What is Yoga?
Yoga is a complex and ancient practice that’s used to enhance the mental and physical wellbeing of those who practice it. Although yoga consists of many elements, yoga as practiced in several parts of the world typically emphasizes on strength, breathing, flexibility and meditation.
Male yoga practitioners are referred to as yogis while their female counterparts are referred to as yoginis.
History of Yoga
Yoga as a practice is believed to have its origins in India about 5000 years ago. The practice has been passed down from one generation to another over the years. It is now practised in almost every country on earth.
The earliest known written record on yoga dates back to about 2,000 years ago and it was written by an Indian sage known as Patanjali. The work is commonly referred to as “Yoga Sutra” and it is a guidebook on how one can learn how to control emotions and grow spiritually by mastering their mind.
Although the modern yoga is well known for its poses and postures, that has not been always it’s key component of yoga. Early practitioners of yoga focused on attaining expended spiritual energy by using different breathing techniques and mental focus.
The Philosophy of Yoga
The main philosophy of yoga is that the body, spirit and mind are all one and cannot be separated. The ultimate goal of yoga is to attain a sustained state of self-awareness.
There are six branches of yoga each with its own unique characteristics and representing a different focus.
These branches are:
- Hatha yoga: The mental and physical branch that aims at getting the best out of our bodies and mind.
- Tantra yoga: This branch is all about the consummation of a relationship.
- Bhakti yoga: The branch that aims at establishing a path of devotion, a positive way to channel emotions and cultivate acceptance and tolerance.
- Karma yoga: a path of service aiming at creating a future free from selfishness and negativity.
- Raja yoga: This branch is all about discipline and focus and it achieves this through meditation and strict adherence to the eight limbs of yoga which are a series of disciplinary steps.
- Jnana yoga: This branch of yoga is all about wisdom and developing the intellect through study.
Does Yoga have any health benefits?
Despite there being a lot of research on the subject of the health benefits of Yoga, none has been done on a large sample of people or of high quality to conclusively adopt its findings. However, most studies show that yoga can be used to help increase one’s physical activity and also calm the mind.
According America’s NIH, several yoga studies have tried to attribute several aspects of wellness to the practice. These aspects include ability to manage stress better, improved mental health, better sleep and improved ability to balance the body.
There is also some evidence that practicing yoga regularly can result to health benefits for people with heart diseases, blood pressure, pains and aches.
Other potential benefits of yoga include:
- Relieving menopause pain
- Help in quitting smoking
- Help in losing weight
Are there risks of practicing Yoga?
Yoga is generally considered a safe form of physical activity when performed under the watch of an experience guide. Although uncommon however, as with any other form of physical activity, injuries can occur with the most common injuries being strains and sprains.
If you are a beginner, is it always good to avoid extreme poses and difficult techniques such as forceful breathing, lotus and headstand.
Yoga should not be used as a replacement of convectional medicine for those using the practice to manage conditions but rather as a supplement.
Yoga has changed a lot over the years from a focus on one’s mental state and spirituality to more about fitness, poses and stretches that are designed to simulate physical energy and inner peace.
Practising yoga has shown to have mental, physical, health and spiritual benefits. However, yoga should not be replaced with convectional medicine for those with health conditions but rather as a supplement.