Yoga Poses And What They Achieve

  Yoga has been described as a science which seeks to achieve the harmonious and balanced development of the body, mind and soul.  It is a system which allows us to bring culture, balance and happiness to ourselves.  It works via a need for strong mental discipline and the ancient theories, which it is based on regarding the interconnection between the mind and body, are now being regularly supported by modern scientific theory.  Yoga consists of a number of different exercises or poses.

  Examples of these poses are the cat and cow poses.  Both are connected and begin with you on all fours on the floor.  Arching the back upwards like a cornered cat places you in the cat pose and the reverse, lowering the back puts you into the cow pose.

  Another common form of exercise is a forward bend that will help in the stretching of the lower back and hamstring muscles.  There are a number of other advantages to forward bends:  They release tension in the back neck and shoulder as well as increasing the flexibility of the spine.  Forward bends can be uncomfortable if you have any injuries in the next or back area, but regularly performing will help assists in the recovery of these injuries and even strengthen the area for the future.

  The counterpart of a forward bend is a back bend.  These open up the chest, hips and rib cage area.  As well as strengthening the arms, they also provide increased strength and flexibility to the shoulders.  This type of exercise is fantastic at increasing the stability of the spine, but is also useful for relieving built up tension along the front of the body and the hips.  The relationship between back and forward bends is a perfect example of the importance of the bodies balance in Yoga.  

  Hatha Yoga poses were developed in India during the fifteenth century.  They are designed as an aid to relaxation and healing and usually introduced with a concept of "the contemplation of one reality".  The result of using these exercises properly and in conjunction with suitable breathing exercises and meditation is an increase in vitality, physical health and a stronger mental health.  Hatha Yoga exercises have become a part of numerous different Yoga disciplines over the years and it's quite common to see exercises such as the half moon posture, the bow posture of the salutation posture even if it is not Hatha Yoga you are practising.  This is because the principles of Yoga and the movements and balances required are fairly consistent from one discipline to another.
  Another simple Yoga exercise is doing the twist.  Twists will strengthen and stretch your back or abdominal muscles and help to increase the flexibility of your spine.  They also aid in increasing your bodies circulation that brings oxygen supplies to your cells.  This fresh blood and oxygen supply that is released as you twist will improve the functioning of your bodies internal organs.

  A yoga session will often begin with a standing pose.  These are a very good low impact, low stress starting point for a Yoga session.  Standing poses benefit the legs and hips and help provide a sense of centring, balance and of course strength to the legs themselves.  The end of a Yoga session is usually marked by a group of poses known as Relation and Restorative Poses.  This group of exercises is designed to give the positive energies and forces released by the Yoga session to move throughout your body and benefit you completely.

Learn Yoga - Step by Step

  The benefits of Yoga are well know to everyone who has ever tried the discipline but if you are new to Yoga let me recap.  Yoga is a fantastically popular and effective way of strengthening you physically as well as mentally and spiritually.  This last 'spiritual' aspect may turn some people off, but it's not something that needs to be associated with religion.  Really the best alternate word for the spiritual strength of Yoga is contentment or happiness.  It allows you to be a calmer person and more happy with yourself.  Put like that it sounds pretty great doesn't it?

  So you've probably heard a little about Yoga and wondered what it's all about.  you probably have a few preconceptions and maybe an image of an old man with a long beard sitting in the lotus position springs into your head in automatic association with the word.  Let's go through step by step what you can expect in a typical Yoga session.

Step One:  The Introduction and Preparation.

  Most Yoga classes begin in a standing position.  There are both mental and physical reasons for this and they are closely connected.  The standing position is the most natural Human position there is.  Leonardo Da Vinci produced a famous scientific picture of the symmetry of the human body when it is in it's natural standing position.  The outstretched arms and legs can have a perfect circle drawn around them and this is true of everyone regardless of their height or weight.  What this means is that a standing pose comes naturally to us - we are not worried about getting it wrong and we can concentrate of the state of the body.  Breathing exercises will be a key part of the warm up stage for your routine.  This is the only time in your life you will be 'taught' to breath and it's a skill which allows people to restore calm to their bodies and thoughts.

Step Two:  The Main Routine

  This is the art of your Yoga session which will vary the greatest depending on what forms of Yoga you are learning.  While the individual exercises you will be doing are going to be quite different, the nature of them will be very similar.  This will mean moving into certain poses and positions and holding those poses to allow the body to stretch out muscles and muscle groups that in many cases haven't been given much attention during the week.  Some Yoga teachers will talk to you about energy points of chakra's.  These are important junctions in your body where congestion occurs and stretching them out allows energy to flow freely around your body.

Step Three:  Ending the Session

  While the main session is about releasing pent up energies, this stage of your Yoga workout is all about allowing that energy to flow around your body.  Many people have trouble with thinking about some strange mystic force that is flowing through you and driving it to certain parts of your body.  If you are one of them just mentally substitute the word 'energy' with the word 'blood'.  We know that the job of blood is to carry nutrients and oxygen around our body, and we know that if any part of our body is lacking in this supply that we will become ill, so it's not a huge stretch to think of blood as the mystic energy force that brings health around our body, and exercises such as Yoga as being the method of ensuring the smooth and successful flow of that blood.

The Three Chief Benefits Of Yoga

  Four thousand years ago Yoga was practiced in India, today it is popular all over the world and in numerous different styles and forms.  Not only is the popularity of this form of exercises remarkable, but so is the results and benefits that people are getting from Yoga every day.  The benefits can be broadly split into three different groups - physical benefits, mental benefits and spiritual benefits.  Which benefits are most important to an individual will vary based on their preconceptions and motivations, but anyone can experience beneficial results in all three areas from a prolonged use of Yoga.

