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The word yoga originated from India where the practice began. The word comes from the Sanskrit word yuj meaning to take control of or to unite depending on the context in which you use it.
Historians believe this practice has been around for many years. It dates back to 3300 B.C.-1700 B.C. Findings of archaeological items in the Indus valley clearly indicate that inhabitants of this valley had a major influence on the history of the practice. Many believe that Patanjali is the founder of the formal Yoga philosophy that is popular today. Although many mistake the practice as a form of religion, it is important to point out that it is not a religion. It is a way of life that enhances both the mind and body.
Many changes have taken place since the beginning of this philosophy. It is currently estimated that about 11 million Americans take part in one form of yoga exercise daily. This is mainly because it has been established that there are many physical and mental health benefits associated with individual postures.
Yoga does not view health as just body physiology; yoga views health in terms of subtle energy. In Sanskrit, this subtle energy is called prana or “life-force”. According to the yogic perspective, prana is the foundation for our physical bodies; it also controls all bodily functions, promotes healing, and maintains wellness. This life-force or subtle energy is a foundation of the mind-body connection. Yoga says that illness occurs when the flow of prana or energy is not in harmony.
Yoga provides a variety of techniques that help restore the harmonious flow of energy. The most visible techniques include physical yoga positions (asanas). The word asana means “physical posture” in Sanskrit. There are many important physical benefits from stretching and relaxation; however, the greatest value of the yoga postures lies in their ability to promote and harmonize the free flow of life-force in the body. Each yoga posture has a specific effect on your subtle energy, and consequently has an effect on your state of mind and health.
Yogic sessions enhance quality of life in many ways. For starters, it gives one the mental clarity to face life with confidence. This is important because many people suffer from self-esteem issues. While there are postures that are carefully chosen to enhance emotional results, there are also meditation techniques that will help induce relaxation. Many people in the modern world need relaxation because of the stress that comes with daily challenges. Yoga not only reduces anxiety, but also promotes overall well-being and helps achieve mind-body balance. Yoga has also been shown to equalize endocrine production of hormones, improve joint mobility, and potentially help prevent osteoporosis.
The practice of yoga uses breathing to elicit the relaxation response, a state characterized by decreases in blood pressure and heart and respiratory rates and an increase in alpha wave activity in the brain. There is a reversal of the stress-induced fight-or-flight response. This response is very common and leads to overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system, leading to disorders such as depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Shallow breathing increases tension and blocks the ability to relax. Learning breathing techniques is an inexpensive and efficient way to enhance well-being. Mind-body therapies are an excellent way to help people regain balance.
Breathing is so fundamental to life that we often take it for granted. But many healing arts, such as yoga and tai chi, stress the importance of correct breathing in relation to our health. And good quality breathing can help alleviate various conditions by directing chi to specific body areas. Full and relaxed breathing is therefore a simple way to help the body unwind-- the best foundation for coping with or seeking relief from pain. Remember that "breath is life" and that by learning to breathe deeply and fully and practicing some exercises, you can very quickly and effectively improve your health.
"In breathing, we are satiated --not just with oxygen but with vital energy. We inhale precious energy called prana, chi, qi. This is the same life force we extract from food, light, and love. The prana secures our body's health through the proper digestion of food, warding off diseases and fostering an overall sense of well-being. The clearer and stronger the life force essential to our survival is, the better we look and feel. When our minds become clear, decisions are easier; the emotions find their right place and bring us renewed fulfillment in even the smallest things we do. Life can sail along at a smoother pace without so many bumps and valleys when this energy is balanced." ----Nischala Joy Devi
Yoga is generally safe for most people because it is a non-aerobic form of movement. Yoga involves stretching in certain positions that also result in muscle strengthening and toning. It is important to point out that many of the postures involved can feel very strenuous especially to beginners who are not flexible or physically fit. With this in mind, it is advisable for any beginner to make sure they only take part in this practice under the watchful eye of an expert to make sure no injuries take place during the sessions. A qualified instructor can demonstrate all of the movements and provide modifications when necessary.
Always move your body gracefully, with sensitive, conscious awareness. Strive for relaxation and comfort, not outward achievement. Remember to always honor your physical limitations. On the mental level, try to immerse you mind and feel the attitudes promoted by the postures. The practice of yoga is meant to bring you into alignment with your own higher reality.
Mental stress and depression are common problems that many people face due to difficult situations in life. Yoga sessions can help resolve such issues. The meditation and mental training that takes place during the sessions have been proven to help in the management of anxiety, grief and depression. Besides the mental relief that you can get out of yoga, it is also worth pointing out that the practice has certain exercises that will also enhance the functioning of your respiratory system. This can help improve deep breathing and respiratory problems. However, yoga is a life-enhancing practice and one should not use it as a substitute for proper medical attention.
Even though there are lots of benefits you can get from therapeutic yoga poses, you must make sure you practice it in the right way. Some important tips on making sure things turn out well include having a qualified instructor especially during your first session. Always have expert guidance in the beginning to avoid costly mistakes especially when changing from one exercise or posture to a new one that you have not done before. It is also important to understand that the practice is not meant to inflict any pain. Strain brings tension and even injury, not harmony. If you do everything right, yoga can greatly enhance your quality of life. It is an ideal exercise because it fosters balance, relaxation, flexibility, and strength in a gentle, nonstrenuous way. Yoga enourages good posture to help prevent musculoskeletal problems. The stillness and focus on breathing allows one to become peaceful and more in touch with emotions.
Yoga and Pregnancy. Yoga enhances the mind-body connection during pregnancy. It is an ideal exercise for pregnant women because it fosters balance, relaxation, flexibility, and strength in a gentle, nonstrenuous way. Yoga encourages good posture to help prevent musculoskeletal problems. The stillness and focus on breathing allows women to become peaceful and more in touch with emotions. Yoga is recommended for fatigue, low back pain, nausea, anxiety, headaches, muscle aches, and most other discomforts of pregnancy.
Re-establishing wellness is a gradual process, but centuries of yoga practice has shown that, for those who persevere, greater harmony and well-being will always result.