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A Yogi’s Guide to Your Yoga Queries

Vrinda Sharma Rosenberg
6 min read • 
9 May 2024


Editor’s note: Vrinda Sharma Rosenberg is a lawyer turned Yoga instructor and the writer of today’s article, which is a simple guide to the most commonly asked questions on yoga. You can find her on Instagram at @YogaByVrinz! As someone who primarily enjoys lifting weights, there was much for me to learn here. Happy reading!

Hey there! My name is Vrinda, and I’m a truth seeker and wellness junkie, just like you. Before we dive into this article that will (hopefully) clear up some questions and misconceptions you may have about yoga, let me tell you a little bit about myself.

Until 2021, I was a media and IP lawyer in Mumbai, working at top-notch law firms and companies that looked great on my CV. However, the demanding work hours, sitting in one place all day (think: eating fried vada pavs while vigorously slapping at the keyboard to meet contract deadlines), and having close to zero ‘me time’ took a toll on me. I gained weight, struggled with gut-wrenching period cramps, and found myself having a mental breakdown every other day.

That’s when I decided to give yoga an honest shot, as I had been reading on the internet about its benefits for the mind, body, and soul, which gave me a glimmer of hope for working towards a more balanced life. 

Were there moments of spiritual awakening? I’d say no, but moving my body to the rhythm of the breath and allowing myself to fully surrender to the practice gave me innate joy. It’s a feeling that’s hard to describe and equally hard to find in other forms of movement. 

The weight reduced, the period cramps almost disappeared, and I gained better mental clarity. Most of all, I found my purpose. I became a certified yoga teacher to be able to take other working professionals on this journey with me.

Cut to 2024. I now teach yoga virtually around the world, curate corporate wellness programs, and host yoga retreats so that everyone can benefit from this beautiful ancient practice.

Enough about me! Let’s address some of the day-to-day questions that I get asked repeatedly. 

1. For someone who is fairly active and regular at the gym, would you still recommend yoga?

The answer is yes, yes, and yes!

If you go to the gym, I’m guessing you really care about your overall fitness. Hitting the treadmill is excellent for your cardiovascular health and keeping your weight in check, while resistance training is just what you need if you’re looking to build muscle mass and get stronger (there are other benefits, but let’s keep it precise).

Practising yoga asanas regularly will enhance your fitness journey to another level – whether you’re a gym-goer or an athlete.

Let’s take an example. You’ve been working on deadlifts, but because of your rather tight hamstrings, you’re not able to progress to a full range of motion or, in the worst-case scenario, you’re severely injuring yourself time and again. Practising yoga asanas regularly stretches your muscles, lubricates the joints, and also relaxes your entire body after a day at the gym. 

Besides, yoga has a ton of therapeutic and physiological benefits that we will discuss in the next question.

2. What differentiates yoga from other forms of movement?

Yoga asanas (physical postures) involve movement of the body and are thus known for their physical benefits: better endurance, strength, flexibility, balance, etc. However, there is more to yoga than what meets the eye at fitness studios. 

Because yoga has gained an incredible amount of popularity lately, a bastardised version of it is what is being presented (and it works because that’s what the masses want). Standing upside down on your head is way more impressive than being able to sit in silence for five minutes, isn’t it?

What truly makes yoga stand apart is its meditative nature. A gentle reminder here that asanas are a minuscule part of the yoga universe. This isn’t to say that if you’re just practising asanas, it isn’t yoga, but you’re just about scratching the surface. 

However, if done with the right intention, mindfulness, and awareness, even asanas can bring about a quality of happiness and serenity within you. The ultimate goal of practising yoga, no matter where you start, is to reduce the fluctuations of the mind {chitta vritti nirodhah}.

 🏋️Share this with that gym rat who avoids yoga

3. I am a complete beginner. Where can I start? What equipment will I need?

Congratulations on taking the first step by setting your intention to give yoga a shot! Now that you’ve convinced your mind, all you need is a yoga mat. 

As a beginner, I would recommend finding a studio near you. If there are no yoga studios in your neighbourhood, I suggest finding a teacher who can come home to teach you, provided that’s a financially viable option for you. If none of those options quite work, try YouTube or live online classes with an experienced teacher.

As a lawyer working odd hours, I struggled to commit to a studio timetable and had to squeeze in my hourly practice at home, whenever my work allowed me to. The flexibility of learning online from the comfort of my own home ensured consistency and commitment to yoga. This is a great option for those with busy schedules or limited access to studios.

