Basic Facts about The Life-Changing Powers of Yoga
Do you ever wonder what all this excitement about yoga is? Your best friend loves it, your hair-dresser can’t stop talking about it…even your middle-aged aunt is obsessed with it! Well, they have their reasons! Here are a few yoga basics that will introduce you to this magical practice which has the power to change your life in the best way.
The Meaning of the Word “Yoga”
The word “yoga” comes from the Vedic Sanskrit “yuj” meaning “to join”, to “to add” or “to yoke”, but these are all literal meanings. The figurative meaning is “to focus attention on” or “to put something into use.” In Sanskrit, there are many compound words which broaden the meaning of “yoga” to “union”, “method”, “connection”, etc.
Yoga practices come from Ancient India and have varieties of schools and goals in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Contrary to popular belief, this ancient art is not just a physical exercise, but a unification of the mind, body and soul. The aim of yoga is to reach a certain clarity of mind through various poses which will make you a healthier and a happier person.
As stated in Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health by B.K.S. Iyengard, 2,000 years ago ancient wise men came up with four ways to self-realization or “samadhi”:
- jnana marg, = path to knowledge, when you can distinguish the real from unreal;
- karma marg = the path of selfless service without thought of reward;
- bhakti marg = the path of love and devotion;
- and yoga marg = the path by which the mind and its actions are brought under control.
Check out the video below which can help you understand the practice of yoga.
What Can Yoga Do for You?
Practising yoga helps your entire body function and brings you emotional stability. Everyone can practice yoga at any age of their life. It is very a very effective and natural way in dealing with the complexity, the pressure and the problems of everyday life in modern age.
“Yoga helps to integrate the mental and the physical plane, bringing about a sense of inner and outer balance, or what I term alignment. True alignment means that the inner mind reaches every cell and fiber of the body” – Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar.
What are Asana and Pranayama?
Asana is actually a pose, while pranayama refers to breathing or “control of breath”.
Photo source: yogaiyengar.co.uk
The two of them combined have a physical, psychological and physiological effect on your body. Asanas increase blood circulation, give physical strength and are natural energy-boosters. Different asanas can have different effects on your body. For example, some asanas are for lower back pain, while others are for alleviating headaches.
What are Chakras?
All yoga students are familiar with the concepts of “subtle body” or “suksma sharira” which in yogic philosophy refers to the body of energy underneath your physical body. Chakras are the seven key points or energy vortexes in the subtle body. So, when energy gets blocked in one of these chakras, the balance is lost.
Furthermore, yoga practitioners believe that all mental, physical and emotional imbalance comes from blocked chakras. Blocked chakras manifest in anxiety, headaches, back pain, etc. Proper asanas combined with pranayama can unblock the chakras and restore energy flow. The trick is to know where your chakras are, how they’re connected to elements in nature and learn how that element feels in your body.
Also, a good yogi can teach you how to successfully unblock chakras, direct your energy flow the way you want to and have complete control over your body–which sounds pretty amazing!
Photo source: finerminds.com
What is “Namaste”?
Photo source: liveyoganow.com
“Namaste” is a greeting which is appropriate at the beginning and end of each yoga class. It literally means “bow me you” or “I bow to you” (Nama = bow, as = I, and te = you). It symbolizes respect between the teacher (yogi) and the student.
I’m a Beginner – What do I Need to Start?
Primarily, the most important thing you need is your willingness to start doing yoga. Once you have that, you’ll also need some kind of yoga leggings, a t-shirt, a towel and probably a yoga mat. If you do it at home by yourself, you definitely need a yoga mat. If you go to a yoga studio, than they might provide it for you. No special footwear is necessary – all the poses are done barefoot.
Types of Yoga – Find Out Which One Works For You
A basics guide would not be complete without talking about the types of yoga. Let’s dive into the varieties of this practise that exist out there so that you can find which one fits your needs best.
- Ashtanga Yoga – founded by K. Pattabhi Jois, this type is not for beginners. It tones and strengthens the body with synchronised breathing and movements; the body cleanses through the internal heat it creates;
- Iyengar Yoga – known as the practice of precision, it contains poses which need to be held for a longer time and there are usually props involved; B.K.S Iyengar is the founder of this practice and it can make you stronger, more flexible and more stable;
- Hatha Yoga – this is the “yoga of calmness” because it helps you calm your body, mind and spirit and get ready for meditation; Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Iyengar and Power Yoga are actually all Hatha Yoga;
- Hot Yoga – the name itself tell you that this type involves a lot of sweating. Hot yoga is practised in a hot room (from 85 degrees to 105 degrees Fahrenheit); you’ll get stronger, more flexible and release toxins through sweating.
- Jivamukti Yoga – based on the Sanskrit meaning of “asana” which “seat, connection”, this is a combination of the physical and intellectual and is practised with meditation, chanting, pranayama and philosophy; the aim is to bring ancient teaching into the modern setting and discover eternal happiness; the founders are David Life and Sharon Gannon.
