Yoga: The 5000-year-old teacher
With its earliest roots found in ancient texts, yoga is a several millennia-old school of knowledge which has remarkably stood the test of time (and rampant westernization).
People often associate this term with a series of impossible bodily contortions which have proven health benefits. But in its truest sense, yoga is much more than that.
The word “yoga” has been derived from the ancient Sanskrit word “Yuj” that literally means “union”. It is more than just fluid body movements. It is a way of living that interconnects your mind, body, and soul.
Through a series of controlled breathing exercises, meditation, and postures, yoga aims to provide you with a richer and fuller experience of your surroundings.
This routine increases your awareness –of your body, your own self, and the universe around you. The increased awareness sets you in perfect tune with the external environment.
The energy that resonates between the external and internal world is the one that unites these seemingly disparate entities. Yoga, thus, is nothing but the union of self with the external aura.
The science behind this spirituality
The International Yoga Federation states that there are 300 million people practicing this routine globally. Experts contend that yoga is one of the most popular and successful products of the globalization.
It is becoming a massively commercial and profitable commodity, with more almost $10 billion worth revenue generated by it each year in the USA alone. It is not surprising to know that yoga is the 4th fastest growing industry in the USA.
Judging by its ever-surging popularity, that too in developed countries such as the USA and Japan, it can be safely assumed that yoga must be bringing some substantial level of benefits to the practitioners.
And the rate at which it is being recognized by different medical communities, there must be some science attached to it. So keeping the spiritual element temporarily in the back seat, let us view the system of yoga from the scientific perspective.
The science of yoga
- The most significant way yoga alters us is by enhancing our cerebral and cognitive functions. It strengthens the cerebral cortex layers (a region associated with learning), increases the neuroplasticity, and controls our stress responses.
- It simultaneously activates the relaxation and logical parts of the brain. This soothes us down while making us more focused and attentive.
- Yoga has scientifically proven to boost serotonin and dopamine levels in our brain. These are chemically similar to anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications. These naturally heal you from depression and stress.
- Yoga has an immense capability of improving our overall blood circulation. Our blood is naturally directed towards the digestive tract, the immune system, and the endocrine glands. This facilitates better absorption of nutrients and expelling of toxins.
- Psychologists have found that yoga can be a powerful technique in helping patients with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). Additionally, it has proven to be extremely beneficial in treating arthritis, carpel-tunnel syndrome, multiple sclerosis, and even improving spinal mobility.
There is no one kind of yoga
Before jumping into how to practice is ancient art of the yogis, let us first gain some knowledge of what are the different kinds of yoga.
Knowing what each school of yoga embodies will help you decide which one is best suited for you.
Ashtanga or Power Yoga: The oldest version of yoga which entails fast and rigorous movements. Requires higher energy and flexibility.
Vinyasa: Focuses primarily on the breathing techniques. Each movement is intertwined with the breathing. The body moves fast but in a fluid-like manner.
Iyengar: The kind of yoga wherein you keep holding one pose for long is essentially Iyengar yoga. It’s great for improving flexibility and getting rid of chronic illnesses.
Bikram: Very popular amongst westerners, this kind of yoga is done under hot sauna-like conditions. It makes it simpler to hold difficult poses.
Kundalini: This yoga combines fast movements, regulated breathing, and continuous chanting.
Putting all the preaching into practice
Frankly, there stands no argument against the health benefits of yoga. So how do you immerse yourself in this highly-rewarding way of life? Just follow these simple steps and be one with your inner self.
Make your surroundings yoga-friendly
- Make sure that you have a separate room or space in your home to practice yoga daily.
- Choose a space which is clean, quiet, and clutter-free.
- If possible light some mildly scented candles or light incense.
- Make sure that there is no furniture around you to avoid bumping into them.
- Invest in a good quality yoga mat. It should be non-slippery.
- Use a bolster or a stack of pillows for certain poses.
- Starting yoga doesn’t really require any superfluous expenditure. So just get started.
Choose a type of yoga that suits you
- Before you log in to YouTube and start copying your favorite celebrity’s yoga poses, pause for a second. Think what your body demands. Not every person requires the same kinds of benefits from yoga, that too when you are a beginner.
- As mentioned above, there are different schools of yoga, each having its own set of unique advantages. If you looking to get that surging boost of energy to burn those calories, go for the powerhouse yoga or Ashtanga yoga.
- Need more flexibility and calmness in your life? Start with a session of sun salutations which is a part of the Vinyasa routine.
