Yoga - The practice of postures combined with breathing techniques to increase relaxation and concentration
Yoga is an Indian philosophy that combines the physical, mental and spiritual self by practising physical postures, breathing exercises as well as meditation. For about 7,000 years, it has been practised in India to influence the body, mind and spirit, as well as the breath to seek a harmonic balance.
In India, yoga was originally a spiritual means to reach enlightenment. Nowadays, it is practised by people all over the world to strengthen the body, increase flexibility, concentration and relaxation. Exercises focus on muscle (asanas) and breathing (pranayamas) exercises. When practising asanas, muscles are tensed and relaxed in time with the breath. The tissues are strengthened resulting in a balancing effect. The breathing exercises (pranayama) encourage the self healing process. Cleansing exercises concentrate on eyes, par nasal sinuses, stomach and intestines. All the exercises involve the body, mind and spirit to enhance body awareness as well as an awareness of inner processes.
Conscious postures (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama) and relaxation and concentration exercises (meditation) have a direct and positive influence on posture, flexibility and strength, both physical and mental.
As a result of the yoga boom in recent years, a variety of yoga types and schools have been developed focusing on different elements of yoga. Hatha yoga is the most practised form of yoga in the western world. It is also one of the most modern and combines all the physical elements of yoga.
Other yoga styles:
- Anti-gravitiy yoga/aerial yoga
- Asthtanga yoga
- Iyengar yoga
- Jivamukti yoga
- Jnana yoga
- Kundalini yoga
- Luna yoga
- Sivananda yoga
- Yoga of silence
Yoga has many health benefits. For example, it strengthens the body when suffering from back pain and posture problems; it strengthens muscles, ligaments and joints, improves flexibility and encourages blood circulation. Yoga is also a relaxation technique. There is specific yoga styles suited to particular health concerns and needs like back or antenatal yoga.
Related topics: Ornish, Dr. Dean , Qi , Meditation , The ‘Five Tibetans’ , Asanas