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Physical Vs. Philosophical: Why Sitting And Talking May Be A Beneficial Addition To Your Yoga Practice

If you are considering finding a yoga class, you know you have to choose between many different types of yoga and some yoga hybrids dreamed up by gyms. But you also have to make one more very important choice -- to go with yoga solely as a physical discipline or to find a class that incorporates the philosophy as well. Whether you do so depends not only on class availability, but also on your goals and reasons for taking yoga. However, ensuring that you're exposed to the philosophy through the class can allow you to participate more fully and possibly experience more benefits.

Yoga's Eight Limbs

While yoga brings to mind physically twisting yourself into different positions, it's traditionally more than just a stretching class. Yoga encompasses different practices, from that physical side (including breathing exercises and postures) to a much more psychological side that involved self-observation and meditation. While yoga is often tied to Hinduism, it's not a religious practice. But it does concentrate on enhancing a practitioner's spiritual side, regardless of religion.

Yoga is frequently described as having eight limbs or paths: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyani, and Samadhi. These translate as (respectively) standards and conduct, observance and self-discipline, postures, breathing or breath control, transcending senses, concentration, meditation, and self-transcendence.

Yoga's Philosophical Sides and Benefits

In addition to the strength, flexibility, and breath control promoted by the asanas and pranayama, you can see that yoga overall helps practitioners concentrate on observing habits and changing them, developing and improving self-discipline, and developing calmness. If you take a class that offers just the physical side, or that plus maybe a little meditation, you can see benefits. But adding in the observation and self-development of the philosophical side can also help make you better able to handle life and what it throws at you.

Yoga in the U.S. Today

Note that as you look for yoga classes, you'll often see yoga combined with aerobics or other forms of exercise. These can help in the sense that if they keep your interest and you keep going back, you can gain strength. But they won't help you identify patterns that might be holding you back, for example.

Yoga and Your Goals

If you want to gain only flexibility, or only strength, or you need only to relax at the end of the week, a physical class (or a restorative class, for the relaxation) would do just fine. But if you really want to learn yoga itself, incorporating the philosophical side will be necessary. You can find these classes in private schools, some gyms, community groups, and so on. You'll find them under different names, but ask the instructors about the exact style of yoga that the school teaches. For example, Isha Yoga, created by Sadhguru, is a form of Hatha Yoga. Whichever school you choose, ensure that you're comfortable speaking to the teacher and that the environment makes you comfortable. Visit for more information about self help.