Benefits Of Yoga | Are you ready to begin your yoga journey? This article is the perfect guide for any beginner, who is interested to learn about the main benefits of yoga. We will begin by briefly going over the history of yoga and what the term means, and then continue to explain how it may improve your everyday life.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF YOGA
It is estimated yoga is more than 5000 years old.
The word yoga was first mentioned in Rig Veda, a collection of hymns created between 1500–1000 BCE.
It is believed lord Shiva was the first yogi guru. Every yogi goes through seven stages of development before achieving enlightenment. Shiva transferred the knowledge of yoga to seven stages, who then went off to teach others.
The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit root ‘yuj’, which translates to “union“.
The period between 500 BC and 800 AD is considered to be the classical and the most fruitful era of yoga. Some of the most important yoga teachings and texts appeared during this time. That includes:
The period between 800 A.D. and 1700 A.D is often called the post-classical period of yoga. During this time, more and more prominent teachers began spreading yoga knowledge. The practice of Hatha yoga, or physical postures, became more and more popular.
Teachers gradually began bringing yoga to other parts of the world. In the mid-nineteenth century, it was brought to the west, by teachers like Swami Vivekananda.
Later, more and more teachers decided to demystify the system and bring it to all parts of the world. With that, yoga was no longer hidden knowledge, reserved only for the chosen gurus and mystics. It finally became accessible to everyone.
What is Yoga?
What is the concept of yoga? Yoga is a science and a spiritual discipline which aims to aid in self development on all levels mentally, physically and spiritually.
The word yoga means “to unite”, which refers to two main goals of the discipline. These are to reach a union between the body, mind, and spirit and also the union between an individual and universal consciousness.
Once one achieves this union, they are able to overcome the ego and reach a state of enlightenment.
Many modern yoga practitioners understand these goals. In modern times, we are tend to focus on the physical practice, asanas, breathing exercises or pranayamas.
The 8 Limbs of Yoga
Asanas | Postures – Positioning the body while connecting the mind and spirit.
Pranayamas | Mindful Breathing – Controlling your breath.
Yamas | Moral Rules – External Ethics
Niyamas | Guide for self-discipline – Internal Ethics
Pratyahara | Turing Inward – The withdrawal of the senses
Dharana | Concentration – Focus and Attention
Dhyana | Meditation – Observation and Reflection
Samadhi | Spiritual Awakening – A state of enlightenment and union with God.
The Benefits Of Yoga
One of the most important benefits of yoga for modern society is stress relief.
We live in a much more complex world than the old sages, and it is completely natural to feel overwhelmed.
After all, this fast-paced and chaotic environment isn’t natural for us.
That’s where yoga comes in, by teaching us we may not be able to change the world, but we still can change ourselves, in the highest sense of this phrase.
Yoga reduces stress in multiple ways.
The main way it does that is by reducing the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, responsible for the flight or fight response. Simultaneously, the practice activates the parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for healing, recovery and repair functions in the body.
Asanas may help relieve stress by releasing tension in the body, particularly the hip area, where we often store negative emotions.
Breathing exercises on their own may help us reach a state of relaxation.
Meditation is not only helpful in relieving current stress, but may also help us to better manage stressful experiences overall.
Yoga may improve your sleep at night.
Flexibility is one of the best known benefits of yoga.
From your first class, you will begin to release tension in your body and increase your range of motion.
Yoga increases flexibility gradually and with gentle stretches. This approach minimizes the chance of overstretching and injury.
Flexibility doesn’t only help you to be able to perform more advanced asanas, but also aids in other activities and everyday tasks.
Improved flexibility also reduces the chance of injury and reduces pain which is a result of stiffness and under use, as is common for low back pain. Finally, flexibility will also help you build a better posture, which has a range of benefits in its own both for your body and your mood.
Yoga doesn’t build muscle size in the same way as weight lifting does, but will still make you stronger.
The question isn’t whether it is better to do yoga or weightlifting for building strength, as the two work your body in a much different way.
Yoga is much more similar to calisthenics and other body weight exercises. By incorporating whole body movements, it minimizes the chance of muscle imbalances.
The strength-building benefit of yoga is achieved in two ways – repetition and isometric holds. Both of these approaches will have a big impact on your physical performance and endurance.
Yoga system as a whole aids in building and maintaining inner peace. That includes both the exercises and the general philosophy and lifestyle.
Physical yoga practice doesn’t do that only by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. It also encourages you to focus on connecting your breath to movement. This practice gives you something in the present moment to focus on and decreases overthinking. Building better posture brings a calmer emotional state, and so does proper breathing.
Meditation relaxes the mind, and allows you to take back the control of your mental state.
If you are consistent with your practice, you will learn how to find your inner peace. The longer you maintain it, you will notice fewer and fewer fluctuations in your mood.
Yoga may help ease and manage many types of pain. The combination of asanas and meditation may help relieve pain in those who experience arthritis, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, back pain, and migraine. It will aid with many other chronic conditions caused by chronic inflammation.
Yoga may also decrease pain perception, meaning you are feeling your pain is less severe than before. It also decreases pain interference, which refers to how much pain disrupts your everyday life.
Different Yoga Styles
It’s important to note the above benefits are true for all yoga styles you may encounter, as they all share the same philosophy. Still, some yoga types are more focused on flexibility, others on strength or stamina. For this reason, you may want to know a thing or two about them to make a better choice, if your choice depends on some of these goals.
Kundalini yoga is ideal for those who want to balance spiritual and physical practice. It focuses on activating the Kundalini energy in the body, and includes fast-paced sequences, mantra chanting, meditation and breathwork.
In the past, Hatha yoga referred to any physical yoga exercise. Today, we often use this term for a slow-paced and traditional practice. Hatha yoga classes are generally more gentle than other dynamic styles. They always include pranayama and meditation.
Ashtanga yoga is one of the most physically challenging yoga styles. It consists of 6 set sequences. The poses in each sequence are always done in the same order. The student is only “allowed” to move to the next sequence if they have mastered the one prior. The practice includes both fast-paced movements and long holds.
Bikram yoga is done in sauna-like conditions – a room heated to 105 degrees, with 40% humidity. The practice includes a series of 26 poses, and each one is repeated two times. It is also sometimes called hot yoga, and the sequence is sometimes changed to offer more variety.
Vinyasa yoga is a dynamic yoga style based on fast-paced sequences done in a flow-like manner. This style allows the teacher to choose their own poses and be creative with their classes. This permits a greater variety, and is perfect for those who are looking for a more dynamic and less rigorous type of class. Vinyasa places a big emphasis on linking breath and movement.
What kind of yoga is for beginners? Many studios and online teachers now also offer yoga for beginners. They are not referring to a specific style, as all yoga types can be adapted to be suitable for beginners. The term refers to any class that is accessible for those who are only beginning to learn yoga. It is the ideal way to start doing yoga without feeling overwhelmed or intimidated by all the positions and terms.
Can you believe you can do yoga while sitting in a chair? Chair yoga classes are widely available in senior centers and retirement communities. Older adults are its biggest target audience and is becoming more in demand. Some people that are obese are great candidates for chair yoga as well. Office workers are also turning to chair yoga for back relief.
Restorative yoga is a very soft and gentle practice. Poses can be held for 10 minutes or more. This style is perfect for people with chronic pain or people with high stress levels. You will use many props like blankets, pillows, bolsters and straps. You will feel calm and relaxed after these classes.
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