20 June 2009

What is yoga?

Most of the people who follow this blog will already know what yoga is. However, I am aware that this is not always the case... To some, yoga may sound vaguely familiar, others may have some misconceptions regarding the matter; whereas some may have never heard about it before.

To fully understand what yoga is, there are a wealth of resources available, with numerous books, videos and DVD's available in high street stores; and now, thanks to the internet, there are also a large number of websites that offer immediate answers at the click of a button. For time and space reasons, it is impossible for me to explain in great detail what yoga is in a single post. Therefore, I will try to cover the basic notions of yoga in the simplest way possible and hopefully, in the process, clear up and doubts and/or misconceptions that you may have about the matter.

Origins...

Yoga is an ancient form of physical movement which originates from Indian culture and philosophy, regarded as a divine science of life, revealed to enlightened sages through meditation. Archaeological finds in the Indus Valley, dating back to circa 3000 BC, show yogic postures and, as-of-yet, are the earliest known proof of the origins of yoga. Yoga is also referred to in The Vedas, The Mahabharata and The Upanishads. The Yogic science arose at the beginning of human civilization and was gradually evolved and developed by ancient sages throughout the world. There are some traditions that believe that yoga was a divine gift that was given to mankind to help realize it's divine nature.

Is it a religion?

Yoga is not, as widely believed, a religion, but rather has developed over many centuries as a means of strengthening and energizing the physical body. Yoga is often perceived as being a spiritual activity, and - although it is linked to both Hinduism and Buddhism - the real aim is to achieve a sense of physical and mental well-being.

What does it involve?

The word yoga derives from Sanksrit, meaning unite. It involves the practice of a series of physical exercises that are aimed towards - as I have already mentioned - bringing about a greater state of physical and mental well-being. These exercises are of several different types: asana (poses or postures), pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation, to name but a few.

Good fun and good for your health...

There are many benefits to practicing yoga on a regular basis, be it for recreational or health reasons. Yoga can be practiced at different levels of intensity, making it suitable for almost everybody. Just to highlight the health benefits of practicing yoga, in recent times, medical science has started paying attention to its therapeutic effects. Studies have shown that certain poses effectively relieve high blood pressure and that regular practice can help a variety of ailments such as: arthritis, sclerosis, chronic fatigue, asthma, varicose veins, cardiac conditions and women's health problems.

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