Origin and Background

Yoga is an age-old science made up of different disciplines of mind and body. It has originated in India 2500 years ago and is still effective in bringing overall health and well being to any person who does it regularly. The word yoga is based upon a Sanskrit verb Yuja. It means to connect, to culminate or to concur. It’s the culmination of mind and body or the culmination of Jiva and Shiva (soul and the universal spirit). It’s also a culmination of Purush and Prakriti (Yin and Yang).

The term Yoga has a very broad scope. There are several schools or systems of Yoga. Dnyanayoga (Yoga through knowledge), Bhaktiyoga (Yoga through devotion), Karmayoga (Yoga through action), Rajayoga (Royal or supreme Yoga) and Hathayoga (Yoga by balancing opposite principles of body). All of these schools of Yoga are not necessarily very different from each other. They are rather like threads of the same cloth, entangled into each other. For thousands of years, Yoga has been looked upon as an effective way of self-improvement and spiritual enlightenment. All these systems essentially have this same purpose; only the ways of achieving it are little different for each of them. In its most popular form, the term Yoga has come to associate with the last of these systems which is Hathayoga. For the purpose of this article too, the term Yoga is used with the same meaning. Although, when it comes to Philosophy of Yoga, which is at the end of this article, the term Yoga will have a broader scope.

Asana and Pranayama

Let’s take a detailed look at the main two components of Hathayoga i.e. Asana and Pranayama.

a) Asana:
Asana means acquiring a body posture and maintaining it as long as one’s body allows. Asana, when done rightly according to the rules discussed above, render enormous physical and psychological benefits. Asana are looked upon as the preliminary step to Pranayama. With the practice of Asana there is a balancing of opposite principles in the body and psyche. It also helps to get rid of inertia. Benefits of Asana are enhanced with longer maintenance of it. Asana should be stable, steady and pleasant. Here is the summary of general rules to be followed for doing Asana.

Summary of rules:

1. Normal breathing
2. Focused stretching
3. Stable and pleasant postures (sthiram sukham asanam)
4. Minimal efforts (Prayatnay shaithilyam)
5. No comparisons or competition with others
6. No jerks or rapid actions. Maintain a slow and steady tempo.

Each asana has its own benefits and a few common benefits such as stability, flexibility, better hormonal secretion, feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. It’s a misconception that an Asana (Yoga stretch) has to be difficult to do in order to be beneficial. Many of the easiest Asana render most of the common benefits of Yoga to their fullest. Besides, the beauty of Yoga is in the fact that at a not-so-perfect level most of the benefits are still available. That means even a beginner benefits from Yoga as much as an expert.

In their quest to find a solution to the miseries of human body and mind, the founders of Yoga found part of their answers in the nature. They watched the birds and animals stretching their bodies in particular fashion to get rid of the inertia and malaise. Based upon these observations, they created Yoga stretches and named them after the birds or animals or fish that inspired these stretches. For example, matsyasana (fish pose), makarasana (crocodile pose), shalabhasana (grasshopper pose), bhujangasana (cobra pose), marjarasana (cat pose), mayurasana (peacock pose), vrischikasana (scorpion pose), gomukhasana (cow’s mouth pose), parvatasana (mountain pose), vrikshasana (tree pose) etc.

Many of the Asana can be broadly categorized based upon the type of pressure on the abdomen. Most of the forward bending Asana are positive pressure Asana as they put positive pressure on the stomach by crunching it e.g. Pashchimatanasana, Yogamudra (Yoga symbol pose), Hastapadasana (hand and feet pose), Pavanmuktasana (wind free pose) etc. The backward bending Asana are the negative pressure Asana as they take pressure away from the abdomen e.g. Dhanurasana (bow pose), Bhujangasana (cobra pose), Naukasana (boat pose) etc. Both types of Asana give excellent stretch to the back and abdomen and strengthen both these organs. Alternating between positive and negative pressure on the same area of the body intensifies and enhances blood circulation in that area. The muscle group in use gets more supply of oxygen and blood due to the pressure on that spot. E.g. in Yogamudra (symbol of Yoga), the lower abdomen gets positive pressure due to which Kundalini is awakened. Hastapadasana refreshes all nerves in the back of the legs and also in the back. As a result you feel fresh and rejuvenated. Vakrasana gives a good massage to the pancreas and liver and hence is recommended for diabetic patients

Important Tips for Yoga Success

Yoga has been proven to relieve stress by using exercises that unify the mind, body, and spirit. If you are new to yoga, these seven tips will start you on the road to a more centered life.

