The proliferation of yoga classes and yoga centres throughout the Western world is a tribute to yoga’s indisputable power to enliven physical wellbeing. Many athletic programmes from gymnastics to many sporting activities now incorporate yoga for its systematic approach to stretching muscles, tendons and joints. Fitness enthusiasts are often pleasantly surprised by how quickly the addition of yoga postures to a workout routine can improve tone and posture. The regular practise of yoga asana (postures) helps to strengthen muscles, increase flexibility, stimulate and enhance circulation and improves posture, balance and co-ordination. If the practice of yoga provided only these physical benefits, it would fully justify its place in our lives. Yoga is much more than a system of physical fitness. It is an ancient science of balanced living, a path for realising full human potential. In these tumultuous times of stress, anxiety and overwork, yoga provides an anchor to a quieter domain of life, enabling people living in a modern technological world to stay connected to their natural humanity. Yoga offers the promise of remaining centred in the midst of turbulence.
“Yoga is like music. The rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind and the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life.” BKS Iyengar
What is Yoga?
Yoga is an ancient practice that originated in India over 5,000 years ago. The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj, which means to yoke or bind and is often interpreted as ‘union’. In Yoga this union implies integrating all aspects of the individual – mind, body and spirit to bring about a happy and balanced life. It combines practices for the body (physical postures or asana), energy (pranayama or breath work) and the mind (meditation). Yoga is the scientific art of remembering our true nature, so that along the path of Yoga one gains health, happiness, tranquillity and knowledge. Originally the practise of postures (asana) were specifically done to prepare the body and mind to sit in stillness for meditation. In the West, what is commonly referred to as “Yoga” is actually described by the Sanskrit word “asana” which refers to the practice of physical postures. However, the practise of asana is only one of eight aspects to Yoga. These Eight Limbs of Yoga according to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras were written some 2, 200 years ago. The other seven limbs of Yoga are more concerned with mental and spiritual well being rather than physical activity. The practice of yoga brings about a state of balance and harmony of the mind, body and spirit. In addition the many therapeutic applications of a yoga practise can help to remove dis-ease from the mind and body. The essential purpose of yoga is the integration of all layers of life, environmental, physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual.
The Benefits of Yoga
Yoga affects your body, your mind, your emotions and your inner energy. People come to yoga for many different reasons. From reducing stress and anxiety, improving strength and flexibility, healing from injury, to gain a deeper understanding of life or finding balance in life. The beauty and power of Yoga is that anyone can benefit from it. No matter what first draws you to it, after you begin a regular practice you will notice the holistic effect that it has on your body and your mind in a short space of time.
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Increases strength, muscle tone and flexibility
- Improves range of motion, balance and posture
- Releases tension in the body and offers pain relief
- Improves concentration and brain function
- Lowers blood pressure
- Increases bone density
- Improves digestion, circulation and flushes toxins from the body
- Improves posture
- Improves breathing capacity
- Brings clarity to the mind
- Increases self-esteem
- Increases energy and vitality
- Changes your outlook through promoting a focus on the present rather than the past or future
- Increases self-acceptance and confidence
- Increases bodily awareness through creating a greater connection between body and mind
- Creates a sense of being present in your body and being open to physical and emotional feeling