Developed in India thousands of years ago, yoga was a form of philosophy, designed as a way for spiritual enlightenment. Today in modern times, yoga has become an increasingly popular form of exercise and to help manage stress. There are many different varieties of yoga, but each one is composed of breathing exercises, meditation and structured poses (called asanas). These stretch and flex various muscle groups.
Researchers have learned that the regular practice of yoga may produce many health benefits, including increased fitness and reduced or normal blood pressure. Yoga has become synonymous with stress management, and those who practice yoga regularly have reported lower levels of stress, and increased wellbeing.
The word yoga means ‘to join.’ It brings your mind and body together, and it builds upon those three elements – exercise, meditation and breathing. The exercises (or poses) of yoga are designed to put pressure on your hormonal system, increasing the body’s efficiency and overall health. The breathing techniques increase breath control to improve the health and function of body and mind, by allowing oxygen to properly reach your brain. Exercise and breathing both prepare the body and mind for meditation, leading to a quiet mind and to get away from everyday stress.
Types of Yoga
There are many different variations of yoga. The most popular are Hatha, Bikram, Ashtanga, Iyengar and Vinyasa.
Hatha is the basic form of yoga and provides the foundation for all other types of yoga. It incorporates the postures, regulated breathing, meditation and kundalini which takes energy from the core of the body.
Bikram yoga is a comprehensive workout that includes all the components of fitness: muscular strength, endurance, flexibility, and weight loss.
Ashtanga yoga is more demanding as it involves certain breathing techniques with a continuous series of postures, which ends up producing an intense internal heat and sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs.
Iyengar is similar to bikram except that the poses are held longer and you move into poses in a fluid slow manner. Equipment is also usually used in this type, such as cushions and blankets to distinguish from other types of yoga.
Vinyasa focuses more on breath and movements rather than postures, making it a more physically active form of yoga.
Postures and Breathing
Since yoga incorporates mind and body, postures and breathing help in this incorporation.
Yoga poses, also called postures, or asanas, are a series of movements to increase strength and flexibility. Poses can include lying on the floor while completely relaxed to sitting postures, standing posures or even up-side down postures which can help stretch your muscles and aid in flexibility.
Controlling your breathing is just as important, as it signifies your vital energy. By controlling your breathing, you can help control your body and quiet your mind for meditation.
Benefits of Yoga
The relaxation techniques in yoga can help lessen chronic pain, such as lower back pain, arthritis, and even headaches. It can also lower blood pressure and help you sleep better at night.
Yoga develops strength and flexibility, while relaxing your nerves and calming your mind. The postures affect the muscles, joints, bones, and the skin as well as the internal organs, and the breathing helps with respiration and your brain.
In short, yoga:
- Increases flexibility
- Increases muscle strength and tone
- Improves respiration, energy and overall wellbeing
- Balances metabolism
- Helps in weight loss
- Improves cardio and circulatory health
- And it can even help with any injuries or chronic pain
In addition to these physical benefits, one of the most popular reason yoga enthusiasts stick to yoga is because it can help manage stress. Stress can lead to other health conditions such as muscle pain, sleeping problems, headaches and concentration problems. If stress is reduced, than all of these other ailments can be fixed, and yoga is the answer to controlling stress naturally.
If you haven’t done so already, start practicing yoga. It is a great way to get in tune with your mind and body. Once you get into the rhythm, it can transform your life. The best part about yoga is, is that anyone can do it – whether you are young or old, injured or a physically fit individual.