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Yoga - What Is it?

Yoga – What Is it?

Yoga is not a religion, political movement, or faith. It is a way of bringing harmony within diversity. It respects all cultures, creeds, and nations. It nurtures the higher instincts of humanity – compassion, cooperation, and peace.

To be healthy in mind and body, and to be full of vitality, are typical attributes of human life. They are man’s birthright. There is little doubt. However, that man has drifted off his intended course.

The human mode of living today reflects an attitude that accepts disease and suffering, whether physical, mental, or psychological, as unavoidable and normal.

Negative conditioning, habits, and thoughts have thus shortened man’s life expectancy.

Thousands of years ago, sages created the system of yoga, a scientific method whereby one can develop physically, mentally, and psychologically into a complete human being.

The word “yoga” stems from the Sanskrit yukta meaning “union.” It implies harmony and balance between all aspects of creation, the impulses, and inclinations of the ever-wavering mind being brought under the discriminating yoke of the Higher Self.

Yoga can appear to be a complicated subject, especially seeing weird-looking physical manipulations that seem to turn people into human pretzels.

Even more bothersome, in certain places, yoga is looked at as being synonymous with cult life, or some strange archaic spiritual belief that forces someone to sell their home quit their job, and go live in the middle of the woods.

In actuality, Yoga is just a basic “subject.” If you get the opportunity to visit a country where it has been a traditional way of life for generations – India, Japan, China, and others – it’s instead “the norm.”

Yoga first appeared in the west in 1893 when one of India’s renowned gurus, Swami Vivekananda, was welcomed with open arms at The Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago. He is regarded as the one to have initiated the West’s interest in yoga.

According to the sacred scriptures of Hinduism (an ancient belief system from India that has a global presence) defines yoga as “unitive discipline.”

And more so, in a book, entitled, Living Yoga, experts Georg Feuerstein and Stephan Bodian define yoga, in part, as something that “leads to inner and outer union, harmony and joy.

Yoga is most commonly observed as joy or happiness (what Sankrit refers to as Ananda).

Yoga Is An Ancient Practice

Yoga Is An Ancient Practice

Yoga is an old practice that was first developed in India. It is presently still prevalent in the country and is considered to be a spiritual practice.

Many of India’s residents see it as a way of achieving enlightenment.

Yoga is devised into four primary categories. They are Raja Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga, and Bhakti Yoga. However, to clarify, these are only several of the many styles of this practice. Yoga is well known in the West because of its many popular postures.

While yoga is usually regarded as just another exercise in the West, it is an integral part of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. For those that follow or practice these religions, yoga is not only recognized as an exercise but is also a way of achieving enlightenment.

Yoga has existed for thousands of years, and reference to it has been made in numerous Indian books such as the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. Present-day yoga is made up of many principles, and many find their roots in Indian religions.

The motive behind the postures is to help the body to get healthy and fit. Practitioners will do breathing techniques and will chant as well.

Meditation is an intricate part of yoga, and many western yoga establishments display it in a way that can help those who don’t follow or practice the religions mentioned above.

Many people are enticed with yoga because its practice relaxes both the body and mind. Also, it is a way to stay physically fit, and an excellent way to better their health or improve the workings of their minds. 

The objective of some serious yoga practitioners is to attain what is known as samadhi. Samadhi is an intricate mental state where a person can reach a state of ecstasy.

The ultimate goal of those who practice yoga will depend on their religion and background. Practitioners of Hinduism believes that yoga is a way of getting close to God. Buddhists believe that yoga can help people to reach a deeper level of wisdom.

Yoga is a very ancient tradition that always had its purpose in achieving full control over the mind and body. Many who use it believe that they will be able to gain an understanding of the underlying fabric of reality.

One of the yogi’s goals is to achieve a state of enlightenment where his thoughts will stop, and as such, will produce a type of union. Yoga is an exceptional subject that is interpreted differently by different people.

Even if someone does not wish to reach a state of enlightenment, this practice can help them to enhance their insight.

Although yoga has secure connections to Indian religions, it is not a religion itself.

The exact age of yoga is not known. However, it is estimated by some that it has existed for nearly 5,000 years.

Hatha Yoga

Although there are many different styles of yoga practice, the most convenient method for the Western student is that form, which takes the physical body as its starting point.

This is Hatha Yoga. The syllables ha and tha signify the sun and the moon, the flux of positive and negative energies, respectively.

The balance of these energies results in perfect health — an imbalance in disease.

Hatha Yoga is thus a complete system of physical maintenance, although physical exercises alone do not constitute Hatha Yoga – that would be gymnastics.

Hatha Yoga consists of purposefully directed bodily exercises combined with the guidance of the life-force into every part of the body – each, joint, muscle, gland, and nerve fiber – making the body into a conscious and obedient instrument.

The combined action of postures with breath control will eliminate poisons and toxins and will revitalize the body, strengthening the whole nervous system.

You will begin to feel energetic yet relaxed. Free from tension, you will be able to cope more easily with the continually increasing demands of modem living.

