We consider the word Yoga to be both a noun and a verb. The word is translated from the Sanskrit most simply as union — or yoking — usually referring to bringing the body, breath and attention into union. Yoga is the lifestyle practices that foster our connection of breath, body and attention. It is a journey and a process, cultivated day by day, not a destination to arrive at. Today the word Yoga typically refers to “Asana,” or the physical practice of movement and postures. In addition to Asana, Yoga includes seven other “Limbs” of practice that can be used as guidelines for approaching our lives and the world from a place of intention and connectedness.
Nope! Yoga is not a religion. Yoga is an ancient science, philosophy, and approach to life, to self-development, and to spiritual growth. Yoga originated in India some 5000 years ago, but it is not exclusively based on or limited to Hinduism or Buddhism. There is no requirement to buy into any ethos or set of rules. You also do not need to give up your personal beliefs or religion to practice yoga.
All the more reason to come and give it a try. We go to French class to learn French, or cooking school to learn to cook – we’re not expected to know how to parlez Française or julienne a carrot before we arrive. And Yoga is not just about being flexible, though you will get more flexible as you practice. It’s also about cultivating strength, supporting cardio health and increasing our muscles of attention. It’s a complete myth that you need to be flexible or touch your toes in order to try yoga, so please don’t let it hold you back.
Not AT ALL important.
We are all immeasurably unique, each with our own anatomy, strengths, flexibility, tightness, and stamina. No two people in any one posture will EVER look exactly the same, so there’s no point in trying to model yourself against anyone else in the class. Far more important is discovering your fullest expression of the pose, knowing this means something different for everybody.
One main difference is that the movements are distinct – in Spinning we’re riding a bicycle, in Aerobics we’re moving in specifically choreographed ways creating cardio activity, with strength training we’re doing reps with weights. In Yoga we are moving through sequences of postures accompanied by mindful breathing. We move from shapes to shape and engage in breathing practices all designed to create cardio-vascular benefits, build strength, cultivate balance, and increase flexibility.
Another key difference is that Yoga is more than just movement. By connecting our body, mind and breath, we strengthen our intention and mindfulness. Here at Five Pillars one of our primary goals was to establish a studio that offered a deeper context for the physical practice, so you will often hear teachers bringing in ideas, poems, history or other teachings (“Dharma”).
Finally, Yoga can be practiced everywhere not just on the mat, and not just in the studio. We are able at any time — on line in the grocery store, when we first wake up, on a break from work — to take a moment to stand with intention, bring awareness to the breath and notice any thoughts floating by or feelings arising. This is Yoga.
Not only is it OK to take a break, rest in Child’s Pose or Savasana on your back at any point in the class, it’s actually an incredibly “advanced” thing to do. Our yoga practice is different every day – sometimes we’re tight, sometimes we’re sore, sometimes we’re strong, sometimes we’re tired. Paying attention to what your body needs, in the moment, is a very important skill to learn. When you’re feeling energized – go for it! Find your edge, and discover strength you didn’t even know you had! When your body asks to rest, give yourself permission to rest.
We recommend wearing comfortable clothing that you can move in. Not so baggy that you’ll be adjusting all the time, not so tight that you feel constricted. Leggings, sweatpants, bike shorts, T-shirts, tank tops, sweatshirts, and so on, are all great. Since we offer prana assists we ask that tops be worn by both men and women (tank tops, t-shirts, etc. are fine). You may warm up and/or sweat during the practice, or cool down significantly in final resting posture, so layers are a great idea. We practice in bare feet, so no shoes or socks are needed.
You’re welcome to bring a water bottle, small hand towel, hair clip/band. You can bring your own mat or rent one of ours. Above all, it’s nice to bring an open mind and bit of curiosity to each and every practice!
You can absolutely bring your own mat. We also rent Gaiam mats for $2.
It’s easy to reserve a spot via out online booking system. Walk-ins are also welcome, but reserving a spot is recommended.
There is a limit – for restorative classes we limit the number of people to 20 and for more active classes we limit the class to 30. Because the studio is such an intimate space, we close the door 5 minutes after class begins and cannot admit latecomers. We recommend arriving 10 minutes prior to class to set up and settle in.
Many of our teachers offer hands-on assists or adjustments. The intention is to facilitate your exploration of a posture into new places; to help you go deeper, expand, strengthen and/or hone your alignment. These can range from a light touch to firmer pressure and support. Many people love hands-on assists, and many do not. You do not have to receive hands-on assists, simply let the teacher know as they come around to offer.
It is believed that it is best to practice Yoga on an empty stomach, for several reasons. First of all, we move our bodies into different shapes in class, sometimes twisting or bending and compressing the belly, which can be really uncomfortable if you’re full! Secondly, digestion is its own process in the body that requires certain types of energy and relaxation. It’s best to keep your digestive process and Asana practice separate. Everyone is different however, so feel free to experiment. Try a juice about a half an hour before class, or some nuts. Give your body what it needs and pay attention to the way you feel.
Drink plenty of water. Eat something nourishing when you feel hungry. And allow yourself to bring any peace and calm you cultivated in the class to make its way into the rest of your day.
Just like there is no need to give up your personal religion, there is no need to give up chocolate, pasta or coffee. Just begin where you are, as you are. It may be that as your practice deepens it becomes easier and easier to make healthful and loving choices where food and self-care is concerned.
The word OM is often chanted at the beginning and/or ending of yoga classes. It is considered the sound of the universe, the sound from which all sounds come, and the space from which all things are possible. By chanting we bring our voices together, creating a shared experience and bringing a bit of vibration into the room, which almost immediately connects us to our breaths and bodies. Additionally, any time we bring sound into the room, it usually ushers our egos right out of the room! No – you absolutely do not have to chant if you don’t want to.
Translated from the Sanskrit, “Nama” means bow, “as” means I, and “te” means you. So simply put – “I bow to you.”
There is a deeper meaning as well: The divine spark within me sees, recognizes and bows to the divine spark within you. My soul sees and honors your soul, my spirit sees and honors your spirit.
At the end of class it is often said by the teacher and repeated back by the students as a mutual acknowledgement of effort and presence. No, you do not need to say Namaste if you do not want to.
Yes, sometimes when we move the body, really in any way, not just yoga, the cells release whatever it is that needs to be released. More and more research is showing that the physical body holds memories of joys, losses, blessings and hardships just as much, if not more than, the mind. So sometimes in the middle of a practice we suddenly feel an intense joy, happiness or buoyancy. Likewise sometimes tears come to our eyes. This is not only normal but incredibly healthy! We don’t need to know why we are feeling these ways, we don’t need to invent stories to account for the feelings. We can just trust the body’s wisdom and power to heal and just let it happen!