What is Yoga?
There’s a long and a short answer to that question.
The short answer is that it’s the process of uniting your body and mind together through the vehicle of the breath. To do that, yoga postures are practiced where we mentally connect to the sensation in our bodies, while controlling the thoughts in our mind, as we regulate our breath, and find that it affects us on an emotional level. In doing so, we also develop tools that can be applied in our everyday lives, that is when we’re off our mat, to help us cope with challenging or difficult situations, etc.
The longer answer is that yoga is a profound system of holistic health, a healing art, which originated in India thousands of years ago. It is NOT a religion – rather, it is a philosophy. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj” which means “union,” but is also interpreted as a method of discipline.
While yoga is a mind and body practice based in ancient Indian philosophy, in more recent times, it has become more of a popular form of physical exercise based upon poses that promote improved control of the mind and body, and enhance well-being.
There are several different types of yoga and many disciplines within the practice. However, the Indian sage Patanjal codified the Yoga Sutras almost 2,000 years ago, which is a collection of 195 statements that serves as a philosophical guidebook for most of the yoga that is practiced today. It also outlines the eight limbs of yoga as follows:
1) Yamas (Restraints) The yamas deals with one’s ethical standards and sense of integrity, focusing on our behavior and how we conduct ourselves in life, and can be thought of as the Golden Rule of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” They include:
Brahmacharya: moderation, continence, or self-restraint
2) Niyamas (Observances). This second limb has to do with self-discipline and spiritual observances. Making a habit of taking contemplative walks alone, developing your own personal meditation practices, saying grace before meals, or even regularly attending church or temple services, could be viewed as the niyamas in practice. The niyamas include:
Tapas: Heat; spiritual austerities
Svadhyaya: Self-study and/or the study of sacred scriptures
Isvara Pranidhana: Surrender to a Higher Power
3) Asana (postures). In the yogic view, the body is a temple which houses the soul/spirit of the individual, and the postures take care of our bodies, which is an important stage of our spiritual growth. Through the practice of asanas, we develop the habit of discipline and the ability to concentrate, both of which are necessary for meditation, while maintaining the health and well-being of the individual.
4) Pranayama (breathing practices). This limb consists of techniques designed to gain mastery over the respiratory process while recognizing the connection between the breath, the mind, and the emotions. It can be practiced as an isolated technique or integrated into your posture (asana) routine.
The above first four stages of Patanjali’s yoga concentrates on refining our personalities, gaining mastery over our bodies, and developing an energetic awareness of ourselves, all of which prepares us for the second half, which deals with the senses, the mind, and attaining a higher state of consciousness.
5) Pratyahara (withdrawal of senses). During this stage we make the conscious effort to draw our awareness away from the external world and outside stimuli. This provides us with an opportunity to step back and take a look at ourselves and objectively observe our habits which may be detrimental to our health and could possibility interfere with our inner growth.
6) Dharana (concentration). By practicing the previous limbs and having removed ourselves from outside distractions, we can now turn our attention to the distractions of the mind itself. We slow the mind down by concentrating on a single mental object (ie: an image of a deity, the flicker of a candle’s flame, or even the silent repetition of a mantra or sound, etc). Extended periods of concentration naturally lead to meditation.
7) Dhyani (meditation). At this stage, the mind has been quieted, and in the stillness it produces few or no thoughts at all. The strength and stamina it takes to reach this state of stillness can be challenging… but don’t give up! It may seem like a difficult task, but remember that yoga is a process and a practice. Even though we may not attain the “picture perfect” pose, or the ideal state of consciousness, we benefit at every stage of our progress.
8) Samadhi (enlightenment, liberation, bliss). Patanjali describes this stage as a state of ecstasy. The meditator comes to realize a profound connection to the Divine (or however you might describe their Source), an interconnectedness with all living things. With this realization comes peace, the experience of bliss, and a feeling of being at one with the Universe.
