In our pursuit of true holistic wellness, we may try many different things to attain it. One widespread practice we can try is yoga. As we celebrate the International Day of Yoga this 21 June 2022, let’s look at some basics of the practice and some ways to elevate our yoga experience.
The Basics of Yoga
Yoga is an ancient spiritual practice from the land of India. The term is of Sanskrit origin and means "to harness". It entails low-impact physical activity, breathing techniques (pranayama), postures (asana), meditation, and relaxation . Because of these practices included in yoga, some scholars have called it a "meditative movement" . In modern times, yoga has become a way of promoting holistic wellbeing, with many styles that target different areas. There have been numerous studies on the benefits of yoga as a sport. It has even been said to help people quit smoking!
There are many types of yoga for many different goals or purposes, but we have narrowed down the basics to the following:
- Hatha Yoga: This type of yoga is the mother of all yoga practices. It's slow-paced, perfect for beginners and covers all the basic breathing techniques, postures, as well as relaxation and meditation techniques .
- Vinyasa Yoga: Vinyasa is commonly referred to as "flow" yoga and the term "vinyasa" literally means "connection". It is a method of yoga that connects postures together using yoga breathing techniques . Depending on your level, vinyasa yoga can be slow- or fast-paced.
- Iyengar Yoga: If Vinyasa yoga focuses on flow, Iyengar yoga focuses on alignment and posture. Each pose is intense and must be held for a long time, gradually expanding with each breath. If you want to focus on your strength and flexibility, this is the perfect type of yoga for you .
- Bikram Yoga: The original hot yoga, Bikram yoga is a bit more intense than other yoga methods, and quite literally at that—it is typically performed in a hot room of up to 40-degrees Celsius in temperature! Developed by Bikram Choudhury in the 1970s, each Bikram yoga session follows a set of 26 set poses. The heat and posture sets can make it very challenging, but this combination can help sweat out toxins and improve circulation. It is also said to boost strength and flexibility, as well as aid in weight loss .
- Ashtanga Yoga: This form of yoga is also called “power yoga” due to the defined movements involved in this practice. It was developed by K. Pattabhi Jois and is consider to be a contemporary form of classical yoga. Like Iyengar yoga, it focuses on posture but can be very difficult to master. Progressing to each level can be tough, but it is important to remember that ashtanga yoga focuses more on posture and structure rather than progression. Ashtanga yoga is for people who want to pack in more power and form in their yoga practice .
How to Start Practising Yoga
Trying to start yoga may be intimidating at first, but with the elements of yoga practice—postures, breathing techniques, meditation, and relaxation techniques—you will find that the hardest part is to start. So, how do you start practising yoga? While it’s best to learn straight from a seasoned yogi (a yoga practitioner), there are tons of online video references that can get you started on your yoga journey.
If you want to try out an online yoga class, consider entering a Hatha Yoga class to get you started on the bare essentials before moving onto more advanced forms like Bikram or ashtanga yoga.
Setting up your space 
There are two vital things you need to start yoga: some space to do it, and of course, a proper yoga mat. The space you use should be big enough for you to lay spread-eagled on the floor. Remember that as you start building up the habit of practising yoga, you should be able to do it in the same space every time. The first choice for beginners is the bedroom, but you can also use your living room, your basement, or your backyard to practise yoga. It should be a calm quiet space where you can breathe easily and meditate in silence.
Other than having a quiet space, many practitioners of yoga often prepare a few more things. Playing some calming music, especially sounds of nature, can really set a calming atmosphere especially if you are living in the city. Another thing is diffusing oils. Yoga paired with aromatherapy is a good combination for relaxation and stress relief, and there are quite a few essential oils you can try to really set the mood. Elevate your yoga setup with these aromatherapy essential oil choices!
Lavender is known for its calming effects, and for beginners of yoga, it’s a solid choice. This “starter oil” is used not only in the practice of yoga, but even just for general relaxation and comfort. Because of this, it is a top recommendation from many yoga practitioners. 
Orange essential oils are good for high-energy yoga practice, and are best suited for any yogi who might be feeling tired or sluggish before yoga practice. 
When we meditate, we try to be in tune with our surroundings and connect with the environment. This practice is called “grounding” or “earthing” therapy. There are very few studies about this, but there are some scientists who have researched its effects on mood, chronic pain, muscle damage, and even cardiovascular disease. Sandalwood is a top recommendation for grounding and can be used during yoga sessions to increase relaxation and mindfulness.
Cleaning Your Yoga Mat
Essential oils can also be used in yoga mat maintenance. See the recipe below for an essential oil blend that you can use to clean your yoga mat. A word of caution though: once you’ve made the concoction, make sure to do a patch test on your yoga mat as this can stain certain types of material.
¾ cup water
¼ cup white vinegar
5 drops NOW Essential Oils Lavender
3 drops NOW Essential Oils Tea Tree
A spray bottle
Simply mix all the ingredients in the bottle, shake it, and spray on the mat. Afterwards, wipe it dry with a clean towel.
As a practice in meditation, mindfulness, and relaxation, yoga is praised by many around the world. Whatever reason you may have to start practising yoga, remember to take things one step at a time and don’t push yourself! Follow your own pace and remember to prioritise your peace of mind.