Yoga is a spiritual and physical practice that promotes peace, balance, strength and flexibility. It’s also known to ease chronic diseases and symptoms.
There’s no one-size-fits-all definition for yoga, but research has found three common themes. These are what make yoga so special. The yogi is in tune with the body and the breath, and they’re mindful of their thoughts.
Yoga is an ancient discipline, believed to have started in Northern India around 5,000 years ago. It is believed to have been first imparted by Lord Shiva to seven of his disciples, known as the Adiyogis.
It encourages discipline, accuracy, thoroughness and dedication and aims to master the body, quiet the mind and achieve an ultimate state of enlightenment, or Moksha. This may be a union of the individual soul (Atman) with a universal reality, as in Hinduism; or with a particular deity, as in Buddhism.
The earliest written record of yoga is found in the Rig Veda, one of the oldest sacred texts. This is followed by the Upanishads, a collection of philosophical teachings by Rishis, or seers. The sage Patanjali wrote a compendium of aphorisms on an eight-limb path to Moksha, which includes physical and mental discipline (Yama, Niyama), restraint (Pratyahara), controlled postures (Asana), breath control (Pranayama), concentration (Dharana) and meditation (Samadhi).
In yoga, asanas are body postures that benefit the mind and the body. Performing asanas helps in losing weight, stabilises menstrual cramps, improves digestion and boosts heart health. It also strengthens the muscles and helps relieve stress and insomnia.
Asana is one of Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga, alongside yamas and niyamas, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. The asanas are done on a mat and help you to focus your mind on the breath and on a state of consciousness beyond the physical dimensions.
It is recommended that you practice asana under an expert until you perfect it. However, you must not do asanas just to show off to others that you’re practicing yoga. This is silly. Yoga is not about the asanas, but balancing the two basic vehicles without which you can’t go through life – the body and the mind.
Practicing yoga exercises and breathing techniques strengthens the connection between mind and body. Breathing is viewed as life force and yogis believe that consciously controlling it leads to good health.
Yogic breathing, or pranayama, combines passive inhalations with powerful exhalations to improve respiratory health and calm the mind. It also improves mental focus, emotional regulation and sleep quality.
There are many different pranayama techniques, and scientific research on the benefits of each is limited. It is important to seek guidance from a certified yoga teacher when learning these techniques. This way, you will be able to ensure that the practice is safe and appropriate for your specific needs. You can find a qualified yoga teacher by searching online or visiting your local gym. It is also possible to learn these breathing practices on your own by downloading a yoga app.
Mantra is any word or sound that can help you keep focused and reduce chitta vritti (mind chatter). You may repeat the mantra silently to yourself, correlate it with your breathing or choose to chant it, it is up to you.
The most popular mantra is OM, which represents the primordial sound of creation and can be heard in every cell of our bodies. It is said that by reciting OM, we can manifest what we desire.
Other mantras can have a spiritual interpretation and reflect our human longing for truth, reality, light, immortality, peace or love. The power of a mantra lies in its repetition and its vibrational energy. Regular mantra meditation helps yogis to move beyond the personal and connect with higher cosmic consciousness.
Meditation is a powerful technique that can help reduce stress, improve focus and promote relaxation. It can also increase feelings of love, compassion and sympathy.
Many people use meditation to treat depression, anxiety and pain. However, it is important to note that meditation should not be used as a substitute for treatment for these conditions and should only be practiced under expert guidance.
Some types of meditation include moving your body, focusing on an object or using a mantra. Choose a quiet place free of distractions and find a position that is comfortable for you to sit in. It is common for your mind to wander during meditation, but don’t get discouraged. Instead, gently guide it back to your breath or the object you’re focusing on.