What is Yoga?
It is a practice of the body and the mind for the union of the being with that of ego-self or God. Most people in the west confuse yoga like hatha yoga which means different body postures.
Actually yoga is a spiritual practice altogether. It involves a set of breathing, inhalation, exhalation, spiritual practice that alleviates the suffering mind.
Is it an art form?
It is not an art form as it is believed in the West, on the contrary, it is a path by itself, as the famous modern saint Sadhguru claims. According to him
“Yoga is to move towards an experiential reality where one knows the ultimate nature of the existence, the way it is made”.
Is it wrong to practice Hatha Yoga?
Well, it is not wrong to practice Hatha yoga. Hatha yoga is the physical aspect of Raja Yoga and should be practiced so that it doesn’t hinder the mind techniques when practiced. In the way of philosophy, yoga unites body, mind, and energy to bring about a state of harmony within oneself.
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The practice involves body postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), relaxation, and meditation. The average people in the modern era are familiar with the physical poses (or, as we say, yoga positions) but don’t know whether or not that yoga involves so much more than what they think it is.
How old is yoga?
The origins of yoga, which can be traced back to the pre-historic period of India. With the ancient sage, Patanjali, the concept of yoga is first introduced through his writing ‘Yoga Sutra’. Yoga works primarily with the energy in the body, through the science of pranayama, or energy-control. Prana means ‘breath.’
Yoga teaches us how, through only breath-control, to have peace and still the mind and attain higher states of awareness of the environment and all around us. The impact of postural yoga on physical and mental health has been proved by science, with evidence that yoga if practiced regularly can actually improve our health.
Why is yoga important?
Medical science has failed to provide long-lasting solutions to body and mind issues, this is where yoga plays a very good role.
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The basic of yoga states that the sensory organs our body has opens outwardly, thereby our mind are influenced by the external world. To improve concentration and to draw the attention of the mind towards the inner self, meditation was first introduced by the ancient sages of India. Astanga or yoga of 8 limbs or Rajayoga was the main type of yoga practiced in the classical Age that is the age of Patanjali.
How It reached the west?
Later on, Vivekananda introduced it to the West, and the modern world also started appreciating yoga to do away with the suffering mind. In this time of technology to alleviate and concentrate the mind, yoga has become essential for everyone. An ordinary person can channelize the energy in the proper direction and control his fickle mind through yoga.
What are the benefits of Yoga?
Yoga is a very ancient science, a combination of techniques formulated thousands of years ago by the ancient sage Patanjali. It is proven scientifically that with regular practice of yoga we can attain the desired stable mental condition.
As a matter of fact, the mind, which is a part of our physical body can be cured which in turn will help in curing our body. Yoga can almost get you rid of any disease. The ultimate goal of Yoga is moksha (liberation), which a person who has mastered asanas or meditation can attain.
Yoga is an ancient method of discovering oneself and attaining peace and salvation.
So, what are the actual benefits of Yoga?
- Improve flexibility, strength, and posture:
Yoga on a daily basis can make the body flexible, get rid of unnecessary pain, and strengthen muscles.
2. Improved respiratory system
With regular practice of pranayamas (breathing techniques), one can get rid of breathing troubles like asthma and other respiratory diseases.
3. Improved digestive system
Yoga can improve our digestive system with asanas like ardhapawan muktasana, trikonasana, etc
4. To reduce weight
When done regularly and systematically, with proper guidance many have managed to lose weight. Though the process is not fast but healthy and long-lasting when compared to the gym.
5. Improved athletic performance
Due to increased stamina and muscle strength naturally, athletes can perform better with yoga.
6. The breathing techniques
The breathing techniques together with some postures can cure serious issues like migraine, stammering problem, etc
7. Increases blood flow:
The relaxation exercises help the blood to flow against gravity towards your head to supply oxygen.
8. Corrects posture:
When the headrests over your spine in a correct manner it takes less effort for your muscles and neck to support it. Poor postures result in back, neck, and shoulder problems.
The above are the physical benefits whereas yoga is mainly about uplifting the spirits.
The mental benefits for a person are that they get the relief from stress and anxiety
How? Let me explain.
Many times due to certain situations in our life we are unable to deal with stress and anxiety. Depression and anxiety go hand in hand and are very common in today’s society. It is clinically proven yoga can actually free us from these emotional and mental sufferings.
The process is hard though the benefits are immense. It improves concentration and provides peace that can alleviate a person from these mental sufferings. It is said Buddha also attained salvation through meditation. It increases calmness, improves chronic stress patterns.
