If you have been told to attend Yoga classes to “lose weight”, to “calm yourself down using meditation”, to “reduce stress”, or “become more flexible”, you must have been confused… what is yoga?
Is it a form of exercise? Is it a spiritual tradition? Or is it more like a kind of therapy? The truth is, Yoga is a discipline that encompasses all that we have mentioned, and a great deal more. The word “Yoga” originated from the ancient Sanskrit language in India, and it basically means “union”, or “conjunction” and “discipline”. The system of Yoga is a form of integrative discipline, that see unity at many levels – like the connection between your mind and body, or the connection between your rational and emotional minds.
We’ll look at some of the activities and practices that Yoga includes:
Yoga includes physical exercise – some of which look very similar to the gymnastics you see in the Western world. And indeed, some of the yoga exercises have been incorporated into western gymnastics. Because of these physical exercises, some people see yoga as a means to stay fit and healthy. In fact, one particular style of Hartha Yoga called Bikram or Hot Yoga is practiced at a vigorous level, where Yoga poses are done in a heated room, to promotes profuse sweating!
Yoga also has a range of meditation practices, and these include techniques for you to breath right so that you can not only exercise your lungs, but also calm you down, and rest your mind and body. In fact, Yoga breathing techniques have been known to help people reduce stress – perfect for office dwellers at the end of the working day.
Yoga can also be used as a system for holistic and restorative health care. Since Yoga poses can be done without weights, and can strengthen and stretch your muscles, it has also been an increasingly recommended means for therapy, especially for the back and knees. In the unitive system of yoga, it is also believed that the mind has an amazing influence over the physical body, hence it is important that you practice this with the right psychological attitude!