1. Talk to your doctor and explain what type of yoga poses you intend to practice. Show your doctor pictures of the poses for illustration. Your doctor may rule out specific poses if you have high blood pressure, glaucoma, a history of retinal detachment, or heart disease. Make sure you follow your doctor’s recommendations.
2. Find a yoga class that best fits your abilities. Talk to prospective teachers, and decide whether of not you can handle a program before you sign up. It’s very important to take it one step at a time. Try a few beginner classes before you attempt more vigerous classes. Don’t move ahead too quickly. Allow your body to adjust to your exercises.

3. Listen to your body and be aware of your physical abilities. You don’t want to hurt yourself. Make sure the instructor understands your level of experience and any limitations you may have. Don’t allow anyone to push you ahead too quickly. Remember, this is supposed to be fun and relaxing.

4. If you can’t find a class that meets your needs, you can always practice yoga at home. There are many books, programs, and tapes available to help you get started. Search for the best products on the Internet and read reviews. Talk to others for recommenations.

5. Why not try private lessons? You can book some one-on-one sessions with a teacher in your area. Most yoga instructors offer private classes or can help you design your own program. This is a good way to get started. You can always take group lessons or practice at home after you’ve had private lessons and learned the basics.

6. Find a yoga buddy. It’s nice to practice with someone and it will help reduce injuries. It’s also a great way to keep up your enthusiasm and interest.

7. Eat lightly before practice. Wait at least two hours after meals before yoga class or practice. An empty stomach is best, but don’t let yourself get too hungry to think. You won’t be able to focus on the poses or enjoy yourself during the relaxation or meditation exercises.

Now it’s time to grab your mat and a towel and get the most out of your yoga exercises.

About Yoga

Yoga is a system of philosophy that originated in India 5000 years ago that is focused on the attainment of enlightenment and the liberation of one’s self from those burdens that can have negative effects on the mind, body, and spirit. The practice of yoga was brought to the Western countries, like the United States, after it gained popularity because of the many touted benefits. However, most teachers of the philosophy place the most emphasis on the physical poses and less on the meditation aspect. Yoga and Pilates have both become very popular additions to the fitness routines of many people around the world, and for good reason, which is why people are learning about yoga and its many benefits for the mind and body.

To find a comprehensive introduction to yoga basics, including a glossary of yoga terms and an introduction to popular types of yoga and basic poses visit www.yoga.about.com. There is a also a number of other sites that feature a compilation of essays and articles about yoga including information about yoga, exercise, mind-body workouts, healthy eating, and exercise tips. Learn about yoga from a beginner’s perspective about meditation, yoga cleansing methods, pregnancy yoga, and other yoga techniques to improve your health at www.healthandyoga.com. The first impression many people have about yoga, is that in order to practice it, one must contort their body into impossible uncomfortable positions, but this simply isn’t true. Yoga focuses on the breath with each posture, which is an essential component of the healing applications of yoga, and yoga as an alternative therapy.

To learn more about yoga, from its origin to how to benefit from it, visit www.hinduism.about.com. Beginners can also find a wealth of yoga information such as frequently asked questions and answers about yoga practice, including the mysterious chakras, or primary energy centers in the body, and what yoga postures activate them at www.yogabasics.com. In addition to yoga exercises for body and mind, many online retailers like www.yoga.com, carry products for yoga, massage, homeopathic medicine, meditation, and exercise, as well as demonstrations of stretches and strategies to help you strike the perfect pose. The benefits of yoga are many, and if you haven’t tried it already, you owe it to yourself to liberate your soul and reach the next level of enlightenment, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Anyone can do yoga, at any age, and in most any physical condition. Vinyasa – move with the breath.

The Spiritual Tradition of Yoga From Past to Present

The History of Yoga and its Growth, Change, and Development

Yoga began its emergence into civilization some 10,000 years ago through the Tantric tradition. Evidence of deities resembling Shiva and Parvati were found in the Indus Valley civilization after archaeologists began to excavate numerous statues from ancient city grounds, reminiscence of the 10,000 year old tradition. This was the yoga of the pre-Vedic, pre-Aryan age, in which the top the tradition flourished throughout various parts of India. Shiva being the central figure in a majority of these recovered statutes gives evidence to the historical doctrine that denotes Shiva as the founder of the yogic system.

In the yogic tradition, Shiva is traditionally considered to be the symbol of supreme consciousness. His partner and counter force is Parvati, who represents supreme knowledge, will and action. For about the is also responsible for all creation as she is the acting force within the universe. This force or energy is also known as kundalini shakti, the cosmic force which is dormant within all living beings. Our Rusty is also regarded as the mother of the entire universe. Her grace and guidance is responsible for the liberation of the soul, releasing the individuals from the bondage of worldly matter. Concho said to be imparted to humans through Parvati out of love and compassion for her children. Yoga was a manifestation an extension of the Tantric system. Just as Shiva and Parvati are inseparable, so too are tantra and the yogic system.