- Yin Yoga – consist of seated and supine poses, typically held for 3-5 minutes and the idea is to stretch the knees, pelvis, sacrum, and spine; it was founded by Paulie Zink.
- Kundalini Yoga – this includes meditation, movements and dynamic breathing and chanting; it can make you physically fit and it will increase your consciousness.
- Power Yoga – this type can make you stronger, more flexible and reduce your stress since it is primarily fitness-based but it is also used when referring to a variety of vinyasa styles. The founder is Beryl Bender Birch,
- Prenatal Yoga – the name itself tell you that it has to do with pregnancy; it is useful for physical and emotional preparation of future mums
- Restorative Yoga – mainly based on K.S. Iyengar yoga, and it includes 5-6 poses which are held for a longer period of time; it’s aim is relaxation and rest;
- SUP Yoga – a.k.a. Paddle Board Yoga is a combination of yoga and surfing; this type is very demanding, but it makes you stronger, more flexible, and improves your balance.
- Acro Yoga – again, the name itself might give you a hint: yoga + acrobatics, and it also includes therapeutic massages; most definitely not for beginners because it requires a lot of balance, strength and flexibility; it is both physical and mental practice, it can reduce stress and improve balance.
- Tantra Yoga – surprisingly enough, not so much about sex, but about reaching a state of content, bliss and clarity in life; it is about embodying the five forces of the female deity Shakti.
Photo source: healthsouls.com
Benefits of Doing Yoga – Why Should You Consider It?
Primarily, not just because it’s popular, or a way to meet people and get out of home, or simply because you’re curious and you want to try something new. Curiosity might take you to a yoga class, but you need persistence and dedication to actually benefit from it. Also, once you feel the benefits on your own skin, you’ll probably wonder why on earth you have waited so long.
Here are some of the many benefits:
- Being Fit and Flexible – yoga can teach you things about your body you never knew before. You’ll start doing stretches and poses you didn’t even know you were capable of! Any kind of regular exercise can make you look sexy, but yoga can make you more flexible and stronger.
- Staying Healthy – impeccable health is something that needs preserving, if you’re lucky enough or young enough to have it. However, not having any health problems does not mean you shouldn’t do yoga. So if you’re already healthy, yoga can help you stay that way.
- Reducing and Controlling Stress – stressful jobs, complicated relationships, money-problems, loneliness and isolation – it all piles up until one day, you feel like you’re going to explode! There’s no way you can avoid stressful situations, but you can become stronger in dealing with them in a healthy way. Yoga empower your nervous system. Consequently, you’ll manage the stress and not let it take over. Yoga can make you feel in control.
- Dealing with Anxiety and Depression – a lot of people suffering from mild anxiety or anxiety and depression as medical conditions find relief in regular yoga practices. According to Yogic sciences, the nervous system controls the unconscious mind and asanas improve the blood flow and make the nervous system stronger. Studies show that yoga and meditation are more effective in dealing with anxiety and depression than prescription drugs. Seems like even doctors are becoming more and more open to the idea of recommending yoga as a treatment for these conditions.
- Hormonal Balance – hormonal imbalance happens because of irregular function in the endocrine system. As a result, this can cause a lot of problems in our bodies, including insomnia, fatigue, hair-loss, skin problems, mood-swings, depression, etc. Regular practice can help balancing the hormones by putting pressure on or relieving from pressure glands in the body, depending on the pose. In this way, the endocrine system returns to its normal function.
- Controlling Blood Pressure – it is genuine knowledge that any physical exercise is good for controlling blood pressure. Yoga, in particular, involves balanced movements of the body combined with focused breathing which improves blood flow throughout the body and regulates blood pressure.
- …and many others.
Is Yoga Better Than Fitness Exercises?
Well, you can’t go wrong either way. Both yoga and fitness are types of exercise, and your body needs them in one form or the other.
Fitness exercises are purely physical and just the right thing for some people. If you’re happy with fitness exercises, if they make you feel good within your skin and keep you healthy and stress-free, than you’re on right path.
Rather than on purely physical, yoga works on three different levels: physical, mental and spiritual. If fitness leaves you sore, exhausted and discontent, if you feel constantly stressed out despite exercising regularly, then you should definitely try yoga instead.
Jogging, for example, is not for everyone. It’s very demanding for the muscles and bones, and it increases the heart rate. Consequently, you might end up feeling exhausted and the stress is still there.
Most of all, doing yoga makes you feel energized and calm at the same time, but never exhausted. After a yoga class, you’ll feel physically and mentally refreshed.
To sum up….
Now that you’ve learned the yoga basics, you have a decision to make. The good thing is, you’ve got nothing to lose. There are probably more than five different yoga classes you can join in this very minute near your house, so our advice is, go for it! Or, you can just find videos online and do it at home. Chances are you’ll love it! Whether or not you have health problems, your body will be grateful to you.
“Yoga allows us to reach the goal of life that is to live worthily.” B.K.S. Iyengar
Are you a yoga student? Do you know something we don’t?
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