Yoga

About Yoga

Stretching back thousands of years, yoga is a powerful tool that can be used to develop almost every aspect of a life. Countless people have been drawn to yoga for a variety of reasons ranging from improved athletic performance to stress-relief, and that remains one of the most amazing aspects of this practice. It has helped many find a path towards a happier and healthier life, but it is still wrapped up in quite a bit of misinformation and rumor. For those that would like to know more, here is a closer look at the basic tenets, history, styles, and benefits of yoga in its current state.

In its most basic form, yoga is considered to be an ascetic and Hindu discipline that was developed to help improve every aspect of a human’s life. While it may have been religious in nature for quite some time, many of those that practice this art do it for their own physical or spiritual reasons outside of the religious nature. This is just one of the components of yoga that has made it so popular in cultures, religions, and lifestyles throughout the world.

The Three Structures of Yoga

The three primary structures of yoga include exercise, breathing, and meditation. While some may neglect one or two of these aspects, most will find the practice much more fulfilling when there is a strong emphasis on all three. Many of the movements have been designed to put pressure on various systems throughout the body, improve stamina, steady one’s breathing, and promote overall health on multiple levels. In addition to placing pressure on the glandular system, yoga can also be carried out to improve organ health. Many of the most common forms of exercise focus only on a specific aspect of one’s body, but placing an emphasis on organ health promotes overall health.

History

The history of this discipline stretches back over 2,500 years, but earlier incarnations have been traced back past the Vedic period to nearly 5000 BCE. Yoga literally means “to yoke or to harness” and refers to the fact that the body, mind, and soul must be harnessed just as the yoke must harness the ox. Over the next few thousand years the discipline would formalize as Hinduism was established and yogis were seen throughout India.The pre-classical and classical period would to take place over the next few thousand years and have quite a few interesting changes that would take place in the discipline. Primarily, early writings that have been found on yoga steer clear of almost all physical movement and focus on meditation, breathing, and the training of one’s thought. This includes the Yoga Sutras which helped to outline the Eightfold path which would help to further define various forms of classical yoga.

Types of Yoga

Yoga has branched off into countless styles, each with their own emphasis on one or more of the original goals. Some forms of yoga have evolved to exclusively focus on meditation and quieting of the mind while others are geared towards improving athletic ability and the elasticity of one’s muscles. While there are dozens of forms of yoga, here is a closer look at a few of the most popular:

Ashtanga

This is one of the most ancient forms of yoga, but it recently became popular once again in the 1970s. It is physically demanding and designed to improve one’s health physically as the practitioner moves through a fluid set of poses. The key to Ashtanga yoga is that the order of movements and poses remains constant throughout.

Hatha

Hatha yoga is not necessarily a specific style of yoga, but a more comprehensive term that is used to describe any yoga that is physically demanding. Most classes, schools, and organizations in the west can be described as hatha yoga due to the fact that they do not neglect the physical aspect of the practice.

Vinyasa

Vinyasa is the Sanskrit word for “flow” and those that follow this practice are going to go through a quick series of fluid and physically taxing movements. Vinyasa yoga is often carried out with music and many enjoy this practice as a group instead of as an individual.

Kundalini

Going back to 1969, Yogi Bhajan developed 3HO to introduce this form of yoga to the world. Kundalini yoga was created to discover untapped energy at the base of the spine that will help to awaken all seven of the chakras. Within a typical Kundalini yoga class, students can expect an opening and closing with chants, careful meditation, a focus on breathing techniques, and specific movement patterns and poses.

Benefits of Yoga

Whether an individual is just beginning their path with yoga or has been enjoying it for years, frequently practicing yoga has a wide variety of benefits that will begin to affect every aspect of an individual’s life. Physically, yoga can be a demanding exercise as well as the perfect option for strengthening and elongating the muscles. According to studies carried out by the NCCAM and published by the U.S. Department of Health have shown pain relief and management for medical conditions including:
  • Osteoporosis
  • Arthritis
  • Chronic Back Pain
  • Foot Pain
  • High Blood Pressure

Along with the physical aspect of yoga, the meditation and breathing techniques are powerful tools for those that are ready to focus on the emotional and spiritual components of their being. Due to the fact that yoga is so all-encompassing, the meditation and breathing aspect of this practice will affect each person on a slightly different level. From stress-relief to the management or detachment of emotional issues, each practitioner will find themselves taking something different away from every single session.

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