If you already practice yoga, you’ve probably tried to convince everyone around you of the benefits, and why they should start too. If you don’t already practice yoga, you’re probably fed up of hearing about it all the time.
Either way, save this list by yogi Emma Newlyn and consider it to be the 20 facts no one will mind hearing about; no boring and unrealistic health benefits here, just some good quality fun facts that might even spark conversation with those who ‘don’t get it’….
1. Yoga isn’t just what we do on a sticky mat…
The ancient, sacred practice that originated thousands of years ago has been gradually diluted down into what more resembles gymnastics and stretching. Asana (the physical postures) are a small part of what yoga encompasses. Meditation, pranayama (breathing techniques), chanting, and living a life of meaning, purpose and kindness are also very much part of yoga.
2. It could help you live longer….
Not only do the postures help to strengthen muscles and remove tension, the breathing practices encourage us to take in more oxygen, boosting circulation and improving the body’s function. As we start to slow down the movements and the breath, the body’s functions such as oxidisation, acidity and cell damage slows down too, which also means it has time to repair and renew itself – preventing and essentially ‘slowing down’ the ageing process!
3. It’s not just for pretty women in skimpy leggings!
Yoga was traditionally a practice for men. Women were only introduced after revered teacher Krishnamacharya allowed his wife to join practices. Soon after, Indra Devi become the first well known yoga teacher, and even taught Marilyn Monroe. For many years after, men were a rare sighting in a yoga class.
The boys are back in town now though, with the introduction of Broga (Yoga for bros’) founder Matt Miller is a former American footballer, bodybuilder and personal trainer, and says; “Broga looks at yoga from a male sensibility. It’s strong, energetic and challenging”. And it’s totally ok if you can’t touch your toes….
4. There are a lot of styles to choose from
New ‘styles’ of yoga are popping up all over the place, and there are now over 100 different schools of Yoga. This ranges from the more traditional tantra, ashtanga, sivananda and good old ‘hatha’, to rocket yoga, laughter yoga, aerial yoga, equine yoga and paddleboard yoga.
5. Doga or ‘Dog-Yoga’ is a thing….
Yep, dogs do yoga too now, didn’t you know? After all, most of the postures are named after animals, plants and aspects of nature, and ‘adho mukha svanasana’ or ‘downward facing dog’ is no exception.
In Doga, owners and pets practise side-by side… the practice first started in New York in 2002 when Suzi Teitelman started yoga for dogs.
6. So how old is the oldest Yogi?
Tao Porchon-Lynch was born August 13th 1918 and is a French-Indian yogi. She’s also a dancer, a former model and actress, and continues to teach world-wide. In May 2012, Guinness World Records recognised her as the ‘World’s Oldest Yoga Instructor’ when she was just 93. Rumour has it she loves wine too, so there’s still an excuse to drink that glass after class…
7. Want better sex? Try Yoga
There are multiple studies showing that yoga can help to improve your sex drive. Engaging ‘mula bandha’ or the ‘root lock’ requires the yogi to lift the perineum (as though you’re trying to hold in an urgent pee), thus bringing more circulation and awareness to the nether regions. By practising this regularly and remembering to ‘switch it on’ while having sex, it’s said the practitioner is able to greatly increase the feeling of an orgasm.
8. It’s a growing phenomenon…
And not just because everyone is having sex. Yoga makes us feel so good that back in 2012, 10% of adults in the US were practising; that’s a lot of people if you consider the population back then was 314.1 million people. Imagine what it must be today!
9. You don’t have to wear socks…. Or any other clothes if you feel like it…
‘Hot Nude Yoga’ is a thing. For anyone brave enough to bare all on the mat, you’re not alone as the practice is growing in popularity amongst men and women in the East and West. Practising yoga while naked actually originates from a very ancient tradition called Naga Yoga – in which ‘Naga Sadhus’ would make being naked a part of their spiritual practice.
Naked yoga is said to deepen a person’s practice, and encourages appreciation and body acceptance. If you’re not a Sadhu though, you can put your clothes back on after class, thanks….
10. Speaking of nudity….
There’s a company called ‘Yogabum’. Yes. They sell towels in case you’re wondering….
