The Benefits of Yoga
There are many benefits that come from regularly practising Yoga, both physical and mental. Some of these include increasing your flexibility, toning and strengthening your body, and improved posture and co-ordination. In addition to this, Yoga can also provide mental clarity by calming anxieties, and enhancing your concentration and attentiveness, which is perfect after a hard and stressful day at work.
Yoga can be both challenging and transformative. Some people are initially attracted to it from a physical point of view, looking to "get fit", but through regular practise, people often discover a much more personal change. By reconnecting us with our breath, Yoga can help us to unlock our own inner potential, exploring the limits and possibilities of our bodies, and live more mindful and conscientious lives within ourselves.
A Brief History and Philosophy of Yoga
Yoga is an ancient discipline that is a harmony between body and mind. It has its origins in India around 2,000 years ago. The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuj which is often translated as ‘union’. Yuj covers the union of mind and body and a union involving all beings.
The bodily postures, known as asanas, are probably the most emphasized part of Yoga in the West. However, Yoga is much more than just a set of asanas, and the asanas are only one of the limbs that make-up the Eight Limbs of Yoga. In Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, the eightfold path is called ashtanga, which translates as "eight limbs". These eight steps act as guidelines on how to live a meaningful, ethical and well-balanced life. Yoga is a foundation for compassion, both for ourselves and for all living things. Yoga awakens our awareness of our relationship with others and the environment and the choices we make – not just those choices we make on the Yoga mat.
Yoga is also about physical alignment, focusing the mind, and bringing an awareness of the breath. Breathing is an essential part of Yoga: this is a way that the union of mind and body is expressed. By turning our awareness inward and focusing on the breath, we allow ourselves to reconnect with our true selves, creating a harmony between mind and body.
There are many types of Yoga: Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Jnana Yoga among many others. What unites all the different types is a union of mind, body and breath.