Yoga: what you need to know

Yoga is a mind and body exercise of ancient Indian philosophy, with a 5,000-year history. Various yoga types incorporate physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation or relaxation.

It has become popular in more recent years as a form of physical exercise focused on poses that encourage improved mind and body control and enhance wellbeing.

The practice includes many different forms of yoga and several disciplines. This paper discusses the past, philosophy and various branches of yoga.

What is yoga?

The South Asian yoga art has spread to every corner of the globe in the modern world. Although it’s now a common method of meditation and exercise, that has not always been the case.

History

Yoga exercise
Yoga has a long history of helping people achieve mental and physical balance.

No written record of yoga founder is available.

Male yoga practitioners are known as yogis, and are called yoginis by female yoga practitioners. All practiced and taught yoga long before there was any written account of yoga.

Throughout the next five decades yogis passed the discipline down to their students, and as the practice extended its global scope and popularity several different yoga schools grew.

The “Yoga Sutra,” an Indian sage Patanjali’s 2,000-year-old treatise on yogic philosophy, is a guidebook on how to master the mind, control the emotions and develop in spirit. The Sutra Yoga is the earliest written account of yoga, and one of the oldest texts in existence, providing the basis for all modern yoga.

Yoga is well known for its postures and poses but it wasn’t a crucial part of India’s original yoga practices. Fitness was not an overarching priority. Instead, practitioners and adherents of yogic tradition focused on other practices, such as increasing spiritual strength through methods of breathing and mental concentration.

At the end of the 19th century, tradition started to grow in prominence in the West. The 1920s and 1930s saw an explosion of interest in postural yoga, first in India and later in the West.

Philosophy

Yoga also uses images of a tree with roots, a trunk, buds, blossoms, and fruits to express its spiritual meaning and direction sessions. Every “branch” of yoga stands for a different emphasis and collection of features.

The six branches are:

  • Hatha yoga: This is the physical and mental branch designed to prime the body and mind.
  • Raja yoga: This branch involves meditation and strict adherence to a series of disciplinary steps known as the “eight limbs” of yoga.
  • Karma yoga: This is a path of service that aims to create a future free from negativity and selfishness.
  • Bhakti yoga: This aims to establish the path of devotion, a positive way to channel emotions and cultivate acceptance and tolerance.
  • Jnana yoga: This branch of yoga is about wisdom, the path of the scholar, and developing the intellect through study.
  • Tantra yoga: This is the pathway of ritual, ceremony, or consummation of a relationship.

Approaching yoga with a specific goal in mind will help a person decide which branch to follow.

Chakras

The word “chakra” literally means wheel turn.

Yoga believes that chakras are the centerpieces of energy, emotions, feelings and the body. Chakras decide how people perceive reality by emotional responses, impulses or aversions, levels of trust or fear and even physical signs and effects, according to yogic instructors.

If energy is blocked in a chakra, physical, mental or emotional imbalances that manifest in symptoms such as anxiety, lethargy or poor digestion are said to cause.

The other physical positions in Hatha yoga are Asanas. Those who practice yoga use asanas to free up energy and relax a chakra that is imbalant.

There are seven big chakras, each concentrating on itself:

  • Sahasrara: The “thousand-petaled” or “crown” chakra represents the state of pure consciousness. This chakra is located at the crown of the head, and the color white or violet represents it. Sahasrara involves matters of inner wisdom and physical death.
  • Ajna: The “command” or “third-eye chakra” is a meeting point between two important energetic streams in the body. Ajna corresponds to the colors violet, indigo, or deep blue, though traditional yoga practitioners describe it as white. The ajna chakra relates to the pituitary gland, which drives growth and development.
  • Vishuddha: The color red or blue represents the “especially pure” or “throat” chakra. Practitioners consider this chakra to be the home of speech, hearing, and metabolism.
  • Anahata: The “unstruck” or “heart” chakra relates to the colors green and pink. Key issues involving anahata include complex emotions, compassion, tenderness, unconditional love, equilibrium, rejection, and wellbeing.
  • Manipura: Yellow represents the “jewel city” or “navel” chakra. Practitioners connect this chakra with the digestive system, as well as personal power, fear, anxiety, developing opinions, and tendencies towards an introverted personality.
  • Svadhishthana: Practitioners claim that the “one’s own base” or “pelvic” chakra is the home of the reproductive organs, the genitourinary system, and the adrenal gland.
  • Muladhara: The “root support” or “root chakra” is at the base of the spine in the coccygeal region. It is said to contain our natural urges relating to food, sleep, sex, and survival, as well as the source of avoidance and fear.

Types

Modern yoga style
Modern yoga has a range of styles to suit everyone, whatever the desired outcome.

With a emphasis on exercise, energy, endurance, and respiration, modern yoga has evolved. It can help improve mental and physical health.

