Categorized | Yoga

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Defining Yoga

Yoga originated in ancient India. The word “yoga” is Sanskrit for “union,” and yoga is seen as a union of body, mind and spirit. What we commonly think of as yoga can more properly be termed “asana,” or the practice of physical poses to achieve some physical or inner goal.

Asana, however, is only one of the “eight limbs” of yoga. Here are all eight:

1. Yama – Five guidelines on treatment of others: a. Ahimsa: Nonviolence b. Satya: Truthfulness c. Asteya: Never steal d. Brahmacharya: No lust e. Aparigraha: No covetesness

2. Niyama – Five guidelines of treatment of yourself: a. Saucha: Cleanliness b. Santosa: Contentment c. Tapas: Sustained practice d. Svadhyaya: Self-study

3. Asana – Practicing yoga positions

4. Pranayama – Breathing exercises

5. Pratyahara – Sensory deprivation, or allowing no distractions to inner reflection.

6. Dharana – Concentration, allowing no inner or outside distractions.

7. Dhyana – Meditation

8. Samadhi – Bliss, or enlightenment. How you merge with the universe.

Yoga Poses

Yoga’s purpose is to create balance by strengthening the body and making it more flexible. This is done by practicing poses or positions. The way is which this performance flows depends upon the style in which the teacher has been brought up. Poses can be strenuous and quick to advance strength and power, or they can be done more slowly with emphasis on holding a position for a set amount of time. The former, known as vinyasa-style yoga creates heat through the movement and is often used for weight loss. The latter concentrates on that perfect alignments and is used to increase stamina.

When you begin to practice the yoga positions, you’ll find some difficult and some easier. But no matter what, yoga has the ability to evolve with you and change your goals just enough that it never get boring. As your flexibility increases, for example, you’ll find yourself moving to a whole new level on many of the positions. In this way, yoga is non-competitive, and even liberating in it’s devotion to the teaching that no one is better than anyone else. Everyone just does the best he or she can do.

Yoga and Spirituality

Some yoga classes will include a strong spiritual teaching in addition to the physical poses. This may mean chanting or meditation, or sometimes a spiritual reading. This will depend on the yoga tradition in which the class teacher has been trained. Typically gym yoga classes concentrate on the physical aspects of yoga. Even so, many students find themselves more open to spiritual exploration because of their yoga studies. Others simply enjoy the benefits of a good low-impact workout.

Yoga for Stress Management

Western companies, especially in the U.K., are finding yoga classes to be a great assist in stress relief for their workers. This leads to better health and enhanced creativity. Hence, many are starting yoga fitness programs.

Other Yoga Benefits

– better sleep – allergy symptoms diminish – lower blood pressure – helps in stopping smoking – slows the heart rate – gives a sense of well-being – reduces anxiety – relaxes muscle tension – slows aging

Whichever is your goal, you’re sure to find a yoga class that suits you in your area.

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