As we explore these eight limbs, we begin by refining our behavior in the outer world, and then we focus inwardly until we reach samadhi (liberation, enlightenment). However, today, most people that are practicing yoga are engaged primarily in the third limb (asana or postures), designed to purify the body and provide the physical strength and stamina required for long periods of meditation. At Fusion, we primarily focus on the practice of postures, breath work, and meditation, although the individual may decide to explore these deeper concepts on their own if it’s of interest to them.
I’m new to yoga. Where should I start?
Pick a class that works with your schedule, and come on in!
If you are reasonably active and healthy and don’t have any significant injuries or health problems (that prevent you from participating in other physical activities), then select any of our classes on our class schedule. All classes are considered “mixed level” – which means that variations and modifications are offered for all levels and abilities. (Resting is encouraged and you are never pressured to do anything that doesn’t feel safe or appropriate to you.)
In the event that you have an injury, or prefer a slower, gentler, therapeutic-style class, then try our Somatic, Gentle, Yin, or Therapeutic Yoga classes. These classes are ideal for those that are looking for a mellow experience that is leisurely paced.
If you would like to speak to someone regarding a health concern, or need guidance in selecting the appropriate class for you, please contact us at (916) 922-9642. You can also text (916) 600-6557 or send an email to FrontDesk@FusionYogaSac.com.
We also offer private (and semi-private) classes.
What classes do you offer?
We offer a variety of classes that range from dynamic, energetic, and active classes – to slower, mindful, and meditative classes. By selecting the class that fits your interest, ability, and mood on a given day, you can meet or match your needs and/or desires.
Do you offer Hot Yoga?
No. Our classes are considered a neutral or normal temperature – that is, our classes are comfortably warmed or cooled based on the outside temperature, but typically range between 70-75 degrees… not too cool, not too warm… just right! (Periodically our ceiling fans are turned on low to stir the air.) If you naturally tend to be cold, consider dressing in layers in order to find your personal comfort.
What should I bring?
If you have a yoga mat, bring it along. A bottle of water and small hand towel are nice to have, but aren’t necessary. If you have your own props and would like to bring them, then do! (Although we regularly wash our blankets, you might consider bringing a beach towel to use in lieu of one, but it’s totally optional.)
We have some loaner mats available which you’re welcome to use, but for sanitary and hygienic purposes, we recommend you bring your own. (We don’t charge a mat rental, but if you borrow ours, you’re required to sanitize it when you’re done so that it’s ready for the next person.)
If you don’t already have a mat of your own, you can find them almost anywhere these days and they’re reasonably inexpensive. A standard, basic mat runs around $15-$25 and be found at places like Target, Marshalls, TJ Maxx, etc. (If you’re looking for the top of the line, consider a Manduka mat. They are a bit pricey, but they last forever and won’t need replacing down the road. You’ll find they are heavier and more dense than most, but they’re also 2” wider than a standard mat. You can also order them to be longer as well, which is great in the event that you’re tall. They can be ordered directly from their website or from Amazon.com.)
What should I wear?
Any exercise wear is fine that allows you to bend and move freely, but something more form fitting is ideal. Try not to wear anything bulky or excessively large as it may get in your way as you’re practicing, but will also prevent the instructor from observing your alignment.
No special footgear is required as we practice with bare feet… so make sure yours are clean & fresh!
Can I eat before class?
For your own comfort, we recommend avoiding eating a heavy meal an hour or so before you practice. Typically fruit, nuts, yogurt, a protein bar, etc. are fine for most.
Do you offer private classes?
YES. We’d be happy to meet with you privately (or semi-privately if you’d like to have a friend participate along with you). Private sessions are great if you’re interested in having a private introduction to the practice, need yoga therapy to address your condition or injury, want to learn meditation and stress reduction techniques, want help with a more challenging pose, etc.
