Yoga is a unique form of exercise and meditation that benefits the body, mind and spirit. It is an exciting, challenging, and beautiful way to exercise and also meet like-minded people.
The beauty of yoga is that it can be practiced nearly anywhere. You can practise yoga at home, in the park, or by doing a course at the gym or spiritual centre with other yoga enthusiasts. People of all ages and fitness levels can do the most basic yoga poses and stretches.
Historically yoga was a way of life. You dedicated yourself to a healthy lifestyle and community. Yoga includes healthy eating habits, bathing habits, meditation, breathing, social interaction and holistic physical exercise.
What is Yoga?
The word yoga means to yoke or bind. Yoga is a method of discipline that you embody in your daily life. Male yoga practitioners are known as yogis, and female practitioners are yoginis.
The yoga Sutra was compiled by the Indian sage Patanjali around 2,000 years ago. This sutra is a philosophical guidebook of 195 statements. These serve most of the yoga that is practiced today.
There are eight limbs of yoga. You refine your behaviour in the outer world when practising the eight limbs. Then you focus inwards until you reach Samadhi. The eight limbs are the yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), pratyahara (withdrawing senses), dharana (concentration), dhyani (meditation), and Samadhi (absorption, enlightenment).
Every yoga pose is known as an asana and each has a different name. Asana is a program of physical postures designed to purify your body and provides the physical strength and stamina required for long periods of meditation.
Yoga includes standing postures, seated twists, backbends, arm balances, inversions, and core holds. For example, the downward facing dog calms your brain, energises your body, improves digestion, strengthens arms and legs and is good for lowering high blood pressure.
What Does Yoga Do For You?
Yoga has many amazing benefits for your body, mind and spirit. It helps you to stretch your body and helps with the lower back pains from spending long hour at a computer. Yoga also helps you reconnect with invisible forces and energies, and it balances your body and mind.
Breathing is very important in yoga practise. All eastern cultures recognised the presence of the life force in our bodies and also in the universe. This life force energy is known by many names including prana, chi, and ki. Your body is a battery and you can charge it up with pure prana. Each time you breathe you absorb this energy. Yoga teaches you how to charge up your body properly.
Yoga poses with deep breathing send prana to all of the cells in your body. This flow of prana is naturally enhanced. Illness starts on the energetic level first where energy blockages are present. Yoga helps to stimulate the flow of this energy. This is why yoga is so powerful.
Forms of Yoga
There are over 100 different forms of yoga. Some are gentle and relaxing and others fast-paced and intense. Some of the main forms of yoga are given below.
Hatha Yoga combines a series of basic movements with breathing.
Ashtanga Yoga uses a series of poses which are combined with a special breathing technique.
Bikram Yoga is also known as ‘hot yoga’. It is a series of 26 challenging poses that are performed in a room heated to a high temperature.
Iyengar Yoga uses props like blocks, straps and chairs to help you move your body into proper alignment.
Kundalini Yoga is focussed on activating your chakras and opening up your energy channels. For spiritual awakening and activation, focus is given to your central channel from root to crown.
Other Amazing Health Benefits of Yoga
Yoga Improves your Posture. You maintain a healthier weight, become more flexible and improve your muscle tone and strength. Your posture will greatly improve because of this as your abdominals and back muscles can now fully support your weight.
You lose weight more easily. The excess stress of daily life can increase you weight. Practising yoga enables you to bring a deep sense of relaxation to your body and your mind. This helps you to de-stress and allows you to lose weight naturally.
Yoga Increases your flexibility. Improved flexibility is one of the first and most obvious benefits of yoga. Yoga postures work by safely stretching your muscles further. Yoga also stretches other soft tissue in the body such as ligaments and tendons. This increases the range of motion in your joints and allows you to move around more freely.
Yoga improves your mood and reduces stress. Yoga uses specific meditation techniques that focus your mind on your breathing to quieten your constant mind-chatter. This relieves stress and allows you to feel relaxed. Practising these breathing techniques can also boost oxygen levels to your brain leaving you more content with everyday life.
Yoga Increases your Self Confidence. Yoga and meditation boost your confidence by releasing anxiety and tension from your mind. Without anxiety you can establish an internal connection with yourself and you also feel confident about your physical body. This also increases your compassion for others and awareness of the moment.
Yoga lowers your blood pressure. Regular yoga practise increases your lung capacity as a result of the deep breathing process. This also increases your stamina and endurance. Also meditation and calming yoga asanas slow down your heart rate. This lowers blood pressure and may improve your immune system and lower cholesterol.
Yoga improves your muscle tone and strength. Yoga postures including downward and upward dog greatly increase your upper body strength. The plank focuses on your core and standing poses strengthen your upper leg muscles and lower back. Any pose will strengthen an area of your body without putting too much stress on specific muscle groups.
You risk of injury is reduced. Strenuous exercise can cause an imbalance of opposing muscle groups. Yoga concentrates on balancing all your muscles and it is of great benefit to mix up your exercise routine with regular yoga practice.
Choosing a Yoga Class
It is important to find a yoga class that fits your experience level and helps you achieve your physical or spiritual goals. When choosing a class make a list of convenient venues that are close enough and cheap enough you’re likely to actually go. Go to a few of them, pick up a schedule, and soak in the vibe.
When you select a teacher and class it is important that you feel comfortable there. A good yoga class is a supportive and has an inclusive community that gives you space to explore your practice. If you feel uncomfortable for any reason, try a different teacher, class, or studio.
Try beginner’s classes with a few different teachers. There is no hurry to commit to one teacher or style. You’ll try new classes throughout your practice.
Inform your yoga teacher about any injuries or physical problems you have. An experienced teacher will be able to modify the poses so that they are safe and appropriate for your body.
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