11. If you do want to wear clothes when you practise though, you might want to know….
That the Yoga clothing giant Lululemon’s brand value was about $1.69 Billion in 2013, and at the last check in 2014, they had 280 stores world-wide. This is huge compared to how ‘big’ yoga was in the fashion world several years ago. Stores like Gap and H&M got the hint too, and have started to promote more ‘active’ style clothing; mixing yoga pants with casual wear. They must know we wear our Yoga pants all.the.time.
12. You don’t have to be vegetarian, but it’s traditional….
The yama (or moral vow) of Ahimsa, meaning ‘non violence’, includes not harming or indeed eating other living animals. It’s also said though, that as meat is dead, there’s no ‘prana’ or ‘life force’ energy within it. A yoga practise is intended to enhance our prana (life force energy) so eating something that doesn’t benefit this can be considered detrimental to the practice. Plus, no one feels like doing handstands and twists after a double cheeseburger.
13. There’s a lot more going on inside of us than bones and muscle….
Nadis or ‘energy channels’ are said to run through the body, carrying that ‘prana’ or ‘life force’ with them. There are 72,000 nadis, and you could think of them a little like esoteric veins, carrying energy throughout us. The largest is the Sushumna, which resides along the spine and provides the channel through which we’re encouraged to send this energy in order to reach enlightenment.
14. Flexibility isn’t just of the body, the mind has an effect too….
Telling ourselves we’re ‘not very flexible’ has a definite effect on how ‘flexible’ we are. By stepping into a yoga class and telling ourselves we’re ‘not flexible’, we set ourselves up to be rigid and stiff, as this is all we put our focus on. In turn, this makes us feel more stressed, uncomfortable and fearful, which triggers the ‘stress response’, triggering muscle contractions raised blood pressure. By, relaxing, and putting the focus on the breath, the body automatically starts to physically relax too, enabling for far greater range of movement and flexibility. Try it; if all the pushing and jaw-clenching hasn’t made your hamstrings any longer, this might just do the trick!
15. How much does it cost?
The actual practice of yoga is free for all, but as we all know – not all classes come cheaply! In the US alone, the yoga population spends well over $10.3 billion on classes, equipment, clothes and yoga holidays….
16. Want to let off some gas?
A large amount of traditional yogic practices focus upon improving digestive health in order to rid the body of impurities so we’re able to put more energy into reaching Samadhi (‘bliss’ or ‘enlightenment’). The posture apanasana involves hugging the knees to the chest and dynamically squeezing them into and away from the torso. Apanasana translates as ‘wind relieving pose’, and it’s highly effective so you might want to practise it at home first.
17. If you think your yoga class is busy….
The largest yoga class at a single venue was with 35,000 people at the New Delhi Global Yoga Day on June 21st 2015. That’s a lot of smelly feet….
18. Why do we chant Om?
The practise of chanting is an important aspect of yoga, and nada yoga (the yoga of sound) can be powerful and effective. The word ‘Om’ consists ot three syllables; A-U-M. This sound represents the primordial ‘sound of the universe’ from which all other sound originates. The syllables represent the past, present and future, and ‘Om’ is chanted to evoke a connection to the energy of ‘bigger picture’ and universe around us.
19. What does ‘namaste’ mean?
A traditional greeting, ‘namaste’ is usually said at the end of class, and literally translates as ‘the light in me bows to the light in you’, symbolising a mutual respect between each of us, and a recognition of our deeper similarities, rather than gross differences.
20. Why do we lie down at the end of class?
Savasana does not = ‘snooze time’…. Also known as ‘corpse pose’, this position is intended to rest the body and nervous system in order to allow the practice to consolidate within us. While we might be accustomed to rushing from one high intensity class to another, it’s important to recognise that the body needs time to renew and recharge. The late and beloved BKS Iyengar said; “for every thirty minutes of asana practise, we must allow for five minutes of savasana”.
About the author
Emma-Louise Newlyn is a trained yoga teacher, freelance writer and qualified massage therapist. She has a passion for spreading the world of well-being to others and helping people to realise that their own natural state of being is one of health and happiness