In Canada, we often think about yoga as a fitness class. Something flexible women do after the farmers market or before a coffee date with friends. We’ve heard of the yoga body, the yoga diet, and I think we all own some variation of yoga pants.

But yoga was born of something else. Something bigger, and older, and more steeped in wisdom and tradition. Yoga literally means “to yoke.” It’s a practice designed to unify: body and mind, sweetness and stability, and ultimately humans and the divine. Patanjali codified the Yoga Sutras in 400CE and the practice of yoga began to spread throughout India and the world. Today, it’s one of the fastest growing “industries” in North America.

New to yoga? Here are three things you should know:

It’s Right For Your Body

An Asana practice may seem like it’s only appropriate for the young, thin, able-bodied people in our world. However, yoga can be practiced by any body, and can be modified for all abilities.

Yoga can help you lengthen and cultivate flexibility, or strengthen to overcome injury. It can help you heal a broken heart or a sore back. It can help you feel a sense of belonging in your daily life.

The trick is to find the right practice, the right studio, and the right teacher. Also, don’t hesitate to use the straps or blocks in your practice – they will assist in a full range of movement.

Not sure what’s best for you? Try the 30 Day Challenge at Moksha Yoga, Yoga For Round Bodies at Queen Street Yoga or Yoga for Beginners at Fearless Heart Yoga.

You Can Afford It

I’ll admit it, yoga classes can be expensive and establishing a regular (preferably, daily) practice is important. If you’re loving yoga but lacking the funds to practice at your favourite studio, consider:

Home practice: It’s free and 100 per cent targeted to where you are today.

Go online: There are so many free or inexpensive online resources. My favourite is YogaGlo.com, where $18/month gives you access to hundreds of truly excellent and easy to sort classes.

$5 classes: Most studios have a weekly community or “Karma” class where the proceeds are donated to charity!

Energy Exchange: Volunteer your cleaning services in exchange for free yoga.

It’s About More Than Poses

Yoga is about more than poses. In fact Asana is just one component of the eight “limbs” designed to guide a yogi through life. The yogic path begins with the Yamas & Niyams, the Dos and Don’ts that teach us how to be kind, honest, clean, and perseverant (among other things), and reaches completion with Samadhi, a state of bliss.

This philosophy, the yoga practiced off the mat and in the world, is in my humble opinion the most beautiful, challenging and rewarding aspect of the practice.