Even though Yoga is very ancient practice that originated in India, it has always been contemporary throughout the times. Why? Because it does not ascribe to any philosophy, dogma, thought or idea. It is an inner science, one that has been explored to its deepest core by several accomplished yogis. Yoga is a Sanskrit word which means “to unite” and aims for the ultimate union of the individual consciousness with the Universal Consciousness. Serious yoga practitioners strive for balance and harmony of the mind, body, emotion and energy, a state when reached can bring ultimate joy and blissfulness. In the Indian subcontinent, yoga has lived on through the ages, just by its efficacy, and is the reason why India has produced the most number of spiritual and realized masters. People from the west travel to India to find their “inner-self”. There are numerous accounts of very famous people traveling east to explore their inner dimensions through yoga.
In the west, yoga is practiced mainly as a physical exercise for health benefits. That is only a small part of what yoga can do. However, the requirement of a healthy body and mind is a fundamental necessity to exploring other aspects. Most of the chronic ailments that people suffer from today are due to life style. The food that we eat, the kind of work that we do, the amount of stress that we experience on a day to day basis have contributed to the enormous amounts of money spent on health care. As the demand and pressure to produce more in less time has increased, the more health complications we suffer from. Our body, mind, emotions and energy are not wired for compulsively driven activity without periods of rest and relaxation. Whatever type of work we are involved in, if it is done in a relaxed manner, we enjoy it more and there is no cause for stress to arise. Notice how when we are on vacation – even though it is packed with activity – we are enjoying it even if we might be physically tired. So whenever the activity is done with a level of stress in the mind, it trickles into the body as toxins and the toxins are the reason why the chronic diseases set in over a period of time. So how do we tackle this compulsive state of activity of the mind and the body?
Yoga is a holistic practice; incorporating it into our daily routine will bring tremendous health benefits and ease to our system. When the entire system is at ease doing any type of activity is never a problem. If we remember the times when we are genuinely happy, we are ready to take on any number of tasks. Conversely if we are stressed and tired, doing even simple things becomes an arduous task. In that sense, yoga brings balance and harmony to our mind, body, emotion and energy.
Doing yoga does not mean twisting into impossible postures. Simple poses or asanas (postures) aligned with the breath is enough to create a sense of calm, peace and joyfulness, that can be sustained for the entire day. When the entire system is in a relaxed and peaceful state, it automatically brings itself to a state of healing and health. Other than infections and genetic conditions, health is a natural state for us all. We just have to practice yoga on a daily basis to create the necessary conditions for a joyful state, which is our natural way of being.
Some benefits of yoga are
- Improves Flexibility
Moving and stretching make the muscles flexible, bringing greater range of motion to tight areas. As we age, our flexibility usually decreases, which leads to pain and immobility. Yoga can help reverse this process.
- Builds Strength
Yoga poses uses the body weight. For example, balancing on one leg (as in tree pose) or supporting yourself with your arms (as in downward facing dog), over the course of several breaths helps build muscular strength.
- Enhances Muscle Tone and Definition
Yoga helps shape long, lean muscles in your legs, arms, back, and abdomen.
- Improves Balance
Improved balance is one of the most important benefits of yoga as you get older. Poses where you stand on one leg helps improve balance.
- Improves Joint Health
Yoga poses are low impact, allowing the use of joints without injuring them. Yoga also helps strengthen the muscles around the joints, lessening their load. People with arthritis often see marked improvement in their pain and mobility after simple yoga practices.
- Prevents Back Pain
Increased flexibility and strength can help prevent the causes of some types of back pain. Sitting for prolonged time periods causes tightness throughout the body and spinal compression. Yoga counteracts these conditions.
- Better Breathing
Most of us take shallow breaths and don’t give much thought to how we breathe. Yoga breathing exercises, called pranayama, focus our attention on breathing and teach us how to take deeper breaths, calming down the nervous system, which has tremendous health benefits.
- Mental Calmness
Yoga also introduces meditation techniques, and teaches to focus on the breath, and disengage from thoughts. These skills can prove to be very valuable in intense situations, like when having an anxiety attack.
- Reduces Stress
The emphasis yoga places on being in the present moment teaches not to dwell on past events or anticipate the future, bringing in more relaxation and ease.
- Increases Self Confidence
Doing yoga improves your mind-body connection, giving you a better awareness of your own body. During yoga, you learn to make small, subtle movements to improve your alignment, putting you in better touch with your physical being. You also learn to accept your body as it is without judgment. Over time, this leads to feeling more comfortable in your own body, boosting your self-confidence.
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