by Hannah Aylward: What is yoga all about?
Yoga is becoming increasingly mainstream (and we’re trying to make it that way!). Most people see yoga as yoga postures, breathing exercises, and meditation. While popular and powerful, these disciplines are only a few of the tools employed to help harmonize and awaken a person.
The practice of yoga is incredibly beneficial to our overall health and wellbeing, especially in modern day. Science shows us that practicing yoga can help us increase flexibility, gain strength, reduce stress, increase energy, gain awareness, and breathe deeper. In a fast-paced, sedentary, stressful world, a practice like yoga is imperative.
Fortunately, yoga today can be done almost anywhere and at any time, making it even more beneficial for all of us.
Yoga definition: union
The history of yoga stems back about 5,00 years, originating in India. It’s comprised of mental and physical practices that include philosophy, meditation, breath work, lifestyle and behavior principles, and physical exercise. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of sects and schools of yoga.
The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit language and literally means “to yoke“. It is commonly translated as “union“. Yoga means union. In the original use of the word, yoga is an act of creating, finding, or becoming aware of the conscious connection between the mind and the body. Beyond that, yoga is building the connection between ourselves and the world around us — the universe or nature.
Yoga is described as a spiritual path, and is broken down into the following eight stages:
1.Yama/Restraint: Actions best avoided
2.Niyama/Observance: Positive actions to cultivate
3.Asana/Posture: Releasing tensions from the body
4.Pranayama/Breath Regulation: Harmonizing body, mind, and breath
5.Pratyahara/Introversion: Withdrawing attention from external distractions
6.Dharana/Concentration: Focusing the mind on a single point
7.Dhyana/Meditation: Accessing a state of flow
8.Samadhi/Oneness: Effortless, integrated being
Today, most people practicing yoga are engaged in the third limb: asana. This is comprised of physical postures designed to purify the body and provide the physical strength and stamina required for long periods of meditation.
The disciplines of yoga can help us “clear the clutter” and return to who we truly are. Yoga is not a goal. It is a return to our natural state.
“Yoga is freedom, a reference to the bliss of well-being experienced whenever one steps into one’s natural rhythm of being.” – Yoga Bhashya
The purpose of yoga in the modern world
While the history of yoga began in India, you can now practice yoga around the world. Yoga is just as popular across the globe, not just because of its efficacy in the management of some diseases, but also because of it strength in providing mental and emotional stress relief and providing a feeling of well-being.
The modern-day lifestyle has brought many challenges to health and has become a major cause of disease. Stress, improper dietary habits, sedentary living, and “always on” syndrome have led to a decline in health and performance.
Through its effects on the autonomic nervous system and endocrine system, yoga influences cellular and molecular health. Yoga helps stabilize the autonomic nervous system, while strengthening the parasympathetic (rest and digest) system. This helps minimize the wear and tear of modern life, and helps slow down the aging process.
Yoga helps buffer for the stress response. Studies indicate improvement in physical and cognitive performance, improvement in thermoregulatory efficiency, body flexibility and stress tolerance.
Yoga also strengthens immunity, helping prevent disease. Yoga was also found to be beneficial as an adjunct to the conventional medical management of hypertension, coronary artery disease and diabetes.
The benefits of yoga can be broken down into three levels:
1.Body: delivers good health and wellness
2.Mind: increases focus, relieves stress and enhances productivity
3.Spirit: elevates human values and brings peace to one’s life
To sum it all up, yoga helps make life easier. It’s an incredible tool that has been used for thousands of years to help bring health and vitality. It doesn’t have to involve a rigorous physical practice or take place in a sunlit studio. You can do it anytime, anywhere, and make it fit for your own personal needs.