Yoga Benefits Health

The world's most ancient science

ddog1Yes, Yoga is the world's oldest science with a history dating back at least 15,000 years. In the Christianised Western culture, people may think this is impossible, but through the discoveries of archaeology and the translation of ancient texts, this is completely verified.

As a science, yoga does not set out to define or capitalise on anything, rather it is a step-by-step process, a system of self-study and evaluation through which health and vitality grows.

Although yoga developed in India, its practices are common to all people regardless of skin colour or gender. As the world opened up during the 19th century, seekers of truth began travelling to India and India yogis began travelling to the West to share their knowledge and wisdom.

During the cultural Revolution that began in the 1960s, yoga grew rapidly in popularity and their are no cities in the world where yoga is not practised. However in most western countries, the focus of yoga became the physical exercises known as asana's.

The physical system of health

Yoga asana is when performed occasionally acts as a tonic for the body and mind, they promote physical health and mental comfort. In the performance of yoga asana's, the body is stretched every which way and this system of exercise is more harmonious for the body than most other exercise systems.

As well as stretching, yoga exercises strengthen the physical body and help to balance all the other body systems including the circulatory and endocrine systems. The practice of yoga asana's can be used as a tonic to maintain general health and fitness, however many yogis who were once sick with tuberculous and other diseases associated with poverty have been completely cured with regular daily practice.

The initial stages of yoga are simply dealing with the physical, stretching and strengthening the muscles, creating more flexibility and a sense of ease, a sense of comfort or pleasantness within one's own body. As you probably know, the human body is prone to suffering from many aches, pains and sicknesses. When all those things cease to be a problem, then life becomes much more pleasant.

By simply focusing on one's body and working with it,
the mind becomes a little more disciplined and
a disciplined mind is more successful in life.

The goal of yoga

When looking at yoga as a system or as a path, creating and maintaining a healthy body is the first step and for some people this may take a lifetime. But the second step is to simply sit down and become still and this is a stillness of mind and body.

This sitting still is generally referred to as meditation. In stillness the body's own non-nervous system keeps the heart pumping and maintains the physical body. The mind instead of looking outwards begins to look inwards and here brain activity slows down and what we refer to as the mind becomes restful.

This rest fullness provides a relaxation deeper than what can be achieved in sleep however once one returns to worldly activity, the enthusiasm and zest for life is increased and that enhances the capacity for greater success in life.

How can I learn yoga?

Generally the best option is to look for a class in your own neighbourhood. If you live in a large city you will likely have a choice and you can try them all out before deciding on a class to commit to. Over a few weeks you'll start to get the hang of the exercises and you can do some of them at home between classes to accelerate your progress.

If there are no classes in your vicinity, every good bookstore has a range of yoga books and videos. You can also buy these online but you'll also find a free resource on YouTube. One of the best introductory yoga practices is a '90 minute Isha Upa Yoga Practice'. That's what it's called and you can just search on YouTube to find it.

Is yoga against my religion?

Yoga is not a religion and there is nothing that you need to believe. It is simply a matter of trying out the exercises and if you feel better afterwards that's great. You may also get a similar benefit from distance running or mountain climbing but there is absolutely nothing to believe in and many say that yoga is also the science of religion because whatever religion a person belongs to will gain more insight into it.

What is the experience in class?

Some classes may be a bit hot and sweaty whereas some maybe so slow as to be downright boring. But if you are attending a hatha yoga class, that's what it's called when you do the physical exercises, some exercises may be easy and some may be challenging. It is simply a matter of doing what you can and of anything is too difficult you can watch and contemplate that maybe you could do that one day.

At all stages during the class the teacher should be there to assist.

What do people wear to yoga classes?

Yoga in Times Square NY on a very warm day

Yoga in Times Square, NY on a very warm day

Fashion is a wicked thing, females who are slim and attractive often wear body hugging yoga tights and a top that can scarcely contain their boobs whereas average people are more likely to wear a T-shirt and shorts, like clothes you can walk home in after class and not look like a hooker. Some men try to look hunky but most just don't care but in class it's generally barefoot and for the sake of their health, women should either not wear a bra or else wear a soft bra that allows the body to move freely.

What should I not do in class?

Some people say that you shouldn't fart, but if you must you really have to let it out that also goes with sneezing laughing for any other self-expression it's going to leave you feeling better. But seriously, it's just a matter of fitting yourself in and doing your best to follow the instructions. If you don't understand anything then ask.

Isha Foundation
Canterbury Yoga (NZ)


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