What is Yoga? An Introduction
I am going to introduce you to yoga in the way that I understand the practice. Ask any practitioner or teacher and you will get a different answer about what yoga is to them. I’ll share some of the basics and my philosophy on yoga. As well as, the wide array of mental, physical, and emotional benefits it can provide when practiced regularly.
Yoga was created 5,000 years ago in India as a comprehensive system for wellbeing. Touching on the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual elements of life. The practice of yoga includes 8 limbs:
- Asana – postures
- Yamas – restraints
- Niyamas – observances
- Pranayama – breathing
- Pratyahara – withdrawal of senses
- Dharana – concentration
- Dhyani – meditation
- Samadhi – enlightenment
Yoga is not a religion. But instead, a system of techniques for enriched living. Yoga contains many texts that explain the nature of higher awareness and fulfillment, as well as many methods for attaining awareness, fulfillment and ultimately enlightenment. The two best known texts are: the Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita.
Benefits of Yoga
- Muscle Strength
- Increased Mobility
- Yoga does not aim to increase flexibility, but instead mobility of joints.
- Improved Posture
- Spine Protection
- Strengthens Bone
- Increased Blood Flow
- Ups Your Heart Rate
- Boosts Immunity
- Decreases Blood Pressure
- Lowers Blood Sugar
- Improves Balance
- Relaxes Sympathetic Nervous System
- Encourages Deep Sleep
- Increase Lung Capacity
- Peace of Mind
- Decreases or Prevents IBS Symptoms
- Encourages Self-care
- Supports Connective Tissue
For even more benefits check out this Yoga Journal Artiction on 38 Health Benefits of Yoga
My Personal Yogic Philosophy & Practice
I practice yoga because it is a noncompetitive atmosphere. When practicing yoga I use the term “growing edge” to balance and manage my competitive nature. I wish to build strength, improve my form, cultivate mindfulness and in that process reduce stress.
To work at your growing edge, do poses with the best form possible while challenging your body and mind, without slipping over the edge into competitive territory i.e. physical injury and mental frustration. The growing edge encourages a balance between challenge and compassion for yourself.
A Personal Practice
Each human body is magnificent and limited in different ways. My hips and hamstrings are incredibly tight. No matter how much I practice, I may never do a spilt. I have learned not to compare myself to my neighbor, no matter how much better or worse they are in one pose to the other. In yoga, the goal is to honor our abilities, strengths, and weaknesses.
Yoga is a powerful tool because it encapsulates our entire personal being: mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And with that comes responsibility to love and accept your body as it is and for what is does every day. Empowerment!
Incorporating the other limbs of Yoga
Yoga has empowered me to develop so much more than a physical fitness habit. It’s a self-care opportunity and I build upon my morals and values to cultivate an awareness that travels with me throughout my daily life. It helps me be mindful when I am eating and how I represent myself in the world.
Prep for Meditation
The movements and breathing in yoga ease the mind to prepare your body to sit in meditation. My single greatest accomplishment in yoga? Being able to sit in meditation and notice the powerful calm that meditation brings to moment-to-moment life.
First-Time, Take a Class
I encourage you to try an in-person yoga class if it is your first time practicing. Yoga honors the student-teacher relationship by encouraging supportive teachers to help students avoid injury in frustration by practicing improper form. Let me know how your class goes!
Let me know what yoga means to you in the comments below!