Please see below for a brief description about what Yoga is, how it works, the benefits it can give you and a list of health conditions it can help with.
What is Yoga?
Yoga is an ancient philosophy which originates from India and is thousands of years old. It is not a religion and anyone can practise regardless of what faith they are. The word Yoga means "to yoke or unite" and works on bringing balance, peace and harmony to both body, mind and spirit.
There are several types/paths of yoga and under these types there are many styles or variations which can be practised. The main types/pathways are:
Raja : Means Royal & works on controlling the restless mind using an eight-step plan known as the eight limbs as described by Patanjali in The Yoga Sutra.
Jana : Means Knowledge or Wisdom and uses the intellect to explore questions like Who am I?, What is spirit? What is my purpose in life?
Bakti : The yoga of Love or Devotion, where life is celebrated through worship which can include dancing, chanting & surrounding oneself in nature.
Karma : Meaning Action and is the active pathway of selfless service - focusing on the joy of the work itself and not the fruits of ones efforts.
Tantra : Meaning Technique or Thread. Practioners worship the Shakti (female) principle of the universe and try to embrace all life and live it to the full. The body is considered as a temple of sacred energy and practises include raising the Kundalaini (shakti) energy up through the chakras (energy centres) of the body
The most common type practised today in the West is Hatha Yoga which consists of meditation techniques, breathing exercises, flowing and holding postures and relaxation. Various styles of Hatha Yoga include: Iyengar, Sivananda, Ashtanga, Vinysana and Dru.
The word "Hatha" is said to have two meanings; one meaning Force and the other Sun and Moon. Originally Yoga was all about meditation and breathing with none of the physical exercises or postures practised today and so it was and still is considered to be the more forceful of the Yogas. However The Hatha Yoga Pradipika explains that the aim of Hatha Yoga is to unify the Ha (sun) energies (representing our male energy and right side) with the Tha (Moon) energies (representing our female energy and the left side) and so hence the name. Fortunately this is not the only thing that is achieved through practising Hatha Yoga. There are a wide range of benefits to be had when practised regularly from the physical right through to spiritual which are outlined below.
What are the Benefits of Yoga?
Hatha Yoga works in 3 main ways which include......
The releasing of physical tension through flowing routines and postures known as Asanas
The calming of the mind and emotions through working with the breath known as Pranayama
The releasing of harmful stress through meditation and relaxation known as Yoga Nidra
The postures strengthen & tone the physical body while increasing flexibility, co-ordination and balance. The postures work on the health of the spine moving it in all directions and counter posing at all times to keep the body balanced. Through working the flowing and holding postures circulation improves and physical tension and toxins that build up in the body are released in a gentle but effective way. The lymphatic system is boosted too so it can work more efficiently aiding immunity. When we move in this way endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into the body which make us feel positive and happy.
Mental & Emotional Benefits
Breath meditations teach us to become conscience of our breath and by doing this we enable ourselves to slow down and connect within. The breathing exercises teach us how to work with our breath and control it. This has a powerful effect upon our parasympathetic nervous system slowing our thoughts down and calming our emotional state. In addition to this we strengthen the respiratory system and improve lung capacity bringing more oxygen into the body to help energise us.
Relaxation helps to drain away physical, mental & emotional tensions bringing the body & mind into a more relaxed, positive and balanced state. When we are in this relaxed & balanced state deep healing can occur on many levels aiding with a wide range of conditions including insomnia, anxiety & high blood pressure. In addition to this we are able to meditate more clearly connecting to our true self/spirit or higher wisdom. This can enable us to have some deep realisations about ourselves and life!
What Health Conditions can Yoga help with?
Studies have shown that regular Yoga practise can help to relieve the symptoms of the following health conditions and problems.
Heart Disease, High Cholestral, Arthritis, Osteoporosis, Scoliosis, Diabetes, IBS, Constipation, Asthma, Migraines, Menopause, Pregnancy & Labour, Joint & Back Problems, Weight Control, Pain, Chronic Fatigue.
Anxiety, Insomnia, Stress, Depression, Anger & Hostility, Hormone Imbalances and issues with Self Confidence, Self Esteem & Self Control.
If you have any of the above and would like to practise Yoga but have any concerns reagrding your health, please speak to your doctor first.