Why do I love yoga? Because Yoga is for everyone! Young, old, weak, strong, men and women. Yoga is beneficial to creating core strength, that is, muscles in your front and back to help protect your back from injury. As America ages, it is clear to see that yoga is getting more and more popular. I see yoga in the most diverse places, urban, rural, upscale private lessons, and even offered at gyms. Twenty years ago most of the classes in a gym were Jane Fonda style aerobics classes or jazzercise. That is great exercise for the young, and yoga is universal. If you like to weight lift, yoga will help you gain poise and balance. If you like to jazz dance, yoga will give you strength. If you like to meditate, yoga will give you calm.
There are actually eight arms to yoga, what is mainly taught to the Western world is the physical yoga. Yoga means "unity" and it aims to strengthen every muscle in your body. Done with the correct breathing and stretching it is a wonderful example of: start where you are, with what you have, do what you can. So what if you can't touch your toes? Have your instructor confirm your posture is correct and go as far as you can. Breathe deeply, let gravity pull you a little farther. Incremental increase will occur if you practice on a regular basis. And what if you already have the body of gymnast? The awesome thing about yoga is that any pose can be modified. Ask your instructor, "what's next?"
What do you need to do yoga? Hopefully nothing. If you call up the yoga studio before hand, you can find out if they have mats available for the beginners. Most will. Even if they don't, you can do yoga at home without a mat. Back in the day, I had a VHS tape showing two women doing yoga outside on the grass. So while a mat is a fun accessory, I wouldn't say it's necessary, until you feel like buying one. And what to wear? Sweatpants and a tee shirt are fine. Stay away from anything binding like jeans. I've seen people in class in short jogging shorts. Sometimes a baggy tee-shirt keeps me from seeing my feet when we do "downward dog" pose, though it didn't actually hinder me in terms of execution. Pants made specific for yoga are kind of popular now, and they are also fun to have. The Capri style ones allow for you to see your feet, any leggings actually would serve the same purpose.
What can you get as you get serious about yoga? Apparently there is no end! You can invest in yoga blocks, straps, bolsters, pillows, incense, candles, on and on. Pretty soon you can have a house that looks like a far Eastern Opium den, only if you want to, some very Christian people enjoy yoga in my neighborhood. There's no denying though, it is fun to load up on the related hand lotions and oils that accompany a life style change geared toward stress reduction and health.
As your body gets into better shape you will find you don't crave junk food. You want to eat healthier, and while yoga teachers are not required to be licensed nutritionists, most of them know how to eat well. They can usually recommend food groups to eat and to avoid.
Yoga is often blended with other traditions so that there is a level for everyone. Yoga for mixed martial arts, incorporates stretches for strength. Power flow yoga is a difficult fast moving yoga almost like an aerobic workout. Some yoga uses a few Pilates moves, and some Pilates places incorporate a few yoga postures. While is it a lot of fun to challenge oneself to get better and better, yoga is not a competitive sport. Every level can be beautiful. We had a number of teenagers in our class at one point, and seeing their natural flexibility was wonderful. The strongest woman in the class, however, was old enough to be their mother!
You can do yoga in your own home with a DVD. I would recommend for starters to take a few classes. It is possible to hurt yourself if you do not do a pose correctly. At home it is sometimes hard to see the screen while you are trying to execute the move at the same time. As famous as he is, I had trouble with the Rodney Yee yoga series for this reason. The stuff seemed awfully advanced for beginners. He didn't stop to explain very much, he suggested watching the whole routine before trying it. Kind of like watching a dance routine and trying to learn it. Linda Arkin had a very plain, very scaled down video, which I liked because she spent so much time explaining each pose. Both Denise Austin and the "walkaerobics" lady Leslie Sansone, did very similar videos to the Linda Arkin routine.I would recommend going to a reputable yoga studio first, to see if you like it, before trying to make a home routine or relying on DVD's. Taking a class at a regular gym may or may not be alright, there's a wide variation on teachings, an actual yoga studio is more likely to have invested teachers. Once you know enough, from a reputable teacher, you can take classes anywhere and decide if they have merit.