For beginners, I recommend Hatha yoga, which typically involves foundational postures that are practised slowly and with static holds. (But don’t mistake ‘slow’ for ‘easy’!)

Apart from a yoga mat, a pair of foam yoga blocks and a yoga strap (traditionally used in an Iyengar yoga practice) are helpful. While optional, I highly recommend using these props to enhance your practice, as they can provide support, help with alignment, and make certain postures more accessible.

4. Do I need to practise under supervision? How will I know if I’m doing the poses right?

For a healthy individual, yoga is considered a safe form of exercise, so if your concern is getting injured, you don’t have to be worried (unless, of course, you’re an enthu cutlet and on day one of your class, your aim is to fly in a crow pose or bend yourself into a wheel pose). 

However, if you are suffering from an injury or health concern, I would strictly advise against doing your own thing from the internet. Follow medical advice and work with a yoga expert who understands your needs.

As a beginner, I recommend learning under supervision because while you may be able to get in and out of poses pretty easily, practising them with the right alignment is key to building a solid foundation.

🤸‍♂️Yogatta share this

5. Will practising yoga regularly help with weight loss?

The short and disappointing answer is that it will take you much longer and a higher commitment to lose weight with just yoga. Yoga isn’t considered an aerobic exercise, which is why your weighing scale is likely to take its own sweet time to show you the number you’re looking for. 

If weight loss is your goal, practising intense forms of yoga like power yoga, Ashtanga yoga, and vinyasa flows are probably for you. If you’re already going to the gym, adding yoga to your schedule twice a week is a good start.

It’s important to remember that weight loss ultimately comes down to creating a calorie deficit, meaning you need to burn more calories than you consume. While yoga can contribute to overall calorie expenditure, it may not be as effective as other forms of exercise for creating a significant calorie deficit.

What I can tell you from my own experience is that yoga helped me build better self-awareness (I found it easier to resist junk food), improve my sleep cycle, reduce overall stress, and alleviate symptoms of PCOS, which are factors that play an important role in anyone’s weight loss journey.

I may sound like a broken record at this point, but let me conclude this answer by saying that yoga has a ton of benefits, and weight loss should not be the driving factor to step on the mat. Let holistic wellness be your reason instead.

6. What breathing techniques can help me reduce stress and anxiety?

This article would be incomplete if I didn’t address pranayama (breathing techniques). Prana literally translates to “energy,” and the source of our energy, life, health, and happiness is our breath, without which you and I wouldn’t be here. 

Pranayama is one of the key pillars of yoga. The breath acts as a catalyst to develop a better connection between the mind and body. Apart from the obvious benefit of improving the capacity of your lungs, pranayama practice can be an important tool in your wellness kit to promote relaxation and bring mindfulness into your day-to-day life.

Have you ever carefully observed a baby sleeping? They breathe deeply and blissfully in and out of the stomach.

Now, have you carefully observed your manager when your work doesn’t quite meet expectations? Their breathing is short, shallow, and heavy. 

Our breath is a clear indicator of our emotions and how we are feeling at any given point. Replicating that deep, blissful belly breath in stressful situations calms the nervous system, which controls the body’s involuntary functions. No wonder when we’re stressed, people hit us with, “Yo, take a deep breath!”

Deep breathing calms stress effectively.

Controlled breathing helps lower blood pressure and heart rate, reduce stress hormones in the blood, and bring in a sense of calmness. Here are two of my favourite techniques that I always recommend and you can practise them anytime, anywhere:

1. Bhramari pranayama (humming bee breath): Close your eyes. Take a few normal breaths before you begin. To start, breathe in normally as you would, and while exhaling, make the sound of “mmmmmm,” keeping the jaw relaxed. Practice for 10 breaths. I like to practise this before going to bed or prior to my meditation practice because it prepares my mind to slow down.

2. Sama vritti pranayama (box breathing): Start by breathing in to the count of 4. Hold your breath to the count of 4. Exhale to the count of 4. Lastly, suspend your breath to the count of 4. If you’re pregnant or are dealing with high blood pressure, skip the hold. The relaxed and focused state induced by this breathwork will help you on days when you’re overwhelmed with tasks and to-do lists.

I would like to clarify here that no single factor can entirely reduce stress. Together with breathing techniques, make sure to get enough sleep, stay hydrated, find a creative activity to release your stress, eat well, and exercise. (I’m guessing you already know this!)

Yoga isn’t about touching your toes, it’s what you learn on the way down. Good luck!

👃🏻Nudge that friend who needs to take a breather


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