Interestingly, the word Hatha” also translates as “union through discipline of force” – that tremendous force that you can harness to help overcome many negative manifestations both around you and within you.

Hatha Yoga is no self-seeking showmanship, no fanatic asceticism, torture, or fancy gymnastics. It is a scientific tool, pleasant and enjoyable, which can help you achieve a balance of bodily, mental, and emotional functions.

The Breath Of Life

Pranayama is the control, regulation, and integration of prana, the energy source by which life is sustained.

It is sometimes known as the “breath of life.”

It is your energy and that of your environment. As you inhale, you take in air and life energy. As you exhale, you expel the waste products of your body’s metabolism.

Today the average person’s physical activity has been reduced so much that breathing habits have severely deteriorated.

The body’s incredible breathing apparatus has been so ignored and abused that much of its defense mechanism has become atrophied.

Before considering any land of special breathing exercises, we have to correct any existing faulty techniques and learn to breathe.

The air we breathe is designed to enter the human body via the nose.

This organ is equipped with fine hairs to filter dirt and dust; it can moisten and warm the air, and of course, it has a sense of smell that warns us of unhealthy, poisonous, or toxic substances.

Mouth-breathing in children can have damaging effects that undermine the growth process for life. Tonsils and adenoids become enlarged through having to cope with the onslaught of excessive bacteria, and this often results in the removal of these organs, thereby crippling the child’s body defenses.

Breath intake is often shallow and rapid, giving the lungs no chance to expand fully. Dirt, dust, and germs thus settle quickly into the only partially ventilated lungs.

The lack of prana or life-force resulting from inefficient breathing
reduces one’s natural energy level.

To breathe effectively, inhale through the nose, keep an upright posture, avoid highly polluted surroundings such as smoky rooms, and whenever you can during the day, spend a few minutes breathing deeply, thoroughly, and slowly, without straining.

Implementation of these few simple instructions alone can bring you renewed energy and well-being.

Breathing is an integral part of each yoga posture. One cannot
separate asana from pranayama.

The energy taken in with the breath is distributed evenly through the body during the performance of each asana (yoga posture), and the body is thus fortified, and the immune system strengthened.

Benefits Of Yoga

Benefits Of Yoga

Yoga, with the use of meditation, works exceptionally well to achieve harmony and assists the mind to work together with the body. How many times do we find that we are unable to perform our activities properly and in a satisfying manner because of the confusion and conflicts in our minds weigh down firmly upon us?

Stress is the number one suspect subtly hurting all parts of our physical, endocrinal, and emotional systems. And with the use of yoga, these things can be fixed. Physically, yoga and yoga poses have proven to be extremely helpful for numerous disorders.

Listed below are some known health benefits that yoga can give you.

1. Yoga increases flexibility. It’s postures trigger joints of the body that are not reached with regular exercise routines.

2. Yoga increases the lubrication of joints, tendons, and ligaments. The postures hit different muscles and ligaments in the body.

It has also been discovered that the body which may have started doing yoga being an inflexible one may experience quite remarkable flexibility in the end on those parts of the body which have not been consciously worked on.

3. Yoga massages all the organs of the body. It is probably the only exercise that thoroughly works your internal organs, including those that hardly get externally stimulated during our entire lifetime.

4. Yoga acts as a disease fighter. This stimulation and massage of all the organs have a healthful and beneficial result that helps us to fight disease and warns of possible onsets of diseases or disorders.

One of the extraordinary benefits of yoga is its incredible sense of awareness that it gives the practitioner of an upcoming health disorder or infection.

5. Yoga detoxifies the body. It stretches the joints and muscles and massages the internal organs. Yoga ensures that optimal blood supply reaches all the parts of the body.

6. Yoga aids in flushing out toxins from every part of your body, and helps to nourish every nook and cranny of your body. This helps to delay the aging process, provide you with renewed energy, and make you have a remarkable zest for life.

7. Yoga tones your muscles. Soft muscles that are loose and weak are stimulated continually to help you get rid of excess fat and obesity.

These physical benefits are just the beginning.  Yoga connects the mind with the body, and this results in genuine and measurable benefits.

Yoga = Meditation because both work together to achieve the ultimate goal of the unity of mind, body, and spirit. This unified trio can lead you to experience eternal bliss that you can only achieve with yoga practice.

This, in turn, creates a euphoric calmness and a positive outlook, which also has tremendous benefits on the physical health of the body.

Yoga Is A Science

In many countries, such as India, it is considered a science. This is not a pun on words; it indeed is treated as a science, which means that it is interpreted in terms of scientific techniques.

Yogic science looks to confirm cause and effect and build concepts based upon objective examinations. To be a respected yogic master, one must educate himself in the sciences, such as physics and biology.

Comparing yoga to science is an essential factor to include because it allows us to rationally ask the question: “What exactly are the benefits of yoga?”

After all, if yoga is religious faith or belief, then the question would be considered biased because it’s one that yoga cannot reasonably answer. It would not be objectively understood.

Yoga is a science. It is as actual and realistic as exercise science or kinesiology, which studies how the body acts and reacts when the internal physical environment is stimulated.