- If you are already a pro or a regular yoga practitioner in the least, trying Kundalini or Bikram yoga poses will help you achieve even higher levels of rejuvenation.
- A lot of people find the extensive list of different yoga poses a tad bit intimidating. Remember this is the most ancient school of holistic body improvement. Over years, yoga has gone through a number of improvements. So it is only natural for this system to be seemingly complex on the surface. But don’t get bogged down by the details. Just start with the routine and things will fall into place.
- If you are confused what you want out of your yoga routine, consult a yoga teacher. Tell him/her about your complete medical history and lifestyle. He/she will be able to guide you which style to begin from.
Some important yoga asanas
It is the ultimate breathing exercise of yoga. The literal meaning of this type of breathing is a radiant or shining forehead.
If you are looking for fast and effective ways of flushing out toxins from your body (and you should), this asana is for you.
Sit in a comfortable pose with your palms on your knees and your attention focused on your abdominal region.
When you inhale in, keep the pace slow and steady.
Make sure you are concentrating on how you are inhaling the air.
When you exhale, make it a quick, rapid movement with your abdomen pulled in.
It should be forceful following a hissing noise. Once you’re practicing this pose, you will actually feel the toxins being thrown out of your body. Repeat this technique for 20 times daily and then relax keeping your eyes closed. You will feel the surge of pure oxygen reaching every cell of your body. It is both relaxing and rejuvenating.
As the name suggests, this pose involves you acquiring the pose of a snake by lying flat on your stomach and slowly raising your body keeping your body supported in your hands.
Keep your eyes closed and concentrate on the deep breathing. Your thighs, pelvis, and your feet should feel stable. Make sure that you are not over-stretching yourself while lifting your body up.
This type of asana is extremely beneficial in healing chronic backache and clearing up your respiratory tract.
It also tends to strengthen your arms, shoulder, and pelvic floor. It is especially good for women since it improves menstrual irregularities.
Additionally, it also soothes sciatic and related nerve-compressions, enhances digestion, and regulates the blood supply to the kidneys.
Fancied being a warrior?
Well, with this pose your dream might just come true.
The Virabhadrasana or the warrior pose lets you pose like a warrior and reap maximum benefits of increased overall flexibility.
It starts with a lunge, where you keep your right leg forward, with your ankle and knee aligned properly. Your right foot should point directly front while the left should point away from the body.
Slowly raise your arms and as you do it inhale deeply. If possible bring your palms together like a Namaste pose. Now gentle start arching your back and move your gaze towards the ceiling.
The benefits of this pose are many. It stretches your spine and its surrounding muscles. It also strengthens your builds stronger arms and tones the lower body muscles.
Additionally, it is a great asana for pregnant women. Moreover, it helps in building stamina and our balance.
Even though this term literally means the pose of a corpse, it shouldn’t be scaring you a bit.
That is because it practically doesn’t you forming any pose, just lying down and relaxing after your entire yoga routine.
Looks easy on the surface, but as many yoga practitioners will confess, one of the toughest poses to master. What this pose aims to attain is the highest level of awareness.
When you are lying down, your sensory inputs are minimized since you are not engaged or involved in anything. Within this blissful nothingness, you find tranquillity and the profound awareness of your being.You become more aware of your heartbeat and your breathing.
You transcend to a level of relaxation which gradually melts your stress and anxiety away. Scientifically speaking, this state invokes the release of alpha and beta waves of the brain, a.k.a, the creativity waves. Additionally, you will feel your muscles and skeleton relaxing opening up the layers of stress accumulated over years for the ultimate release.
A 6 minute Savasana routine every day is your ultimate ticket to a stress-free and invigorated life.
The Chakra of the beginning and the end
Take a deeper look into yourself. Take a look around you.
Who are you?
What makes up your life?
A fast-paced rat-race to earn money and gather material goods.
Financial stability, a great house, the unending longing for promotion, the greed to acquire latest gadgets.
Where is this leading you?
Chronic illnesses, a weak heart, tar-filled lungs and clogged arteries.
The stress of modern lifestyle is weighing down on your physical and mental well-being.
We are gradually losing touch with our natural surroundings, and most, unfortunately, with ourselves.
Thousands of years ago, when the ancient rishis devised this entire system, they did so to eliminate all these negativities from our life.
In this day and age, yoga holds more importance and relevance than ever.
This is the most significant step you can take in holistically improving your life. It is not a quick-fix to ailments; it is not a modern-day pill that brings you temporary relief.
It’s a complete transformation of your existence that will keep giving you fruitful result forever.
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