[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n the last few years, yoga has resurfaced as an exercise, not to mention fashion craze. One of the remarkable things about this historic Indian form of exercise and relaxation is that is can be tailored to the fantastically fit or those with physical limitations.
But it is celebrities like Madonna and Michelle Branch who have made it almost into a modern-day cult.
It is believed that yoga originated as an oral tradition that dates back over 5,000 years in India. Some believe that it started around 500 BC, which was the time of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.
In 1920, archeologists discovered an ancient “Indus” civilisation, which flourished between about 3000 and 1900 BC. The archeological artifacts of the Indus valley provide a base of the early Sanskrit literature. It gave rise to the great religious and cultural tradition of Hinduism.
Yoga is an ancient system of working with the body, breath and mind. Yoga is not a religion as it has no doctrine, dogma or church and is, in fact, compatible with all religions although it has its roots in Hinduism. You don’t have to believe anything! For most, yoga is primarily working the body with awareness to achieve flexibility, strength, healing and calmness of mind, although there are many other benefits possible.
Yoga is for every body, whether lithe and athletic, or those who have not exercised in a long time. The perfect “form” of yoga postures that are commonly seen do not necessarily mean “good” yoga! And a number of studies have shown that yoga may have specific health benefits, including bringing an improvement in joint pain, insomnia, back pain, fatigue, headaches and even heart function.
Yoga has a stress reduction or relaxation component, which is helpful for most people. For example, you concentrate on your breathing, people who are doing aerobic exercise may be doing that as well, but it may not be quite as overt. Yoga also improves joint flexibility through stretching. Joint flexibility may be good in arthritis and other kinds of joint related problems. And yoga improves balance.
Consider the simplicity and ease of yoga. It fits into your everyday life as easily as any basic workout programme. And unlike many programmes, you don’t need any special equipment other than a spot on the floor, your mind, and your body.
And while many exercises only benefit the body, yoga benefits the whole person.? The yogic system of asanas (meaning steady pose) emphasise deep breathing, relaxed movements, and mental concentration. Asanas develop the entire body/mind/spirit.? In all the different forms of yoga, there are literally thousands of yoga poses that you can perform. And stretching, which is one of the components of yoga, has long been considered vital to health, and a prerequisite to many other forms of exercise or physical sport.? Yoga is also a great stress buster. So call your local gym and get to a class today
Yoga benefits include:
- Increasing flexibility-yoga has positions that act upon the various joints of the body including those joints that are never really on the “radar screen”, let alone exercised.
- Increasing lubrication of the joints, ligaments and tendons-likewise, the well-researched yoga positions exercise the different tendons and ligaments of the body.
- Surprisingly, it has been found that the body which may have been quite rigid starts experiencing a remarkable flexibility in even those parts which have not been consciously work upon. Why? It is here that the remarkable research behind yoga positions proves its mettle. Seemingly unrelated “non strenuous” yoga positions act upon certain parts of the body in an interrelated manner. When done together, they work in harmony to create a situation where flexibility is attained relatively easily.
- Massaging of ALL organs of the body-Yoga is perhaps the only form of activity which massages all the internal glands and organs of the body in a thorough manner, including those-such as the prostate-that hardly get externally stimulated during our entire lifetime. Yoga acts in a wholesome manner on the various body parts. This stimulation and massage of the organs in turn benefits us by keeping away disease and providing a forewarning at the first possible instance of a likely onset of disease or disorder.
- Complete detoxification-By gently stretching muscles and joints as well as massaging the various organs, yoga ensures the optimum blood supply to various parts of the body. This helps in the flushing out of toxins from every nook and cranny as well as providing nourishment up to the last point. This leads to benefits such as delayed ageing, energy and a remarkable zest for life.
- Excellent toning of the muscles-muscles that have become flaccid, weak or slothy are stimulated repeatedly to shed excess flab and flaccidity.
But these enormous physical benefits are just a “side effect” of this powerful practice. What yoga does is harmonise the mind with the body and this results in real quantum benefits. It is now an open secret that the will of the mind has enabled people to achieve extraordinary physical feats, which proves beyond doubt the mind and body connection.
Yoga through meditation works remarkably to achieve this harmony and helps the mind work in sync with the body. How often do we find that we are unable to perform our activities properly and in a satisfying manner because of the confusions and conflicts in our mind weigh down heavily upon us?
Moreover, stress which in reality is the number one killer affecting all parts of our physical, endocrinal and emotional systems, can be corrected through the wonderful yoga practice of meditation.
The meditative practices through yoga help in achieving an emotional balance through detachment. What it means is that meditation creates conditions, where you are not affected by the happenings around you. This in turn creates a remarkable calmness and a positive outlook, which also has tremendous benefits on the physical health of the body.
These are just some of the tangible benefits that can be achieved through yoga. Having seen this, it is educative to note why the ancient yogis performed yoga and the interdependence of yoga and meditation. The ultimate goal of the yogis was “self realisation” or “enlightenment”, a concept, which perhaps is quite esoteric to you and me.
But what is interesting is that for this they had to meditate for extensive spells of time-days,weeks and much more. This required tremendous physical fitness, energy and the capacity to subsist on next to nothing. Yoga positions or asanas provided them the fullest fitness with the least metabolism or stress and meditation in turn provided them the strength and will to perform these asanas effectively-a virtuous cycle of cause and effect. This mutually symbiotic relationship helped them in their path.