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What is Yoga and its Benefits
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What is Yoga ?

Yoga is mind and body practice which originated in ancient India.  It is one of the sixth orthodox school of Hindu philosophies. Various styles of yoga combine breathing techniques, meditation, and physical postures. It has gone through a renaissance in current culture. Yoga is practiced worldwide it is not limited to India only. People in the West are more interested in yoga. They do it for peace of their mind, strength of their body. It is the perfect way to get connected with one's soul and it helps in controlling the mind. Yoga has become popular as a form of physical exercise based upon asanas (physical poses) to promote improved control of mind and body and to enhance well-being. Yoga began to gain popularity in the West at the end of the 19th century, with an explosion of interest in postural yoga in the 1920s and 1930s, first in India and later in the West.

The word "yoga" is derived from the Sanskrit root YUJ meaning "to yoke or join together". Some people take this to mean a union of mind and body. A male who practices this discipline is called a yogi or yogin and a female practitioner is called a yogini.

Hatha yoga is the type of yoga most frequently practiced in Western culture. Ha means "sun" and tha means "moon." There are many styles of yoga. A person's fitness level and desired practice outcome determines the type of yoga class to which you are best suited.

Yoga is defined as having Eight Branches or Limbs:

1) Yama

 2) Niyama

3) Asana

4) Pranayama

5) Pratyhara

6) Dharana

7) Dhyana

8) Samadhi

Practicing Yoga has many potential health benefits including relieving low back pain, assisting with stress management and increasing balance and flexibility. There is some evidence to suggest that pregnant women taking yoga classes are less likely to experience problems in later pregnancy and labor.

Sanskrit, the Indo-European language of the Vedas, India's ancient religious texts, gave birth to both the literature and the technique of yoga.

The Yoga Sutra is the earliest written record of yoga and one of the oldest texts in existence.

The "Yoga Sutra," a 2,000-year-old treatise on yogic philosophy by the Indian sage Patanjali is a type of guidebook that gives guidance on how to gain mastery over the mind and emotions and advice on spiritual growth, providing the framework upon which all yoga practiced today are based.

Fitness was not an only the chief aim for practicing yoga, the main focus was placed on other practices like

1) Pranayama ( Expansion of the vital energy by means of breath )

2) Dharana ( Focus, or placement of the mental faculty )

3) Nada ( Sound )

Yoga, in ancient times, was often referred to in terms of a tree with roots, trunk, branches, blossoms, and fruits. Each branch of yoga has unique characteristics and represents a specific approach to life.

 1) Hatha yoga - Physical and Mental Branch - Involves asana and pranayama practice - preparing the body and mind

2) Raja yoga - meditation and strict adherence to the "eight limbs of yoga"

3) Karma yoga - A path of service to consciously create a future free from negativity and selfishness caused by our actions

4) Bhakti yoga - A path of devotion - a positive way to channel emotions and cultivate acceptance and tolerance

5) Jnana yoga - wisdom, the path of the scholar and intellect through study

6) Tantra yoga - A pathway of ritual, ceremony or consummation of a relationship.

Apart from the postures, there are many Chakras involved in Yoga. The word chakra means "Spinning Wheel." They are a convergence of energy, thoughts, feelings, and the physical body. They determine how we experience reality from our emotional reactions, our desires or aversions.  When energy is blocked in a chakra it affects our physical, mental and emotional well being which leads to anxiety, lethargy.  The asana helps to free the energy and stimulate an imbalanced chakra.

There are seven major chakras:

1) Sahasrara

2) Ajna 

3) Vishuddha 

4) Anahata

5) Manipura

6) Svadhishthana

7) Muladhara

Benefits of Yoga :

Studies suggest that yoga is a safe and effective way to increase physical activity and enhance strength, flexibility, and balance. Many Scientists and medical doctors pursuing yoga-related research focus on its potential benefits as a technique for relieving stress and coping with chronic conditions or disabilities, as well as investigating its potential to help prevent, heal, or alleviate specific conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, carpal tunnel syndrome, asthma, diabetes, and symptoms of menopause.

Yoga has been used to cure many health and mind related issues like

1) Anxiety and depression

2) Arthritis

3) Balance and fall

4) Asthma

5) Bipolar disorder

6) Cancer-related fatigue

7) Cardiovascular disease

8) Chronic neck pain

9) Flexibility

10) Menopause 

11) Mental Health

 

IMPORTANT POSTURES OF YOGA

There are many important postures for beginners.

1) Mountain pose - is the base for all standing poses; it gives you a sense of how to ground into your feet and feel the earth below you.

2) Downward Dog - is used in most yoga practices and it stretches and strengthens the entire body.

3) Plank teaches - us how to balance on our hands while using the entire body to support us.

4) Triangle - is a  wonderful standing posture to stretch the sides of the waist, open up the lungs, strengthen the legs and tone the entire body.

5) Tree - is an awesome standing balance for beginners to work on to gain focus and clarity, and learn to breathe while standing and keeping the body balanced on one foot.

6) Warrior 1- Warrior poses are essential for building strength and stamina in a yoga practice. They give us confidence and stretch the hips and thighs while building strength in the entire lower body and core.

7) Warrior 2 - is an external hip opener and opens up the inner thighs and groin. It's a good starting point for many side postures including triangle, extended angle and half moon balance.

8) Seated Forward Bend - is the perfect fold for everyone to start to open up the body and learn to breathe through uncomfortable positions.

9) Bridge Pose - A counter pose to a forward bend is a backbend. The Bridge is a good beginner’s backbend that stretches the front body and strengthens the back body.

10) Child’s pose - Everyone needs a good resting pose and Child’s pose is an awesome one not just for beginners but for yoga practitioners of all levels.

 

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