Article by Chad Lynch
When you think of yoga, what do you think about? For most people it is some waifish person bending into a pretzel position that leaves them with only one thought, “How?” While such yoga poses are part of an experienced practice, it is not the whole of yoga. So what is Yoga?
Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj” which means to unite. Yoga has its origins in ancient India. The ancient yogis sought to achieve perfect health and happiness. To do this they knew that one needs to be in balance in body, mind, and spirit. In order to accomplish this goal one has to “unite” these aspects, which in turn will bring about balance in oneself.
The ancient yogis were essentially scientists. They were exploring ways to remain healthy and happy for the extent of one’s entire life. It was beyond “growing old gracefully” as we say today, which apparently means accepting increasing aches and pains. Yogis wanted to take an active role in remaining vibrant, lively and healthy. Their studies developed the yoga practices that we know today.
By working with the body we can align the spine, gain more flexibility, and strengthen and tone our muscles. Internal organs are massaged and toned to be in optimal working order. The nervous and endocrine systems are stimulated and nourished. Circulation is improved. All of this brings about improved health physically, balances our emotions, and enhances mental clarity.
Yoga poses, or asanas, are the most outwardly obvious part of a yoga practice. Though there are plenty of yoga positions that will keep the most experienced yogi still challenged, not all poses require such skill. While some people are just naturally more flexible than others, everyone has to start somewhere and build up their agility. Those advanced poses should not frighten anyone away from looking into starting a yoga practice. There are many beginner poses that are easy for the most rigid and out of shape bodies. Beginner classes will introduce one to these starting positions. That is not to s ay that some poses may not be a challenge for you. We must challenge ourselves if we wish to improve.
Breathing is another aspect of yoga. Breath is considered the source of life. It is where your involuntary and voluntary functions meet, as you can control your breathing but it also does fine without you thinking about it. Learning to control your breathing can slowly help you to gain control and awareness of the rest of your body, mind and emotions. It can also help improve your breathing.
Meditation is the next aspect of yoga. Some see meditation as a blanking of the mind. That is not necessarily true. It is more accurately a quieting of the mind. One cannot find inner peace if the mind is running all over the place. Meditation settles the mind and improves your awareness and focus.
In the West, some classes and styles may not explore all these aspects. They may focus only on the physical exercise. This is not bad if that is the only part that interests those students. There is still plenty of benefit to gain from focusing on poses. Though usually the other areas are improved as well even without consciously focusing on them.
About the Author
Chad Lynch has been practicing yoga for several years and wishes to share the benefits it brings. You can learn more by visiting my blog, Spirit Yoga
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