Last Updated 28 May 2020

Benefits of a Yoga Practice

Category Meditation, Yoga
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History of Yoga The exact history and origins of yoga is uncertain; however, there are pieces that have been connected and allow some conclusions. Stone carvings depicting figures in Yoga positions have been found in archeological sites in the Indus Valley dating back 5,000 years or more. In ancient times, the desire for greater personal freedom, health and long life, and heightened self-understanding gave birth to this system of physical and mental exercise which has since spread throughout the world. The word Yoga means “to join or yoke together,” and it brings the body and mind together into one harmonious experience.

One of the earliest texts about Yoga was compiled by a scholar named Patanjali, who talked about the most common Yoga theories and practices of his time in a book called Yoga Sutras as early and the 1st and 2nd century B. C. or as late as the 5th century A. D. The system that he wrote is known as “Ashtanga Yoga” or the eight limbs of Yoga, generally known as Classical Yoga today. The eight steps include yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyhara, dharana, dhyana, and Samadhi. Yoga arrived to the United States somewhere around the late 1800s, but hadn’t become commonly known until the 1960s.

It is well known that the techniques of Yoga can contribute to general health and well-being. Many physicians recommend Yoga to patients who suffer from heart disease, back pains, depression, arthritis, insomnia, asthma, and other chronic conditions. Philosophical Roots and Principles The philosophy of yoga has been passed on from teacher to student for many generations over the last 5,000 years. There is no true definition on what yoga really is. Some may say it is only a way to relax, others say it is a form of excersice, and others say it is a way of life.

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In essence, yoga practice aims to align the body with the mind through fluid movement and controlled breathing. At the base of the yoga practice, there are five basic principles: exercise, breathing, relaxation, diet, and meditation. Exercise: This principle revolves around the idea that our physical body is meant to move and exercise. One’s spiritual health begins with physical health. Yoga benefits every part of your body – joints, muscles, blood circulation, digestion, etc. Practicing Yoga makes your body relaxed, gives you more strength and energy, and rejuvenates the various systems of the body.

Breathing: Yoga’s lifestyle is centered around breathing. Yoga emphasizes attention to breath, and taking long, deep inhalations, making use of all the parts of your Lungs to increase your oxygen intake. Proper Breathing should be deep, slow and rhythmical. This increases lung capacity and oxygen flow throughout the body, which clears and cleanses the mind. Relaxation: One achieves inner peace through proper relaxation. Relaxation begins in the physical body, losing all tension within the muscles. This then extends to the mind, and positively affects one’s actions throughout the day.

Diet: A proper diet should accompany a yoga practice to maintain a healthy physical body. Improper diet results to mental inefficiency and blocks spiritual awareness. A proper diet should nourish both mind and body. It should consist of eating only natural foods, and only when one is hungry. Meditation: The most important aspect of yoga is positive thinking and meditation. Everything in the physical body is controlled through the mind. Meditation allows ones self to control the mind to channel positive thinking and spiritual health. This allowing a more relaxing Yoga practice, which leads to a calm and positive day,

Why is nutrition important in yoga? The basic principle of nutrition in yoga is to eat small quantities of high quality foods without producing toxins. It is easy to result to heavily processed, nutrition poor, calorie dense foods within a normal life that’s full of stress. Eating unhealthy puts you at more risks of diseases, while a well-nourished body makes it easier to cope better, while also reducing your possibility of disease and reducing your stress levels. The body requires food to supply energy to function normally. It also needs it to repair tissue and organs. The perfect balance in diet is different for ach person. To find balance, it is important to know one’s own individual needs, the best preparation methods, the properties of foods, and to choose a broad range of high quality foods. When a good attitude and ample exercise are combined, one finds no limit to total health of the mind, body, and spirit. Five Yoga Poses Downward facing dog: Come to your hands and knees with the wrists underneath the shoulders and the knees underneath the hips. Curl the toes under and push back raising the hips and straightening the legs. Spread the fingers and ground down from the forearms into the fingertips.

Outwardly rotate the upper arms broadening the collarbones. Let the head hang, move the shoulder blades away from the ears towards the hips. Engage the quadriceps strongly to take the weight off the arms, making this a resting pose. Rotate the thighs inward, keep the tail high and sink your heels towards the floor. Dragonfly Pose: Begin standing in mountain pose. Shift your weight into your right leg and bring the left ankle to cross your right thigh just above the knee. Your shin will be parallel to the floor. This is same position from which you enter flying crow.

Come into a forward bend, bringing the palms of the hands to the floor. Bend the right leg (the standing leg) and twist your torso to the right, walking your hands over until your palms come in front of the right foot. This is a similar arm position to side crow. Bend your elbows down to chaturanga position and bring the sole of your left foot onto the shelf created by your left upper arm. Try to get the foot as high up your arm as possible. Bring the right thigh to rest on the left upper arm as well. Tip forward, bringing your weight into your arms as the right leg straightens out to the side and right foot leaves the floor.

To come out, bend the right knee and bring the right foot back to the floor. Half Moon Pose - Ardha Chandrasana: From Trikonasana, soften the right knee and bring the left hand to your hip. Bring the right hand to the floor about a foot in front of the right foot with the fingertips on the floor. Begin to straighten the right leg while simultaneously raising the left leg. Open the hips, stacking the left hip on top of the right hip. Bring the left leg straight and parallel to the floor, flexing the left foot with the toes facing forward.

When you feel balanced on the right leg, reach the left arm up toward the ceiling, opening the chest and making a straight line with the right and left arms. Finally, bring the gaze up toward the left fingertips. Child's Pose – Balasana: From Downward Facing Dog, drop the knees to the floor. Spread the knees as wide as the mat, keeping the big toes touching. Bring the belly to rest between the thighs and the forehead to the floor. There are two possible arm variations: Either stretch the arms in front of you with the palms toward the floor or bring the arms back alongside the thighs with the palms facing upwards.

Do whichever feel more comfortable to you. Bridge Pose - Setu Bandha Sarvangasana: Come to lie on the back. Bend the knees, bringing the soles of the feet parallel on the mat close to the buttocks. Lift the hips up towards the ceiling. Interlace the fingers behind your back and straighten the arms, pressing them down into the mat. Roll one shoulder under and then the other. Lift the hips higher. Draw the chest toward the chin, but do not move the chin toward the chest. Make sure the feet stay parallel. Release the hands and bring the upper, middle, and then lower back down. Rest, allowing the knees to knock together.

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