If you are looking for a more flexible, strong, capable body and a clear, positive heart and mind then yoga is for you. It’s a great form of exercise that will improve your fitness, as well as aiding your mental well being.
‘Yoga’ is a Sanskrit term meaning ‘to join, unite or yoke together’, and the essential purpose of yoga is to bring together body, mind, and spirit into a harmonious whole.
The central methods of yoga are physical postures or ‘asanas’ and movement, breathing techniques or ‘pranayama’ and meditation. Yoga includes guidance on a healthy lifestyle, eating habits, mental attitude, and Ayurvedic medicine is also part of the Yogic path to health and balance.
Hatha yoga is the path of physical yoga, which is the most popular branch of yoga in the West. ‘HA’ means ‘SUN’, and ‘THA’, ’MOON’, so Hatha Yoga is the joining, or the yoking together of these different energies in harmonious equilibrium, positive and negative, active and receptive.
The Yoga view of the human body
The body in yoga is the vehicle for the development of wisdom, of spiritual awakening, and as such, the body is held to be sacred and mastery of our body is considered the foundation for spiritual progress. In yoga we learn a discipline of the body which comes out of awareness and attentiveness, tuning in to our body’s subtle energy flows and the life-giving rhythm of our breathing.
The idea is that through entering more deeply and subtly into our physical experience, we can become more connected with ourselves, more grounded, and less swayed by anxieties or neurotic cravings for things that will not truly satisfy us. This can be a very positive influence on our approach to life, offering an antidote to the alienated rushing and disconnection from ourselves that characterizes much of our modern world.
The Origins of Yoga
Originating in the ancient East, yoga has gained massive popularity in the modern western world. Its image has evolved from those photos we may have seen of the extraordinary practice of unbelievably flexible cotton-clad ascetics in India or the seventies hobby of hippy types! Yoga has become part of the chosen lifestyle of thousands of westerners seeking some real balance, health, and well-being in their lives.
Experiences of yoga can be close to nature, out of doors or on the bumpy ground in large tents with slightly slippy carpets on summer retreats or at festivals. However, it is also common now to see the wonderfully tranquil and well-equipped yoga studios in the towns and cities too.
Yoga teachers seem to be possibly even hipper than DJs these days, making their own tracks by bicycle, scooter, or nippy Mini through city streets from one class to another, taking life at their own chosen pace, holidaying in stunning places, teaching the much-appreciated techniques and principles of yoga to grateful and enthusiastic city dwellers.
There are yoga magazines, gorgeous yoga holidays and a rainbow of great yoga kit you can buy. But when it comes down to it, all you really need to benefit from the ancient wisdom of yoga is your own body, mind and spirit, some self-discipline, and a decent teacher to get you started.
Who can practice yoga?
Everyone can do yoga. There is always a suitable way for an individual to practice yoga: whether they are old or young, injured, fit or unfit, supple or inflexible, male or female. You just need to find the right teacher for you.