Private Sessions are currently $75 per hour for one person, or $85 an hour for two participants. (Tipping is optional, but always appreciated 🙂 Privates can usually held at our studios, but if you’d prefer to meet at your home, work or elsewhere, that can be arranged, but there is an additional fee for travel time based on the distance from our studio.
To schedule a session or if you have any questions, please email FrontDesk@FusionYogaSac.com.
If you would like to schedule a yoga therapy session, please call or text Lori at (916) 600-6557 or email Lori@FusionYogaSac.com.
Do you have a place where I can change clothing?
Yes. Besides our changing room (with a mirror, hooks, etc), we also have two restrooms where you can change your clothes as well.
What if I running late?
We ask that you arrive on-time, however, if you are running late, you’re still welcome to join the class. Just try to minimize any disruption. If you’re in doubt about the appropriate time to enter the room, you can wait for the instructor to wave you in.
What about parking?
We have ample parking in our lot as well as an abundance of street parking (without restrictions or fees).
To avoid the possibility of being towed, we recommend that you only park on our side of our lot or anywhere on the street.
If you ride your bike, we have a bike rack in front.
How much yoga experience do I need?
None. We love working with the absolute beginner and are happy to help you get started with your practice in a way that is safe and appropriate for you.
How many students are in a course?
Attendance fluctuates, but often depends on the class and the time it’s offered. Average class size is typically between 8 to 15 participants with lots of space between mats. (We can comfortably hold 25+ mats in our largest studio, yet still have sufficient space that students are able to move freely without colliding with others.)
What style of yoga will I be learning to teach?
At FUSION, we teach traditional Hatha Yoga, which is the study and practice of physical postures (“asanas”), as well as breathing practices and meditation. This traditional style allows the postures to be adapted to the individual based on their current abilities and needs, rather than trying to reach an aesthetic perfection of a pose.
Can I use my cell phone in the studio…?
In order to create and maintain a peaceful environment for all, we ask that you leave your mobile phone in the trunk of your car, or turn it off completely if you decide to bring it in. Cell phone usage is not allowed in the individual studios.
If you have an emergency or unusual situation and need to have your phone with you when you practice, please speak to the front desk attendant or teacher before class starts. Otherwise, enjoy being unreachable and disconnected for a while… it’s quite lovely to go off-the-grid once in a while!
I'm Not Flexible—Can I Do Yoga…?
ABSOLUTELY! In fact, YOU are a perfect candidate for yoga. We practice yoga to become flexible, not because we already are. (Some may think they need to be flexible to begin, but that’s similar to thinking that you need to be able to play tennis in order to take tennis lessons.) Come as you are and watch your flexibility improve!
Can I leave the room during class…?
Yes, you can leave the room at any time to use the restroom, get props, etc, – we just ask that you do it at a time that would be the least disruptive to the other students. That is, avoid stepping out anytime students are in meditation or during the final relaxation.
What kind of props do you have…?
We’ve got a lot of tools and props for you to use, including …
Bolsters & Pranayama bolsters
Foam rollers & balls for myofascial release
What if I can’t stay for the whole class…?
No worries. Simply let the instructor know before class starts that you need to leave early – that way the instructor doesn’t think you’re hurt and can help you leave on time, etc.
Is there anything special I need to know before I get started…?
There are some important key concepts to beware of, although yoga meets each individual exactly where he or she is. If you’re new to yoga, there are many things you can do to make every class enjoyable and appropriate for your body and your needs on a given day. The MOST important point is to ENJOY your practice. Also…
LEAVE YOUR AMBITION AT THE DOOR. Yoga is a practice that will keep you interested and challenged for a lifetime. There’s no need to achieve – or even try – everything on the first day, week, month, or year.
TALK TO THE TEACHER BEFORE CLASS. Let the teacher know that you are new to yoga (and/or to the teacher’s class). Let the teacher know if you have any injuries or medical conditions, or any concerns about class.
GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION. Take care of your own needs in class, whether that’s by taking a break, observing instead of doing, or modifying a pose to make it more comfortable. You can use Child’s Pose, or another resting pose, to focus on your breath and rest the body, until you feel ready to resume your practice.
STAY MINDFUL. Every action in yoga is intentional. Take the time to understand and approach a pose or movement at your own pace. By paying close attention to alignment and action, even challenging poses will eventually become possible and comfortable.
ASK FOR ASSISTANCE. If you’re unsure whether a pose or movement is right for you, ask the teacher for help. If you have a recent injury or other special concerns, seek out a smaller, slower-paced class, so the teacher can provide more individual attention.
USE YOUR BREATH AS A GUIDE. If you cannot breathe smoothly and deeply, you may be working too hard or at risk for injuring yourself. Safe, comfortable stretching usually deepens the breath. Appropriate effort also deepens the breath. In contrast, strain of any kind (including working too hard or pushing too hard in a stretch) is usually accompanied by shallow or forced breathing.
LISTEN TO THE TEACHER’S FEEDBACK. Individual feedback is one of the most valuable benefits of attending yoga class. We are so used to our physical habits that it often takes an observer to point out how we create stress in the body.
PREFER TO NOT BE TOUCHED…? We don’t give a lot of physical, hands-on adjustments to our students; however, if you prefer not to not be touched at all, please let the teacher know before class starts. (We do give verbal corrections and demonstrate a lot, but occasionally resort to physical touch providing the student is open to receive it.)
TAKE THE BEST, AND LEAVE THE REST. In any given class, some poses will feel good and others will not; some movements will feel exhilarating, and others won’t. Notice what feels right for YOUR body. You can begin to include these practices in your everyday life, when you can’t make it to class.
STAY OPEN. As you explore different classes, keep an open mind. No class or style of yoga is universally best for every person. As you build a regular practice, you may find that poses, practices, and classes that you didn’t enjoy at first will become your favorites. As your life changes, so will your practice. Always honor your needs.
TAKE RESPONSIBILITY. Your health is YOUR responsibility – no one else’s. Remember that prevention is your greatest medicine. The practice of yoga is typically not quick fix, however, with regular practice, you’ll reap the benefits.
PRACTICE AT YOUR OWN LEVEL and avoid overstretching, straining, or competing with others. Some fellow students in your class may be more flexible than you are or they may able to hold their postures longer. Don’t try to outdo anyone! Yoga is NON-competitive so be sure to rest when needed. There is no end to your yoga practice, no goal to reach, no pose to conquer… in fact, you will never be *done* with a pose. There will always be ways to take it deeper, to refine the alignment – there will always be people who can do better or hold it longer. So, ENJOY the journey – forget about the destination! Look to improve on your own level. As long as you are in a state of improvement, you WILL get better.
DO NOT FORCE YOUR BODY under any circumstances. Work slowly with your body and respect its limits. These limits will gradually extend and you will gain flexibility if you work regularly and sensitively at stretching your limits. Your body will get the message and the tension which is preventing you from proceeding will gradually be released. Be patient and move into your poses with care and precision.
NEVER PRESS INTO PAIN. Pain is a message from the body which MUST be listened to. In some cases, it may simply be the body’s process of changing. In such cases, you simply need to bear with it and continue (without forcing) and it will gradually pass. In other cases, you may be doing harm to some part of your body and may have to stop and do some other preparatory poses/exercises before returning to that one. Anything that is causing acute, sharp pain should be stopped immediately.
BE CONSCIOUS AND CONCENTRATE on what you are doing. Keep your mind on feeling what is happening in the body and concentrate on your breath and position. If your mind starts to wander, which it inevitable will do, simply notice that you’re distracted and bring your attention back to your breath – over and over and over again. If there are outside distractions, try to concentrate on yourself and ignore what is going on around you. Allow your attention to flow through the body as you become aware of each muscle and the tension and energy stored there and allow that energy to flow and the muscle to relax. Listen carefully to your body and mind dialogue without judgment or expectation.