A prolonged period of immense stress can actually harm the physical body as well.
Even yoga helps us get clarity and develops coping mechanisms by training our minds to be calm in every situation.
People with sleeping disorders can be immensely benefitted by Yoga.
What are some of the things that one should do before the beginning of Yoga?
You are new to the field of yoga and wondering what to do before the first class. No wonder you have heard a lot from your friends about this new healthy regime you are going to start. Let’s look at some of the things that you need to take care of beforehand.
At first, familiarize yourself with some basic terminology like asanas and pranayamas so you are not lost when the instructor instructs.
- Start with some freehand before going for the first class
Yoga requires a lot of body flexibility. However, it is not like if you are not flexible you cannot do it. It takes time for a normal person to attain body flexibility. We suggest you do some freehand exercises to loosen the tight muscles across the various joints of your body.
- Don’t eat a lot before class
As you know before any kind of exercise you should not eat and fill your stomach to the full. Have a light meal minimum two or three hours before the class.
- Different types of yoga. Choose wisely
If you are looking for something more inclined towards the emotional issues then you to try the asanas like pranayamas or dhyana yogas. If you want to lose weight then hatha yoga is best for you. Communicate with the teacher and let him/her know your goals. So you can be trained accordingly.
- Know your problems well
Just like you know your symptoms before visiting a doctor tell the instructor all about your health issues. Be it any health problems like diabetes, asthma or migraine communicate well. Let him/her know you and your problems well.
- Don’t stress yourself over any pose
Everyone doesn’t have the same amount of body flexibility and therefore you can’t compare yourself with others. If you are not able to do a certain pose, leave it there as too much exertion is bad for health. Flexibility is attained slowly with time.
- Try to do it on the same yoga mat every day
Some yoga classes provide yoga mats to students doing yoga on different mats, it is not a good practice. One should always buy his or her own mat. Besides being not hygienic, your yoga mat consists of your energy and therefore use your own mat always.
- During menstruation or pregnancy
During menstruation, you can avoid all the hectic poses and try to sit in meditation and relaxing poses.
Consult the doctor before you start yoga during pregnancy.
- Try getting your mind free
If possible, try to get rid of your mind free from all thoughts before you go to the class. This will help you concentrate better on the instructions and well as on your breathing.
What are some easy Yoga poses?
As we all know today yoga is practiced worldwide in the East as well as in the West. Due to its proven benefits, everyone wants to learn this new technique and reap the results. Let’s explore some basic yoga poses for beginners to get the desired flexibility to move to the next level of this exercise. The names are indeed tough to pronounce as these are derived from Sanskrit words. However, it doesn’t mean doing it will be equally tough.
1. Mountain Pose
Description: Just stand with your feet together or legs apart. Keep your palms facing towards your body. Press down on the mat and feel the earth. It seems like simply standing but it involves a lot of things. Stand as much erect and tall as possible while breathing in and getting your chest wide open.
Benefits: It promotes balance and concentration.
Description: Stand in the mountain pose. While exhaling, lift both your hands towards the sky and spread your fingers. While inhaling, try to sit on an invisible chair.
As you inhale lift your arms more and more.
Benefits: Strengthens the muscles of your back, legs, upper bones, and shoulders. You can feel the pressure in your thighs as well.
3. Down Dog on a chair
Sanskrit: Uttana shishosana
Description: Take a chair and place both the hands on the back of the chair. The palms should be shoulder-distance apart. Step your feet back until they align 90 degrees with the hips, creating a right angle with your body, spine parallel with the floor.
Benefits: Stretching the hamstring, opening the shoulders and lengthening backbones and muscles
4. Downward-Facing Dog
Sanskrit: Adho mukha svanasana
Description: Touch the ground with your arms just in front of the toes. Walk 6 inches in front of you. Lift your hips up and straighten the body. Keep your weight on the leg itself. Spread the fingers and keep your arms straight. Rotate the inner elbows so they face outward.
Benefits: This classic pose makes your shoulders flexible, lengthens your spine, and stretches your hamstrings. The head is below the heart and it creates a calming effect.
Description: Touch ground on all fours. Tuck your knees and lift your legs off the mat. Slide heels back enough until you feel the pressure on your back. Your body should form one straight line.
Come down on your knees if the pose is too tough for a beginner.
Benefits: It is one of the best moves to develop core strength, Plank Pose strengthens abdominals and helps get stability.
Some other easy yoga poses and advanced yoga poses are Upward facing dog( Urdhva Mukha svanasana), half-moon pose, etc.
Good luck with your journey to the world of yoga!