WHAT IS YOGA
Does Yoga have Ancient Origins?
Yoga is an ancient form of exercise which originated in India over 5,000 years ago. It focuses on strength, flexibility and breathing to boost physical and mental well-being. The word “yoga” means “to yoke” or “unite” and yoga is so much more than just a physical exercise alone as it helps unite mind, body and spirit. At a deeper level, yoga seeks to unite the individual with the universal. The main components of yoga are postures (a series of movements designed to increase strength and flexibility) and breathing. There are several different types of yoga and many disciplines within the practice which combine physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation.
As a powerful form of mind-body medicine, yoga approaches health in a holistic manner, recognizing that physical ailments also have emotional and spiritual components. At its heart, yoga is a comprehensive system for self-development and transformation.
Why Practice Yoga?
Yoga teaches you how to relax and release tension as well as helping to strengthen and stretch your muscles. It also helps balance and integrate mind, body and spirit, to enhance energy flow and stimulate the body's own natural healing processes. Yoga can ease symptoms of stress and anxiety as it promotes a focus on the present moment, guiding thoughts away from anxiety or worry about future events, shifting the balance from the sympathetic nervous system (or the fight-or-flight response) to the parasympathetic nervous system.
What are the Benefits of Yoga?
Dozens of scientific trials of varying quality have been published on yoga. Modern science is starting to provide some concrete clues as to how yoga works to improve health and wellness. So you have even more motivation to step onto your mat and give it a try!
Listed below are some of the many benefits of yoga
Improves your flexibility and builds muscle strength
Releases tension in your limbs
Perfects your posture and protects your spine
Prevents cartilage and joint breakdown
Improves your bone health
Supports your connective tissue
Increases your blood flow
Drains your lymph glands and boosts immunity
lowers your blood pressure and blood sugar
Regulates your adrenal glands
Improves your balance
Maintains your nervous system
Boosts your mood and reduces anxiety as you focus on the present
Gives you peace of mind and helps you sleep better
Boosts your immune system
Gives your lungs space to breathe
Keeps allergies and viruses at bay
Helps or prevents digestive issues
Guides your body's healing response and helps avoid need for drugs
Connects you with your inner-guidance and gives you inner strength
Promotes a healthy lifestyle and encourages self care
Increases your self-esteem and builds awareness for transformation
Most studies agree that yoga is a safe and effective way to improve your overall health and wellness as it increase physical activity, improves strength, flexibility and balance and also promote mental well-being.
Different Types of Yoga
There are many different styles of yoga, such as Ashtanga, Bikram, Hatha, Iyengar, Sivananda and Vinyasa. Some styles are more vigorous than others, while some may have a different area of emphasis, such as posture or breathing. No style is necessarily better or more authentic than any other. The key is to choose a class appropriate for your fitness level.
Yoga classes can vary in duration but typically last between 45 and 90 minutes. A longer class will give you more time for learning breathing and relaxation techniques. It's worth speaking to a teacher about their approach before you sign up for a class to see if it best fits your ability and needs.
Where can I find a Yoga class?
No specific qualifications are required to teach yoga in the UK, but it is generally accepted that teachers need to be insured. Some teachers may have a teaching certificate and accreditation from a yoga association.
The main UK yoga associations are:
British Wheel of Yoga (BWY), the Sport England-recognised governing body for yoga
These associations all list teachers and classes near you on their websites.
There may well be classes listed in your local paper.
Yoga on the internet
It is advisable to join a class to ensure you are getting into the correct posture to avoid injury.
However, if you are not keen to join a class or there are none local to you, there are many yoga classes on the internet. Adriene Mishler is a personal favourite, search www.yogawithadriene.com and you will find yoga to suit your mood and fitness levels from beginner to more advanced.
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