsnweights). She is always open for fitness questions!

Suzanne Brume is a fitness blogger and yoga enthusiast who strives to live a healthier lifestyle and helps others do the same. She blogs consistently at Eights and Weights (www.eightsandweights.com), and gives tips and demonstrations on Twitter (@eightsnweights) and Instagram (@eightsnweights). She is always open for fitness questions!

12 Comments

  1. Glow

    October 29, 2013 at 11:15 am

    Please look up the origins of Yoga and it’s spiritual implications.
    In India Yoga is NOT exercise but all aimed at being one with SPIRITS.
    Be careful what you connect yourself to.
    I practiced Yoga for a long time. Google and see what you find.

    xoxo.

    • ides of march

      October 29, 2013 at 4:45 pm

      I agree with you Glow. I’m in California and I took yogafit at my gym hoping the emphasis would be less on the meditation but there was meditative breathing at the start and during the cool down at the end she told us to sink into the earth and let your spirit leave your body and there was a chiming of the gong. No amount of “blood of Jesus” made me feel ok about being in there. So after researching the history of yoga, I switched to pilates.

    • babysco

      October 30, 2013 at 4:38 pm

      hey @ides of march.are you in San Jose by any chance?I am looking to connect with Africans in the area

    • OfiliSpeaks

      Ofili

      October 30, 2013 at 10:31 pm

      mogbe o. So Yoga is Satanic now =/ I confuse die.

  2. Modella

    October 29, 2013 at 11:31 am

    @ Glow,I’m still amazed at naija mentality,everything is
    connected to either spirituality or illuminati..However,I would
    have prefer different picture in each of the above mention
    segment.I no get time to the cram each words for head!

    • Royalty

      October 30, 2013 at 7:22 pm

      Like u tuk it right outta my mouth! Yoga is wat i do..and im a christian. Yoga is wat its called, but u are pretty much stretching ur body and muscles…u do not need to tak part in d chanting! Iv read bout it too…exercise d way u feel ur body can take…stretch ur body, stay healthy and keep lovin God. Derz no nid to attach demons to evry single thng..Galee!

    • Idak

      October 31, 2013 at 5:14 pm

      Stretching your body and your muscles is not Yoga. Yoga entails that and much more. I know in this psychedelic age it is the norm to frown at spiritual connotations, at the same time I know Nigerians see the devil in everything and everywhere. Yet there is a middle ground. Denying the spiritual roots of Yoga is slightly foolish.

      There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight – C.S. Lewis

  3. Hurpeyeahmie

    October 29, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    @Modella she is saying the truth not Nigerian mentality, if you can cope go ahead but it has spiritual implications sha cos i have also read about it too

    • That African Chic

      October 29, 2013 at 3:26 pm

      We have the spiritual form of yoga and the exercise form. I do the exercise form and there’s nothing spiritual about it. The movements are quite similar to May Pilates now would you also saw that mat Pilates is also spiritual.
      Mind you there are all sorts of information on google, I can even find information on how Christianity is a bad religion

    • Royalty

      October 30, 2013 at 7:23 pm

      Tell dem!!

    • Idak

      October 31, 2013 at 5:35 pm

      I see your point but the crux of the matter is that what you are doing is not Yoga. It is simply exercise and stretching. Using Yoga as a trendy word to describe what is not Yoga does not make it Yoga.

  4. Glow

    October 29, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    @ That African Chic Thanks for verifying my comment 
    I used to practise Yoga (just exercise) but stopped once I found out what it REALLY is all about.
    Pilates was developed by a German for fitness purposes. Nothing spiritual about it.
    Remember I said origins. I know Yoga has been exported to the west as exercise.
    Yoga is physical, mental & spiritual. The very name Yoga is hindu for ‘to yoke’ or ‘to attach’.
    Mind what you are ‘YOKING’ to.
    In the East (India) where Yoga originates from, everyone KNOWS it is ALL about spirituality.
    The Origins of the Bible and Christianity is well documented.
    Anyone who makes it out to be anything it isn’t can only fool the uninformed.
    Please update & inform yourselves before getting into anything.
    PS: Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. You don’t have to be of Christ.
    In relation to Yoga it means practicing Yoga for the health benefits doesn’t change the spiritual nature of it. All the Yoga poses are aimed at connecting (yoking) that person to spirits.
    Please read from an Eastern sources, not sources polished with Western gimmicks.
    xoxo.

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