And more so, everyone has a right to ask, “why should I spend time practicing yoga, and what can I expect from it?”

The experience of yoga cannot be defined with mere words alone– just as studying a book on preparing for a Spartan Race isn’t going to make you run a Spartan Race physically.

Yoga promotes a series of postures, during which you concentrate on your breathing — exhaling while doing specific movements and inhaling while doing others.

You can practice yoga as a means to promote physical flexibility, strength, and endurance or as a way to enhance your spirituality.

The Mind-Body Connection

Mind-Body Connection In Yoga

Yoga concentrates on the mind-body connection. This mind-body “as one” combination, is achieved by doing the following three principles:

  • meditation
  • proper breathing (pranayama)
  • postures (asanas)

Mind and body are guided and inspired by the synchronized practices of meditation, breathing, and asanas.

As we get older (to yogis, the aging process is an artificial state), our bodies become vulnerable to poisons and toxins (caused by environmental pollution and poor diets).

Yoga guides us through a purifying process, turning our bodies into a well-oiled and well-synchronized machine.

Physical Benefits

By harmonizing the three principles mentioned above, the real benefits of yoga are achieved. What are these benefits?

  • Improved depth perception
  • Increased breath-holding time
  • Improved depth perception
  • Cardiovascular efficiency
  • Equilibrium in the body’s central nervous system
  • Decrease in pulse
  • Respiratory and blood pressure rates
  • Improved balance
  • Gastrointestinal system stabilization
  • Improved dexterity skills

Psychological Benefits

Yoga also provides an abundance of psychological benefits. This may be one of the main reasons why people begin practicing it.

One of the significant psychological benefits of yoga is the improved ability to manage stress. Yoga lessens a person’s levels of anxiety, lethargy, and depression. Its goal is to achieve balance and happiness.

The benefits of Yoga are much more than meditation and stretching; it is a method to help release toxic emotions that tend to stand in the way of living a healthy life.

All the talk about yoga is more than just a current fad or a flash in the pan. The benefits of yoga for stress management have been taking the world by storm.

The practice of yoga can help reduce stress and tension, increase strength, balance, and flexibility, lower blood pressure, and reduce cortisol levels.

It also yields substantial emotional benefits due to the focus on breathing and the harmonization of mind, body, and spirit.

Regular practice of yoga induces better sleep, helps people not to concentrate on things they cannot control, and to live in the present. It makes a stressful situation easier to deal with, whether it’s from family or work.

Whatever misunderstandings you heard about yoga and stress management should be thrown out the window. While most people have the idea that you have to be flexible to practice yoga, in reality, anyone can benefit from yoga regardless of age.

Even people who aren’t flexible will get results. It’s suited to all levels because yoga is a practice geared to helping you become aware of your mind/body connection.

Yoga And Stress

You can begin practicing yoga at any time. Age is irrelevant. It’s important to remember that it’s not about comparing yourself to others; it’s about how you feel each posture and stretch of your body. What matters is how relaxed you allow yourself to feel.

Yoga is considered a deeply personal practice, and no two people can or should hold a pose in precisely the same way. A person has to train at his or her level of flexibility, one that is challenging but not overwhelming.

You must listen to your body, push the limits gently, but don’t let yourself be overcome by ego. Listen to your body and let it be your guide.

The goal of yoga is to synchronize your breathing and movement. It is vital to know when to inhale and when to exhale as you do the poses. Breathe only through your nose so this way you keep heat in the body and keep your mind focused.

Focusing on your breath is the essence of yoga. It will help you manage stress, as you release external thoughts and anxiety. Concentrate on how the breath flows through your nose and into your body. It helps you let go of the worrying thoughts.

Once you have completed your yoga session, lie straight on your back and place both arms at your sides. Keep your eyes shut and breathe deeply. This last “corpse pose” is designed to end your session with a deep relaxation state.

Keep in mind that yoga is a slow learning process. Don’t concern yourself with expectations. It is not a competition.

What Is The Essence Of Yoga?

Virtually all yogic philosophy state that a human being is but a tiny fragment of a gigantic universe, and when this human being learns to “communion” with this greatness, then he/she achieves union with a phenomenon that is bigger than him/her.

This achievement or tapping into something more significant, in essence, enables a person to find and walk the road to happiness. By gliding along with this force, one can find Truth.

Truth results in harmony, but to achieve harmony, our thought, words, and deeds must be rooted in reality. People take courses on yoga and join studios to learn yoga, but this does not define yoga. Yoga expert, Tim Miller, states, “True yoga begins when leaving the studio; it’s all about being awake and being mindful of your actions.

Summary

While most people have the idea that you have to be flexible and agile to practice yoga, the truth is, anyone can reap its benefits regardless of shape, age, or belief.

Even if you are not flexible, you will feel and see actual results. It’s perfectly suited to all levels of fitness because yoga is a practice geared towards helping you become aware of your mind/body connection.

As mentioned throughout this article, yoga has many health benefits that can have a strong and robust effect on your body, mind, and spirit.