Yoga is a spiritual science of Self-realisation. It comes from India and goes back over five thousand years. Yoga methods encompass the entire field of our existence, from the physical, emotional and mental to the spiritual.
The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word "Yuj" meaning to yoke, join or unite. Through Yoga we master our body, breath, and mind, cultivating the inner stillness within ourselves that lies beyond. This inner stillness enables us to connect with our true essence, our natural state and brings about the realization that at the core of every being, there is unity among everything and everyone, and that we are all part of that same One-ness. This union of the individual consciousness with the universal or divine consciousness is Yoga.
Yoga has become a very common term in the Western world today, and most Westerners identify yoga with Hatha Yoga.
Ha-Tha means Sun-Moon, always maintaining equilibrium. Hatha Yoga seeks to promote health and well-being through:
- Physical Postures (Asanas in Sanskrit)
- Breathing Exercises (Pranayama)
Vinyasa (Flow) Yoga is a dynamic form of Hatha Yoga, where the physical postures are linked together in an intelligent series and where the body moves fluently on the breath from one posture into the other. The whole practice then becomes like a dance, a moving meditative experience. Vinyasa Yoga is also called Power Yoga, because of its vigorous approach.
Hatha Yoga is considered therapeutic. The regular practice of the Physical Postures, Breathing Exercises and Meditation, makes the body strong, supple and healthy; the breath full, even and calm; and the mind tranquil and clear. Yoga helps you to relax even in the midst of a stress stricken environment. It also has a profound effect on the circulation and on the functioning of the inner organs, glands and nerves, keeping all systems in radiant health and leading to greater energy, more vitality, better concentration, and a happier, more peaceful and more fulfilling life. Many common physical ailments can also be improved through the regular practice of Yoga.
Here’s just a small list of the many physical and psychological effects of Hatha Yoga - from the Yoga Postures (Asanas), Yoga Breathing (Pranayama), and Meditation.
Physical Benefits of Hatha Yoga
- Stable autonomic Nervous system equilibrium
- Improvement of the Respiratory system: e.g. the respiratory rate decreases and the respiratory efficiency increases
- Improvement of the Circulatory system: e.g. pulse rate decreases, blood pressure decreases, the cardiovascular efficiency increases
- Improvement of the Digestive system
- Endocrine (Hormones) function normalizes
- Excretory functions improve
- Muscular and Skeletal flexibility and joint range of motion increase
- Posture improves
- Strength and Stamina increase
- Energy level increases
- Weight normalizes
- Sleep improves
- Immunity increases
- Pain decreases
- Balance improves
- Movement and Bodily Coordination improve
Psychological Benefits of Hatha Yoga
- Stress Reduction
- Mood improves
- Overall feeling of well-being increases
- Self-awareness, self-acceptance and self-actualization increase
- Anxiety and Depression decrease
- Hostility decreases
- Concentration improves
- Memory improves
- Learning efficiency improves
- Social adjustment increases as Yoga is Noncompetitive, and process-oriented
- Awareness is internal (focus is on breath and the infinite)
Other Paths of Yoga
Hatha Yoga is one path of Yoga, the three other paths that can be officially distinguished are Bhakti Yoga (Yoga of devotion, like mantra singing, making temples in your own home), Jnana Yoga (Yoga of knowledge of scriptures, meditation), and Karma Yoga (Yoga of self-less action).
At YogaYatra we have experienced how the different practices of Yoga operate holistically which is why our teachings combine the Physical Postures (Asanas) with Breathing Exercises (Pranayama), Meditation, and also Yoga philosophy and chanting of Mantra's.
Yoga is for Everyone
It is never too late or too early in life to take up Yoga. Anyone can start a Yoga practice, even if you don't feel like you are very flexible or very strong, or if you have certain physical restrictions. These things will develop and improve over time.
In Yoga it is all about "your practice", which means your individual experience with Yoga as it develops over time. The amazing thing about Yoga is that your practice is always evolving and changing so it never gets boring. Although the poses themselves do not change, your relationship to them will. Another great thing about thinking about "your practice" is that it encourages the noncompetitive spirit of Yoga. One of the most difficult, but ultimately most liberating things about Yoga is letting go of the ego and accepting that no one is better than anyone else. Everyone is just doing their best on any given day.