Yoga originated in India several thousand years ago as a system of physical and spiritual practices. It was formalizaed in the second century BC in the form of the Yoga Sutras, attributed to the scholar Pantanjali. The word 'yoga' means 'union' or 'yoke' or 'joining'. Originally, yoga was a method for joining a regular imperfect human being with the divine principle, or God. It is aimed to unite the mind, the body and the spirit. Through the practice of yoga, the mind can be trained to relax through deep breathing and become focused while holding the breath. This practice will lead to control of the mind.
Doing yoga, not just the physical portion, but also immersing oneself onto the mental aspect of it, can help improve mental health. Yogis (those who do yoga) believe that yoga can reduce, and eventually prevent, the biuld-up of repressed emotions in the mind. The process is gradual but the effects, if yoga continues to be practiced, are lasting. "Yoga is a very effective stress reduction and relaxation tool. Performance of various postures requires the tensing and stretching and then relaxing of muscle groups and joints, which effectively produces relaxation in much the same way that a massage does. Yoga practice also draws attention towards breathing, which producces a meditative and soothing state of mind," says Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.
Top Ten Reasons to Try Yoga
- Stress Relief - Yoga reduces the physical effects of stress on the body. By encouraging relaxation, yoga helps to lower the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Related benefits include lowering blood pressure and heart rate, improving digestion and boostin the immune system as well as easing symptoms of conditions such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, asthma and insomnia.
- Pain Relief - Yoga can ease pain. Studies have demonstrated that practicing yoga asanas (postures), meditation or a combination of the two reduces pain for people with conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, auto-immune diseases and hypertension as well as arthritis, back and neck pain and other chronic conditions. Some practitioners report that even emotional pain can be eased through the practice of yoga.
- Better Breathing - Yoga teaches people to take slower, deeper breaths. This helps to improve lung functioning, trigger the body's relaxation response and increase the amount of oxygen available to the body.
- Flexibility - Yoga helps to improve flexibility and mobility, increasing range of movement and reducing aches and pains. Many people can't touch their toes during their first yoga class. Gradually they begin to use the correct muscles. Over time, the ligaments, tendons and muscles lengthen, increasing elasticity, making more poses possible. Yoga also helps to improve body alignment resulting in better posture and helping to relieve back, neck, joint and muscle problems.
- Increased Strength - Yoga asanas (postures) use every muscle inthe body, helping to increase strength literally froom head to toe. And, while these postures strengthen the body, they also provide an additional benefit of helping relieve muscular tension.
- Weight Management - Yoga (even less vigorous styles) can aid weight control efforts by reducing the cortisol lelves as weel as by burning excess calories and reducing stress. Yoga also encourages healthy eating habits and provides a heightened sense of well being and self esteem.
- Improved Circulation - Yoga helps to improve circulation and as a result of various poses. more efficiently moves oxygenated blood to the body's cells.
- Cardiovascular Conditioning- Even gentle yoga practice can provide cardiovascular benefits by lowering resting heart rate, increasing endurance and improving oxygen uptake during exercise.
- Focus on the Present - Yoga helps us to focus on the present, to become more aware and to help create mind/body health. It opens the way to improved concentration, coordination, reaction time and memory.
- Inner Peace - The meditative aspects of yoga help many to reach a deeper, more spiritual and more satisfying place in their lives. Many who begin to practice for other reasons have reported this to be a key reason that yoga has become an essential part of their daily lives.
For more information please visit yogaalliance.org.