GIVE IMPORTANCE TO YOUR BREATHING. This is an extremely important aspect of practicing yoga. In many cases, it is even more important than the actual asanas. In general (with some exceptions) we inhale when we stretch upward or backward, expanding the body – and exhale when we bend downward or forward, compressing the body.
LOOK TO INCREASE THE DURATION OF YOUR POSES as you get better. This is one of the ways to keep improving. A comfort zone is a nice place to get to, but don’t stay too long!
DON’T EXPECT INSTANT RESULTS. While you will probably feel very relaxed and peaceful after your first yoga session, it can take many weeks of daily yoga practice before you begin to reap any significant health benefits. Patience is a key you must use for the real benefits of yoga to take place. If you really want to heal, transform, or develop your body, you should try to practice regularly ~ 3-5 times per week is ideal (remember, you can practice at home too!). Practicing regularly helps you to improve and will increase your level of understandings. Not just the understanding of the poses – but greater understanding of yourself as well.
I’m pregnant. Can I still practice yoga…?
Yes. While we don’t currently offer prenatal classes, you are welcome in any of our classes. Just be sure you let the instructor know how far along you are before class starts so that appropriate modifications can be offered to you.
If you’re pregnant, the main points to remember while you’re practicing yoga during your second and third trimesters are…
Don’t lay on your abdomen.
Avoid abdominal work.
Twists should be isolated in the upper back/shoulder area (avoid all twisting the belly area).
Never push into pain… and never strain.
Don’t do anything that feels wrong or bad to you (trust your inner teacher).
Lay on your left side during the final relaxation and/or incorporate props to support you and your baby.
Do you have any tips for newbies…?
Wear comfortable clothing that allows you to bend and move freely in.
We practice with bare feet so feet should be fresh.
Bring a yoga mat if you have one – if not, we have one you can borrow.
You may also want to bring a small towel and a bottle of water (optional).
Let the instructor know (before class) of any injuries or medical conditions that might affect your practice so that appropriate modifications can be offered to you.
Avoid being late because classes start on time.
Try not to eat a heavy meal 1-2 hours before class. If you need to eat, try eating something light such as yogurt or fruit.
Avoid wearing perfume, fragrant body lotions or sprays as some people are sensitive to fragrances.
NO CELL PHONE USAGE IN STUDIOS.
Most Importantly: Be gentle with yourself and honor your limits. Do what you can without judgment. Yoga is NOT a competitive practice – so please, pay attention to yourself and not your fellow student. Enjoy yourself and don’t take it too seriously (it’s only yoga!) …. try and have a little FUN with it.
What are the benefits of practicing yoga…?
The benefits of practicing yoga are enormous, but to name just a few….
- Improves your flexibility
- Builds muscle strength
- Perfects your posture
- Prevents cartilage and joint breakdown
- Protects your spine
- Betters your bone health
- Increases your blood flow
- Drains your lymph and boosts immunity
- Ups your heart rate
- Drops your blood pressure
- Regulates your adrenal glands
- Makes you happier
- Founds a healthy lifestyle
- Lowers blood sugar
- Helps you focus
- Relaxes your system
- Improves your balance
- Maintains your nervous system
- Releases tension in your limbs
- Helps you sleep deeper
- Boosts your immune system functionality
- Gives your lungs room to breathe
- Prevents IBS and other digestive problems
- Gives you peace of mind
- Increases your self-esteem
- Eases your pain
- Gives you inner strength
- Connects you with guidance
- Helps keep you drug free
- Builds awareness for transformation
- Benefits your relationships
- Uses sounds to soothe your sinuses
- Guides your body’s healing in your mind’s eye
- Keeps allergies and viruses at bay
- Helps you serve others
- Encourages self care
- Supports your connective tissue
- Uses the placebo effect, to affect change
To find out more, check out the following article published by Yoga Journal magazine (April 12, 2018) written by Timothy McCall, MD.