Physical Benefits

  The first types of benefits are those purely on a physical level.  Yoga is at it's core a group of exercises.  Some disciplines will use these exercises to prepare the body for a deeper meditative process, but they will still experience physical benefits from performing them as exercises.  The deep breathing exercise has immediate health benefits due to increasing the intake of oxygen into the system.  This oxygen is transported by the blood to our organs and tissues, which will become sick without sufficient oxygen and nutrients.  Frequently these tissues and organs are starved of nutrients due to a number of reasons including poor air intake or quality, bad circulation or disease within the body.  Yoga increases the oxygen intake, removes blockages in the circulation to ensure it's safe delivery and also stimulates the lymphatic system to aid in the removal of toxins from our system, leaving our bodies auto immune system more free to deal with invading disease or viruses.

  Beyond this internal health which many people take for granted, Yoga will also greatly increase a persons balance, flexibility and muscle strength.

Mental Benefits.

  Many people see this as the most import benefit that we can gain from Yoga.  It will of course depend on what your priorities are but the mental benefits of Yoga are certainly impressive.  The ability to focus on ones breathing has a natural consequence of allowing extraneous thoughts to melt away and a state of calmness to be introduced.  This is not a feat to be taken lightly as it provides a valuable skill in the ability to remain calm amidst turmoil.  A mother can use this when everything happens at once in the home, a businessperson can use it to focus on a single task despite everyone around him being panicked or a soldier can use it to block out the bullets and noise and focus on an important task.
  Yoga also requires a high level of discipline from those practicing it - both the discipline required to perform the exercises themselves and the discipline needed to stick to a regular exercise regime.  Again this is something that comes surprisingly easy to people once they have mastered the basis of the Yoga breathing exercises.

Spiritual Benefits

  Generally newcomers to yoga will not understand these benefits for some time.  There are a number of benefits that can fall into the 'spiritual' category.  Yoga itself is built around a philosophy that includes it's own set of ethics, but these are seldom taught as part of Western Yoga practise.  Instead the spiritual benefits we talk about tend to be a persona acceptance of yourself and contentment with your place in life.  For some people it goes beyond that but discussing spiritual feelings is always difficult to do so broadly.  Overall the level of spiritual satisfaction you get is likely to depend on your own personal beliefs.

Frequently Asked Questions On Yoga

  Yoga has been around for an incredibly long time and over that period different practitioners have added their own refinements and styles into the basic Yoga discipline.  There are so many different styles now it is nearly impossible to count, but they all stem from the same core philosophy and methodology.  Unfortunately the multiple different styles often lead newcomers to the exercise discipline to become very confused as to what they are doing and what they can hope to achieve with Yoga.  In this article we answer some of the common questions.

What is Yoga?

  This question is the most common from newcomers.  Most people have a general idea but they are not sure where Yoga fits into the world.  Is it an exercise?  Is it a philosophy?  Is it a form of physical therapy?  Is it a spiritual process?  The answer is that to different people Yoga is all of these things.  At it's core it is a group of exercises and poses which are very low impact and work by strengthening the body and increasing it's flexibility through static exercise.  This means that each pose will 'stretch' a certain area and the body benefits from this stretch by increased blood flow and energy release.  Many of the exercises release tension from areas of the body that regular activities do not cater to.  Because Yoga is performed slowly and with a strong emphasis on correct breathing patterns there is also a strong mental and spiritual element to the exercise.  It is seen as a way of cleansing mind, body and spirit.

Do I Need To Be Religious To Get The Most Out Of Yoga?

  As mentioned above Yoga is different things to different people.  There are many people in the world who perform Yoga purely for it's spiritual benefits.  There are many others who perform Yoga purely for the physical benefits associated with it.  What you get out of Yoga will depend largely on your mindset, your openness to new ideas and your ability to let yourself fall fully into a meditative state.  For some people this is very difficult at first, but that is still not going to prevent them from getting the physical benefits associated with Yoga classes.  You will find that even if you do not have any strong spiritual base you will still benefit from an increase in your self-confidence and personal contentment.

Where Can I Do Yoga?

  Practically anywhere.  Many people practice Yoga in their homes every day.  Others will go to the local park and practice Yoga with a group of friends.  To begin with it's a good idea to inquire at your local gym about Yoga classes, many of them will be holding Yoga every day.  Even if they aren't they will be able to tell you where the best place to learn Yoga is.  Some local councils sponsor Yoga classes in their area in recognition of the benefits to people who exercise regularly.  One of the big advantages of a Yoga based exercise regime is that there is no expensive equipment to buy and then store around your house.  Some poses are assisted by cushions to support the body, but in general the only thing you need is your body.

I'm Not Very Fit - Is Yoga For Me?

  Yes.  Very much so.  One of the fantastic things about Yoga is that the exercises and poses you will learn can be adjusted to your level.  Fitness isn't usually a problem because the exercises are slow and often static, but your body will become better at performing them over time as your strength and flexibility improves.  Knowing your limit and ensuring that you don't 'ease up' out of habit gain the best benefit.

  Hopefully you will now have a good understanding of what yoga is and why you should be doing it.  Remember that Yoga is something that once learned can be practiced anywhere you like and as often as you like.  Indeed, this is one of the key components of Yoga's popularity.