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Q:   I am not flexible. Can I do yoga?

A:            Yes! You are a perfect candidate for yoga. Many people think that they need to be flexible to begin yoga, but that's a little bit like thinking that you need to be able to play tennis in order to take tennis lessons. Come as you are and you will find that yoga practice will help you become more flexible. This newly found agility will be balanced by strength, coordination, and enhanced cardiovascular health, as well as a sense of physical confidence and overall well-being.

Q:   What is proper yoga breathing?

A:           Once you have taken note of the details of your natural breath, start to make subtle adjustments. Begin by matching the length of your inhales to the length of your exhales. Once the breath is even, elongate and deepen the breath just slightly, not to the point where it feels forced or strained, but just enough so that there is a consciousness about it. Continue to breathe in and out through the nose, and then shift your intention. Imagine that instead of breathing through your nostrils, you are instead   breathing through the soft spot right between your collarbones, at the base of your throat. Notice how this shift in intention changes the sound and quality of your breath. It is less nasal, throatier, and has a more hollow sound to it. Ujjayi breathing is sometimes compared to the sound of the sea in a shell, or to the purring of a contented cat. The breath should be audible to you, but not to anyone standing more than a couple of feet from you.

Q:   How many times per week should I practice yoga?

A:           Yoga is amazing—even if you only practice for one hour a week, you will experience the benefits of the practice. If you can do more than that, you will certainly experience more benefits. We suggest starting with two or three times a week, for an hour or an hour and a half each time. Don't let time constraints or unrealistic goals be an obstacle—do what you can and don't worry about it. You will likely find that after awhile your desire to practice expands naturally and you will find yourself doing more and more.

Q:   How is yoga different from stretching or other kind of fitness?

A:           Unlike stretching or fitness, yoga is more than just physical postures. Even within the physical practice, yoga is unique because we connect the movement of the body and the fluctuations of the mind to the rhythm of our breath. Connecting the mind, body, and breath helps us to direct our attention inward. Through this process of inward attention, we learn to recognize our habitual thought patterns without labeling them, judging them, or trying to change them. We become more aware of our experiences from moment to moment. The awareness that we cultivate is what makes yoga a practice, rather than a task or a goal to be completed. Your body will most likely become much more flexible by doing yoga, and so will your mind.

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