What is Yoga?
Yoga is one of the most popular fitness practices around the world, and there is a reason why this ancient form is such a rage even today. To help you understand it better and choose the right style for you, read on.
To put it simply, Yoga is the act of harmonizing your body, mind and soul. Yoga is a spiritual practice that has nothing to do with religion. Yoga has been mistaken as a product of Hinduism, just because it took birth in the same region as the religion. Yoga is about complete transformation – physically, psychologically and spiritually. This means, that Yoga has the power to transform your mind, body and soul.
Is Yoga a Hindu practice? Is it another kind of exercise? Can it help me lose weight? Can it make my sex life better? Be it questions, confusion or controversies – there is a lot of talk about Yoga right now. And a lot of myths too. To put it simply, Yoga is the act of harmonizing your body, mind and soul.
The origin of Yoga.
It began in the Indus-Saraswati civilization more than 5,000 years ago. The Rig Veda is the first text that mentions the word Yoga. It was later streamlined and developed by Brahmin priests and sages and documented in the Upanishads which contain over 200 scriptures. The Upanishads derived the idea of ritual sacrifice and modified it, teaching the sacrifice of the ego through self-knowledge, action (Karma Yoga) and wisdom (Jnana Yoga). The Bhagavad Gita, composed around 500 BC, is replete with details about Yoga. There are various schools of Yoga that are followed. The Yoga Sutras Of Patanjali — written by Patanjali — which became hugely popular in the West, were written in the first half of the first millennium.
Hatha Yoga came around the 11th century, and became popular in the West middle 20th Century. Hatha Yoga focuses on a sequence postures (asanas) and breathing exercises to yoke, or to unite, body with mind. Vinyasa Yoga is a modern day, faster paced and more intense form of Hatha Yoga synchronizing breath with movements. Jivamukti Yoga is a popular form of Vinyasa of Yoga. Ashtanga Yoga is a style of Yoga created by Pattabhi Jois in the 20th century. Similar to Vinyasa, it is based on a series and sequence of asanas practiced in a precise order and is very physically demanding. Iyengar Yoga, is a form of Hatha Yoga focusing on structural alignment of the body developed by BKS Iyengar in the 1960’s. Different that than other forms of Hatha Yoga, Kundalini Yoga is a series of very challenging breathing exercises coupled with asanas and meditation with it’s objective being moving energy up the spine through the 7 chakras. All Yoga disciplines have the same roots. There are just several different approaches. Find a style that fits you.
What are the health benefits of Yoga?
Yoga comes with a host of physical and mental benefits. The postures, known as asanas, stretch and flex various muscle groups. Here are a few reasons why you should take up yoga:
- Makes you flexible
When your hip muscles tighten, it can strain the knee joint because the thigh and shin bones are improperly aligned. Also, tight hamstrings gradually flatten the lumbar spine, leading to back pain. If the muscles and connective tissues are not flexible, it results in poor posture. Yoga solves all of these problems. It gradually loosens stiffness in muscles and joints, improving flexibility. At the same time, it reduces body aches and joint pains.
- Builds muscle strength
When your muscles are stronger, they protect you from arthritis and back pain, among others. Yoga helps build muscle strength, but unlike lifting weights at gyms, it doesn’t do that at the expense of flexibility. So strength building in Yoga goes hand in hand with flexibility.
- Improves posture
Improper posture can lead to back, neck and other muscle and joint problems. When you slump, your body compensates it by flattening the normal inward curves in your neck and lower back. This causes pain and degenerative arthritis of the spine. The asanas in Yoga help you maintain these optimal curves, thereby improving posture.
● Prevents Cartilage And Joint Breakdown
When you do yoga, the joints go through their full range of motion. This helps prevent degenerative arthritis and mitigate disability by utilizing parts of the cartilage that are normally not used. Joint cartilage receives fresh nutrients only when its fluid is squeezed out and a new supply can be soaked up. Without proper sustenance, neglected areas of the cartilage can eventually wear out, exposing the underlying bone.
- Improves bone health
A lot of postures in Yoga require you to use your body weight. They help strengthen the bones, especially the bones in your arms which are vulnerable to osteoporotic fractures. According to a study by California State University, Los Angeles, practicing Yoga increases bone density in the vertebrae.
- Increases blood flow
The exercises in Yoga help you relax and gradually increase blood circulation, especially in your hands and feet. Yoga also pumps more oxygen to your cells, which function better consequently. The twisting poses wring out venous blood from the internal organs and allow oxygenated blood to flow in once the twist is released. Inverted poses like headstand, handstand and shoulder stand encourage venous blood from the legs and pelvis to flow back to the heart. Yoga also boosts levels of hemoglobin and red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the tissues.
- Boost immunity
Yoga asanas contract and stretch your muscles and move organs around, thereby increasing the drainage of the lymph. This, in turn, helps the lymphatic system fight infection, destroy cancerous cells, and dispose of the toxic waste products of cellular functioning.
- Increases heart rate
According to studies, Yoga lowers the resting heart rate, increases endurance and improves your maximum intake of oxygen during exercise. Pranayama helps you exercise more with consumption of less oxygen. When you increase the intensity of the asanas, it turns into an aerobic exercise which lowers your risk of a heart attack.
- Helps you relax
Yoga makes you breathe slowly, and focus on the present. It shifts the balance from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system which is calming and restorative. It lowers breathing and heart rates, reduces blood pressure and increases blood flow to the intestines and reproductive organs.
Is Yoga a weight loss tool?
You can run but you cannot hide from our current weight loss fixation. With everything being tailor-made to ensure all of us fit that size standard, Yoga is being increasingly marketed as a weight loss option. Let’s get this straight, yoga cannot replace a cardio workout or an aerobic exercise. But we aren’t dismissing the fact that you could lose weight through Yoga. However, what needs to be understood is that the approach to Yoga becomes very shallow when it is seen as a weight loss tool. Yoga is about complete transformation – physically, psychologically and spiritually. This means that yoga has the power to transform your mind, body and soul. This boils down to healthier choices and happier people. However, if you do get high on getting your heart racing there are variations, like the Ashtanga Yoga that could help you achieve it.
What should be worn during Yoga?
Comfortable clothing which allows easy movement of your limbs is recommended for Yoga workouts. You will find yoga wear in different fabrics and styles thanks to the popularity of this form.
Is it safe to do Yoga?
Yes, Yoga is a safe form for almost anyone of any age. However, it is best to get your doctor’s approval and consult a trained professional about which style of Yoga best suits your body and health and then go ahead.
Where can I try Yoga?
MASSAGE-OLOGY always the right place! Book your session and enjoy the benefits!