What is Yoga?
Yoga is an ancient discipline that began over 3,000 years ago. It originated in India as a way people could unite their body, mind, and spirit. The practice brings together physical postures called asanas that stretch, strengthen, and lengthen you. Along with the practice is the important aspect of breathing, called pranayama. Meditation, also known as Dhyana, is an essential part of yoga as well. The alternate names exist because Sanskrit was the ancient language spoken in India at the time. This has been honored through the ages and is still used today.
There have been many forms of meditation or inner focusing through many cultures and systems that were designed to improve health and harmony. You see Catholic priests and devout Christians praying which is their way of tapping into the inner power they have. Traditionally, it was priests, monks, and mystics who were more inclined to promote spiritual growth. It is believed that yoga is the most effective system humans can use to gain a connection to their inner selves. Yoga was brought to the West not long ago and is now used to aid many stress-related issues we face.
Benefits of Yoga
Yoga offers you many benefits and can improve all aspects of yourself. The poses you do, no matter how easy, tap into your body, mind, and soul. For example, Child’s Pose makes you feel safe so you can instantly find a calmness in yourself. You’re less likely to allow your mind to wander and you get the physical benefits of stretching out your back. Any given pose offers a purpose for all three parts of you. So when you do yoga, you improve many aspects of yourself, making it a complete holistic approach to life.
Yoga for the Mind
While you may not really think it’s beneficial to be able to control how your mind perceives things, it can be radically life-changing. Poses, along with the breathing that comes with it, can relax the nervous system so different messages go to your brain. Also, breathing deeply while doing yoga allows more oxygen to get to the brain which gives you more clarity.
Many people that do yoga will report a feeling of euphoria after their practice. The mind becomes centered as you focus on your body through the poses. This gives your mind time to relax for an hour which is both invigorating and stimulating at the same time.
Yoga for the Body
Yoga poses are designed to strengthen, stretch, and balance the body. Even the resting poses include keeping your arms stretched out so you tone muscles. You keep your body bright no matter how simple the pose may seem. There are plenty of exercises (poses) within yoga that will incorporate all three aspects. For example, in Tree Pose which is a balancing pose, you will be stretching your hip flexors while strengthening the one standing leg.
Maintaining elasticity within your muscles will prevent many injuries from other sports you may be doing. As you age, the elasticity tends to get less so starting yoga at any age will help you stay mobile for longer. You can ease back pain, sciatic nerve problems and many of the aches and pains you might be experiencing. Yoga targets any muscle in your body through balance, stretching and strengthening, keeping you young at heart.
Yoga for the Soul
Perhaps one of the most enriching parts of yoga is the ability to tap into your deeper self. Yoga is being used in many addiction and trauma rehabilitation programs for its power to find peace. The meditation aspects of yoga, along with the fact you have to focus on the poses to master them, allow you to start thinking differently. For those who have suffered greatly in their lives, yoga can have a positive impact on the recovery.
Believing in something bigger than yourself to get through events in life is important. It’s what the 2-step recovery program was built on for a reason. Acknowledging that there is something more than the body you are in can bring on great healing powers. When you practice yoga, you can’t help but feel that there is something more to you.
Yoga has been used for centuries to help people deal with ailments that have caused many health problems. In our modern time, stress is a huge contributor to many of the health issues we are facing. Yoga has the ability to slowly heal your body from past injuries in a safe way. When you’re going through difficult times, there are yoga poses that can reduce stress. The body holds onto emotions and yoga has the ability to release them. If you’ve never tried yoga, take a beginners class, be gentle on yourself and notice the benefits you get immediately.
Author Profile: Meera Watts is a yoga teacher, entrepreneur, and mom. Her writing on yoga and holistic health has appeared in Elephant Journal, Yoganonymous, OMtimes and others. She’s also the founder and owner of Siddhi Yoga International, a yoga teacher training school based in Singapore. Siddhi Yoga runs intensive, residential training in India (Rishikesh, Goa and Dharamshala), Indonesia (Bali)