Tantra is derived from two Sanskrit words, those of tanoti and trayati. Trayati means liberation and Tanoti literally translated as expansion. We can then assume that tantra is the science of expanding the consciousness and liberating the energy known as shakti within the body. Tantra is the way to attain liberation from the bondage is of the world in the physical identification with the body and objects associated with it.

In tantra we pursue the path of liberation by first understanding and gaining insight into the limitations and capacities of the body and mind. After we have understood these limitations, we then begin to explore the expansion of consciousness which eventually leads to the liberation of energy within the body. After we have crossed these various levels the individual consciousness expands and is liberated into the universal consciousness which permeates through the entire universe.

The yoga of yore

For a long time in history yoga was a secret system with its practices and techniques hidden from public view. In ancient times yoga was an oral tradition, its teachings and practices number inscribed or written on parchment. Only through the guru disciple relationship was the teachings of yoga revealed, and only to those who are ready to study the spiritual practices and techniques. This system was very productive and useful as it ensured clear understanding and a strong relationship between the disciple, the guru, and a spiritual teachings. Much importance was given to the personal experience of the yogic system, and the correct path was outlined by the guru who helped remove any confusions or ignorance regarding the spiritual practices and techniques. Only through sincere aspiration with the guru’s guide their disciples; disciples who pursued too much intellectual contemplation or were seeking the path of yoga in order to gain boons or powers were denied the teachings and access to the knowledge of yoga.

The first time that yoga was written in the book are inscribed on paper was within the ancient tantras. Later it was also revealed through the Vedas which were written sometime around 500 BC. Although the Vedas do not give any particular reference to any spiritual practices or techniques, they do you know the system of yoga through metaphors and symbolic representation. It is said that the Vedas were revealed to me rishis and saints who were immersed in a deep yogic state of meditation known as samadhi.

It wasn’t until the Upanishads that yoga began to take a definite shape and noticeable form within a written system. The Upanishads contained the essence of the Vedas, revealing the most essential points inscribed in the numerous books that collectively made the Vedas. The Upanishads are said to be the culmination of the Vedas and together they make up the a Vedantic.

The next significant texts in the history of yoga was the Patanjali yoga Sutras which are said to have been written in the second century A.D. Patanjali’s yoga sutras formed the raja yoga system, a definite and unified perspective of yoga with references to techniques, philosophy, and spiritual ideals. Patanjali’s yoga sutras are often referred to as the eight fold path of yoga. The eighth sequences consisted of yama(self-restraint), niyama (self observance), asana, pranayama, pratyahara(withdrawal of the senses),dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi. Whether practiced in sequence or as a complete system the eight fold path provided a clear perspective of the spiritual path. It also gave an outline for how to accomplish the unification of individual consciousness with the universal cosmos.

Later in the sixth century BC yoga began to adopt the Buddha’s meditation practices as well as the ethical and moral philosophy that later became the outline for Buddhism. Unfortunately this transition and adaptation removed a lot of the preparatory practice that were designed by the yogis to prepare one for meditation practices, many of which are necessary and often times vital to the preliminary preparation for contemplation and concentration.

Alternate Your Strength Training Workout With Some Yoga

Many who think of strength training equipment think of the massive muscles that many bodybuilders get and consequently show off in competitions. This can be a plus or a drawback for many consumers. The average consumer likes to be able to say feel good about themselves when they go swimming, but many are concerned about building too much muscle and suffering from stereotypical viewpoints. This needn’t be a worry for anyone considering strength training equipment.

The average body builder works out a lot in order to get the muscles they are famous for, plus they have to be on a very strict regimen with lots of protein and little or no fat. It would take you a lot of effort to become as built as the average bodybuilder. Many consumers can use simple free weights in order to maintain the muscle mass that they have or to add a little muscle strength. Some use strength training equipment to add a little tone or shape to certain areas of the body.

If you use them properly and alternate your strength training workout with some yoga or stretching exercises there is little risk of you bulking up too much. Many find that they enjoy the challenge of working out with strength training equipment. You can gradually increase the weight as you work out over a period of time and after your workout you really will feel the ‘burn’ in your muscles.

Though you should be careful of using too much weight at once. Its easy to sprain a muscle and hurt yourself, putting you out of commission for a few days or more. A good rule of thumb is that if you think you can start out with a certain weight begin about five or even ten pounds lighter and after a few repetitions move up to the next weight level. You can check out strength training equipment reviews online for an idea of what others are doing.