What is Yoga?
The meaning of yoga comes from the Sanskrit root "yuga," "to join" or "to unite," and indicates the total integration of the individual soul with the supreme or divine soul to obtain relief from pain and suffering. Charaka wrote that yoga is the means of salvation (moksa), which is the end of all miseries (vedana). YOGA is an ancient form of physical movement that has its roots in INDIAN culture and philosophy. The practice of YOGA employs the use of various physical motions that are believed to be essential to achieve a sense of both physical and mental well-being. YOGA is not a religion, but rather it has developed over many centuries as a means of strengthening and energizing the physical body.Yoga includes physical exercises to make you reach the ultimate goal of uniting your soul with the universe. It is a science that affects not only the conscious self but the subconscious as well. It is a practical physiological training, which if practiced can exalt man to the 'supra mundane level'.
What Yoga Is Not
There are too many misconceptions clouding the science of Yoga. People perceive it to be some kind of black or white magic, sorcery, physical or mental debauchery through which miraculous feats can be performed. For some it is an extremely dangerous practice which should be limited to only those who have renounced the world. Few others think it to be a kind of mental and physical acrobatism that is compatible only to a Hindu mind.
Yoga is regarded as a divine science of life, revealed to enlightened sages in Meditation. Stone seals in the Indus Valley which date back to around 3000BC show Yogic postures and this is the earliest archaeological evidence of Yoga's origin. These Yogic postures, resemble Lord Shiva and Parvathi (Indian God and Goddess) performing various Aasanaas (Postures) and practicing meditation. The Vedas - huge collection of ancient INDIAN scriptures - dating back to 2500 BC first mention Yoga. The tradition of yoga was born in India several thousand years ago. Its founders were the Rishis and Maharishis, great saints and sages. Yoga was also mentioned in the Upanishads, the Upanishads, and the Puranas (holy texts of the Hindu religion). Infact the Upanishads provide the main foundation of Yoga teachings.
How can yoga be practiced?
Yoga was developed independently
as a system of philosophy by Patanjali, the writer of the oldest text book of
yoga, the Yoga Sutra.
The art of yoga (as
described by Patanjali) is practiced through eight methods, which are yama
(abstinence), niyama (observance), asana (posture), Pranayama (regulation of
breath), pratyaha (withdrawal of senses), dhyana (fixed attention), dharana
(contemplation), and samadhi (absolute concentration).
Each of these methods in
themselves is an independent yogic discipline. If practiced in steps, however,
they are far superior. In the K-State Noontime Yoga classes we concentrate on
the postures, or asanas.
The word asana means "sthira sukhamasanam" or "seating oneself in a comfortable position." The asanas induce a sense of physical and mental relaxation. Some have been devised in such a manner that they can be practiced irrespective of age, sex, place, or climate, and without causing disturbance in your daily routine.
These yogic postures not only produce simple muscular actions, but they also rehabilitate the various vital organs.
Bear in mind, however, that your body must never be forced or fatigued while practicing these postures. Each posture should be carefully, slowly, patiently, and properly performed, otherwise the results will not be positive.
Why do yoga?
The short answer is that yoga makes you feel better. Practicing the postures, breathing exercises and meditation makes you healthier in body, mind and spirit. Yoga lets you tune in, chill out, shape up -- all at the same time.
For starters, yoga is good for what ails you. Specifically, research shows that yoga helps manage or control anxiety, arthritis, asthma, back pain, blood pressure, carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic fatigue, depression, diabetes, epilepsy, headaches, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, stress and other conditions and diseases. What's more, yoga:
- Improves muscle tone, flexibility, strength and stamina
- Reduces stress and tension
- Boosts self esteem
- Improves concentration and creativity
- Lowers fat
- Improves circulation
- Stimulates the immune system
- Creates sense of well being and calm.
Between work, home and all of the demands and stresses in between, it's easy to lose touch with who we are, that core essence with which we were born. Rushing around all day it sometimes feels like the "I" inside is simply the result of the things we do all day -- or the effects those things have on our minds, bodies and spirits.
Yoga gives us control of ourselves. It helps cut through the layers of mis-identities that arise in response to our actions, experiences and feelings. It calms the frenzy, clears the clutter and allows us to get back in touch with ourselves.
Check out these cool websites and know more about Yoga:
Click here for a story about Noontime Yoga
Click here to know what people of Indian descent think of Americans "borrowing" their culture?
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