There are a number of yoga styles, and no style is more authentic or superior to another. The trick is choosing a class that matches your fitness level.

Types and Yoga styles can include:

Ashtanga yoga: Ancient yoga teachings are used for this form of yoga. Yet during the 1970s, it became popular. Ashtanga applies six defined sequences of postures which link each movement to breath quickly.

Bikram yoga: Also known as “soft” yoga, Bikram takes place in artificially heated rooms at temperatures of approximately 105 degrees and humidity of 40 per cent. It consists of 26 poses and a series of two exercises at breathing.

Hatha yoga: It is a common concept that teaches physical postures for any form of yoga. “Hatha” lessons typically act as a gentle introduction to the basic postures of yoga.

Iyengar yoga: This style uses a variety of supports such as blocks, covers, belts, chairs and bolsters to find the right balance in each pose.

Jivamukti yoga: Jivamukti means “liberation while living.” This form emerged in 1984 and incorporates spiritual teachings and practices which focus on the fast-paced flow between poses rather than the poses themselves.

The focal point is called vinyasa. Through class has a theme that is followed by scripture of yoga, singing, meditation, asana, pranayama, and music. Jivamukti yoga can be very painful physically.

Kripalu yoga: This kind of yoga helps practitioners to know, embrace and learn from their bodies. A Kripalu student learns by looking inward, to find their own degree of practice. Usually, the classes start with breathing exercises and gentle stretches, followed by a sequence of individual poses and final relax.

Kundalini yoga: Kundalini means “coiled like a snake.” Kundalini yoga is a meditation method which aims at releasing pent-up energy.

Usually a class begins with chanting and finishes with singing. Meanwhile it includes asana, pranayama, and personalized meditation to produce a particular result.

Power yoga: This active and aerobic form of yoga developed by practitioners in the late 1980s, based on the traditional ashtanga method.

Sivananda: That’s a five-point theory based scheme. This theory holds that proper breathing, relaxation, diet, exercise, and positive thinking work together to build a balanced lifestyle of yogic. Uses the same 12 basic asanas traditionally, booked by sun salutations, and poses of savasana.

Viniyoga: Viniyoga can adapt to anybody, regardless of their physical capacity. Teachers of viniyoga need a comprehensive training and aim to be anatomy and yoga therapy experts.

Yin: This is a quiet, meditative yoga practice, also called taoist yoga. Yin yoga allows the release of tension in key joints, including:

  • the ankles
  • knees
  • · hips
  • the whole back
  • neck
  • shoulders

Yin poses are passive, meaning that gravity shoulders most of the force and effort.

Prenatal yoga: Prenatal yoga employs postures built by professionals for women who are pregnant. It can help people get back into shape after pregnancy, and promote health idling pregnancy.

Restorative Yoga: A calming yoga form. In four or five basic poses, a person spends a restorative yoga class using props such as blankets and bolsters to sink into deep relaxation without making any effort to maintain the pose.

Risks and side effects

Yoga is low-impact and healthy for people while a well-trained coach is leading the exercise.

Injury due to yoga is an infrequent obstacle to continued practice, and serious injury due to yoga is rare. Before we continue, though, consider a few factors.

Before practicing yoga, someone who is pregnant or has an underlying medical condition, such as high blood pressure, glaucoma, or sciatica, will consult with their health care practitioner. They might need to change any of the yoga poses or stop it.

Beginners should avoid extreme poses and challenging techniques like headstand, lotus position, and breathing forcefully.

Do not substitute traditional medical treatment with yoga when using yoga to treat a illness, or delay seeing a health care provider for pain or some other medical problem.

Takeaway

Yoga is a custom that has evolved over time, going back five millennia. Traditional yoga focuses on the stretches and poses aimed at promoting inner harmony and physical strength.

Ancient yoga focused less on exercise and more on mental concentration and spiritual energy expansion. The Yoga Sutra, now considered the definitive guidebook for the practice of yoga, came into existence two thousand years ago.

There are several different forms of yoga depending on what people want from it, and the current physical fitness level of a individual. Many people, however, prefer to substitute traditional medicine with yoga for conditions and this may prevent a person from receiving the appropriate care.

People with other conditions should approach yoga slowly and with caution, such as sciatica.

Yoga will help promote an healthy, balanced lifestyle.

Q:

What is the safest way to start yoga if I have never done it before?

A:

Discuss with your healthcare provider and your yoga instructor the best way to start practicing yoga. In most cases, a “Yoga for Beginners” class will offer a series of low-intensity positions that will allow you to assess your flexibility and endurance.

How well you tolerate this introductory class can guide what other yoga practices you can investigate. Remember, the goal of modern yoga is to focus on your health, so do what feels most appropriate for your fitness level. Daniel Murrell, MD

Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

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