Originally from India, yoga is an ancient practice which serves as a relaxing, invigorating and stress-relieving form of exercise providing numerous psychological and physical benefits. The trend of yoga is catching up fast all over the world. Yoga gurus from India are introducing everything about yoga to the west as it integrates body, mind and spirit.
What is yoga?
The word "Yoga" is derived from the Sanskrit word 'Yuj' which means union of an individual's consciousness with the universal consciousness. Many people think that yoga is a physical exercise where they twist, turn, stretch and breathe in the most complex ways. But in actuality it's the most superficial aspect of unfolding the infinite potential of the human mind and soul.
When Steve Jobs passed away, his family and friends were presented a small gift in the form of a book on the "Ancient science of yoga and its time-honored tradition of meditation." This speaks of the impact of yoga on people from all walks of life.
Benefits of yoga:
- Enables a relaxed state of mind
- Builds confidence
- Reduces stress
- Bolsters creativity
- Improves immune system
- Improves health of heart
Types of yoga
There are different types of yoga and all of them have specific benefits. While doing yoga, you should be aware of what kind of yoga you are doing and what are its benefits. Some key yoga exercises and their benefits are described here in brief.
1. Astangana Yoga: This is one of the oldest kinds of yoga and has been mentioned got in Patanjali - A Sanskrit verse book. Its name in Sanskrit implies eight limb path that describes yoga positions, breathing, postures, concentration on objects, meditation etc.
2. Hatha-Yoga: This form of yoga teaches about the poses, mudra, pranayama and movements. It is a great starting point for the new yogis.
3. Jnana Yoga: Jnana means 'knowledge', but in terms of yoga it means the process of meditative awareness and inner knowledge.
4. Kundalini Yoga: This yoga is concerned with the awakening of the psychic centers of the chakras which exist in every individual. There are six main chakras in the human body. These are: sahasrara-, ajna-, visuddhi-, anahata-, manipura-, swadistana- and mooladhara chakra.
5. Bhakti Yoga: This branch is based completely on belief and faith. According to this, the person places their faith in God or any other higher consciousness. This yoga is regarded to cure anyone's mental and emotional problems.
6. Mantra Yoga: This yoga is practiced through the chanting of mantras. It is believed that positive vibes released by these mantras can help a person to achieve his dreams. These mantras have a lot of power and some guidance is required to chant them.
7. Kriya Yoga: This yoga depends on physical activities and its main focus is to achieve the inner peace. Pranayama comes under Kriya yoga and provides mental and emotional fitness.
8. Kripalu Yoga: This yoga type deals with the consciousness and of all types of yoga and is the most relaxing one. It releases all the emotional and spiritual blockages that are stopping you to achieve your goals.
9. Swara Yoga: This is done to control the breathing properly.
Attending yoga classes outside the home is an excellent way to understand yoga. However it may be difficult to join yoga classes sometimes. You can practice yoga at home to support your physical and mental strength.
Tips to practice yoga at home
Initial yoga practice:
- Attend a free yoga class if you don't know much about yoga. After trial class write down the asanas (poses) so that you can practice at home
- Try beginner's yoga class videos. You can easily get DVDs on how to do yoga for your home practice. Video DVDS on yoga and meditation will guide you on various yoga types
- You can also conduct online research on yoga and meditation and search for topics on different stages of asanas. Make sure you visit the websites who have certified instructors on their panel
Planning your home yoga practice
- It sounds easy to practice yoga at home, but it can be quite difficult to do. When yoga is done properly, it appears effortless else it would be challenging
- If you are practicing Yoga for the first time, it is advisable to practice through a yoga instructor, DVDs or online resources. You must understand that it takes many years of practice to know all the elements of yoga
- Before initiating a yoga practice, you must set your goals. Think about on which components of wellness you will work such as stamina, strength, anxiety, flexibility and depression. Add more goals to keep yourself challenged
- Consider having all the yoga equipments at home like yoga mats, a yoga belt and yoga block
- Decide your schedule of practicing yoga and meditation. Start with one or two sessions weekly and then build up towards everyday practice
- Choose a comfortable place to practice Yoga. Make sure you have plenty of space to practice
Executing asana practice
- Start your practice with a short meditation and chanting mantras. Sequence your asana practice from basic yoga. After meditation, set your intention for practice and then warm up with floor poses. Move from warm ups to standing poses. Then move towards inversions, back and forward bends, and end it with Savasana. Make sure you end yoga practice with a final relaxation pose
- Chanting mantra is a good way to relax the mind. Consider starting your chant with AUM, which is the most elemental sound. During chanting, you will feel a vibration in your lower belly. You can choose reciting mantras also to achieve the peace of mind
- Continue chanting and then switch to meditation directly
- Place your hands in prayer position and lightly touch the base of your palms and finally your fingers to make prayer hands
- Warm up your body with sun salutations. Doing a few rounds of Surya Namaskar can prepare your muscles and mind to practice
- Incorporate different asanas: Start with the easier asana and then move to the difficult ones. Do the asanas from each type of pose in sequence from standing poses, inversions, back bends to forward bends. Hold each asana for 3-4 breathes. Always balance asana that favor one side by doing opposite side
- Standing asanas: Do one or two standing asanas after Surya Namaskar. Begin yoga practice from tadasana and then move to trikonasana
- Move to inversions, forward bend and back bends
- Finish with closing posture: Holding sarvangsana is the best closing practice and then immediately move to matasayasna
- End your practice with savasana (Corpse Pose)
Yoga has countless benefits and with regular practice, anyone can become a master. To know more about yoga, watch videos on You Tube or you can buy video DVDs from Market or search the internet.