What is yoga?
Yoga helps to bring an awareness to your mind, body and soul’s needs.
I would describe yoga as an inward spiritual journey that then connects your mind, body and soul with the Divine.
Yoga allows us to connect with our true self and is an experience that is both unique to each individual and something that cannot be bought, inherited or understood by study alone but only through practice do we truly experience yoga. As quoted by Swami Sivananda: “An ounce of practice is better than a ton of study”.
Practising yoga helps us to understand that our bodies are mere vessels that we need to take care of by balancing and harmonising the body, mind (thoughts) and emotions. This is done through the practice of asana (exercise), pranayama (breathing), mudra (gestures or attitudes), bandha (locks for channelling energy), shatkarma (cleansing actions), together with proper diet. This practice together with positive thinking and affirmations helps us to prepare and purify the body for meditation.
Quote: According to BKS Iyengar “When the restlessness of the mind, intellect and self is stilled through the practice of yoga the yogi by the grace of the spirit within himself finds fulfilment” – Light on Yoga.
A practical and familiar starting point for most people to start practising yoga would be to focus on the physical body. When we understand about imbalances that occur in the body’s organs and systems then we can focus our yoga practice to bring the body back into a state of perfect coordination so that they work for the good of the whole body.
Yoga gives us a self awareness, physically, mentally and spiritually and is something that is intended to be practiced in daily life. Yoga moves from the physical body to the mental and emotional levels.
Quote: Swami Sivananda Saraswati Rishikesh explained yoga as a “….integration and harmony between thought, feeling and deed, or integration between head, heart and mind”. Gradually this awareness leads to an understanding of the more subtle areas of existence.
The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Yuj’, meaning to bind, join, attach, yoke or unite, to direct and concentrate ones attention on, to use and apply. It also means union or communion. It is the true union of our will with the will of God.
Yoga helped me to fully embrace the meaning of gratitude and that life is a privilege, something I am truly grateful for every morning I am woken.
How does yoga help us?
It helps to relax the nervous system and bring balance to our hormones as well as improving our overall fitness.
Yoga, as we know it today in the 21st Century, is playing a big part in the health, wellness and fitness industry in the western world.
Even though yoga is known to be a holistic therapy, medical scientists have proven that it does in fact directly affect the body’s systems and organs. Helping to relax the nervous system and bring balance to our hormones.
Having practiced yoga you should feel a steadiness within the body and mind and your limbs should feel light and relaxed.
It is a known fact that we need to keep our bodies moving and for me I have found that ‘movement through yoga’ (yoga flows) has helped me with flexibility, strength and stamina.
For me personally a daily practice of yoga, together with breathing techniques and positive affirmations, has lead me to practicing meditation and having a spiritual connection with the universe. This has helped me to achieve mental freedom from fear and anxiety.
How and where do you practice yoga?
In a class, one-to-one or at home?
My answer to the above question would be to do all three but if you are new to yoga then I would recommend starting with a class.
Start by finding your local class and drag a friend along with you. Going to a yoga class for the first time can be daunting. I would suggest that you go with an open mind and having no expectations of yourself.
When you get there, don’t be tempted to look around the class and try to copy the person on the mat next to you. Really try to focus on what the teaching is saying to you and follow the teachers instructions.
With an open mind, no expectations, no distractions from the mat next door and a bit of faith in yourself you can begin to let yourself relax and let go.
It may take you a while to find the right teacher, this won’t be because they a not good, but simply because all teachers teach differently based on what they believe in and feel comfortable teaching.
My advice to a beginner would be to experience as many different classes with different teachers until you find one that you really connect with and can trust.
Hatha yoga is a gentle introduction to the most basic yoga postures and is a great place to start. Each pose is known as an ‘Asana’ – this means a state of being in which you can remain physically and mentally steady, calm, quiet and comfortable whether you are holding the pose for 1 breath or relaxing into it for 10 minutes (Yin yoga).
One-to-One teaching is the optimal way to adapt yoga to meet your personal needs. It is also the traditional way of teaching yoga in India.
It gives you the opportunity to explore different areas of yoga practice, ie postures, meditation, breathing exercises, mudra (hand gestures) and mantras that can be personalised to meet your individual needs.
You can choose the length of time to practice which is usually a minimum of 1 hour.
If you are a beginner then try introducing a yoga practice into your week at home perhaps just one day to begin with and then increasing the number of days as you go.
There are plenty of books (I’m working on mine!) and tutorials on the internet to safely guide you through a practice.
Perhaps begin with a simple 10 minute all over body warm up in the morning to help get your joints moving then a 10 minute evening sequence to relax your body and mind before sleeping.
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