Guide to Beginning Yoga
Article by Edward D Parry
Yoga originated in India and is a Sanskrit term which means “union”. It is believed that yoga has been coined so because it unites the mind, body, and spirit. Although they do not mean the same thing, yoga and asana are usually interchanged by practitioners. Asana is a more accurate term which translates to practice of physical poses. Yoga, in essence, is a collection of physical poses which intertwine the use of not only the body but the mind and the soul as well.
Yoga is not a single styled form of exercise. It is a lot like gymnastics which houses many different branches such as the floor, parallel bars, vault, and beam. But unlike gymnastics which separate male and female exercises, yoga does not discriminate on either. It has five styles meant for both men and women which vary in intensity, number of poses, breathing patterns, as well as incorporation of chants and meditation.
Hatha – Hatha literally means “sun” (Ha) and “moon” (Tha). Its aim is to bring balance to two opposite sides of the body; the left and the right side. Hatha is one of the more familiar styles of yoga and has four variations: Iyengar, Ashtanga, Viniyoga, and Anusara.
– Iyengar – This variation was created by BKS Iyengar and focuses on physical alignment of the postures. It uses blocks, straps, and cushions among other things.
– Ashtanga – Ashtanga literally means “eight limbed”. It includes meditation through movement and is more suitable for those who like a more physically challenging workout. Postures are linked to one another like water flowing in the ocean.
– Viniyoga – Like the Ashtanga, Viniyoga also incorporates flowing movement but focuses on the needs of each student as well. This variation is best suited for those who are recovering from an injury or sickness.
– Anusara Yoga – Anusara means flowing with your heart. This variation was developed by John Friend and integrates the heart with energetic yoga postures.
Jivamukti Yoga – A physically demanding form of yoga which incorporates flowing movement, chanting, breathing, meditation, and spirituality.
Bikram Yoga – This style of yoga uses a room with a temperature of over one hundred degrees where students continuously do twenty six postures in a sequence.
Sivananda Yoga – This style was developed during the 1950’s and has twelve postures which are done together with chanting.
Bihar Yoga – It is a less physically demanding version of Sivanda which can be offered even to children.
Yoga has seen an increase in support throughout the thousands of years it has existed. From India, it has now dominated the rest of Asia, Europe, Canada, and America. Yoga’s popularity is greatly attributed to the many benefits it offers its loyal followers. Some of which being:
– Yoga increases your flexibility. It targets many joints which are usually forgotten or not used by the body.
– It massages all of our internal organs. This helps decrease the chances of disease as well as an earlier alarm signal for possible sickness.
– Yoga helps us with our breathing. It teaches us to breathe more deeply and help calm the central nervous system which is beneficial to both the mind and body.
– Relaxes us and helps take stress away.
– It tones our muscles, especially those which are often left unused.
– The improvement of blood circulation not only benefits our hearts and brains, but it also detoxifies many of our other internal organs.
– It greatly improves our stamina and even restores our energy.
– Yoga strengthens our muscles with poses that require us to support our weight and balance ourselves.
– It helps induce emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual balance.
Hundreds of yoga organizations stand in existence today and, with the numerous benefits the exercise offers, it is no wonder that millions have patronized it and have made it the success it is today. One caution though, do not get into yoga simply because you’d want to jump in the bandwagon. Do not forget that it takes a lot of commitment and passion to be able to successfully incorporate these poses and different exercises into our lives. Taking on the challenge of yoga should be because you desire to improve your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well being.
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