The word yoga is the Sanskrit word for yuj, this means union of the individual and universal consciousness.
Yoga comprises of different schools of philosophy, for example: Gyan, Bhakti, Karma, Hatha yoga, Shiva yoga and many more. Today, yoga has become associated with mainly physical postures whereas the central teaching of yoga is maintaining a unanimous state of mind.
Hatha yoga promotes physical as well as mental being through the medium of ‘asanas’.
The different types of yoga are much like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and are all equally important for the overall development of an individual. While Hatha yoga is great for physical fitness, it is said that other types of yoga empower us with wisdom, devotion, etc.
The past few decades have seen yoga going through a complete transformation. It is now hailed as one of the best natural therapies out there, yoga has come a long way.
The benefits of yoga have not gone unnoticed in the international community either and the United Nations passed a recent resolution to celebrate June 21st as International Yoga Day.
Yoga is not just exercise, it is also how skillfully we communicate and act in any given situation. In the Bhagavad Gita, equanimity in the mind is a sign of yoga. The ability to remain centered in adverse situations is also Yoga. Whatever brings us back to our nature, which is harmony and joy, is Yoga. While postures make the body healthy, pranayama and meditation take the mind deep into meditation.
Why is it good for us?
You have probably heard by now that yoga is good for you. Maybe you’ve even tried it and discovered that it makes you feel better. Consistent practice offers all kinds of mental and physical health benefits. Some benefits, like improved flexibility, are clearly evident. Others, including mental clarity and stress reduction, may be more subtle but are just as powerful. When put together, all the benefits below contribute to an increased feeling of well-being, which helps explain why so many people find yoga so addictive.
Improves your Flexibility
Stretching and moving in new ways will help you become flexible, bringing a greater range of motion to tight areas. Over time, you can expect to gain flexibility in your hamstrings, back, shoulders, and hips. As we age, our flexibility usually decreases, especially if you spend a lot of time sitting, which leads to pain and immobility. Yoga can help reverse this process.
Many yoga poses require you to bear your body weight in new ways. Holding these poses over the course of several breaths helps build muscular strength.
Increases Definition and Muscle Tone
As a by-product of getting stronger, you can expect to see increased muscle tone. Yoga helps shape long, lean muscles in your legs, arms, back, and abdomen.
Improvement in Balance
Improved balance is one of the most important benefits of yoga as you get older.
Poses where you are required to isolate one area and hold a pose are great ways to build the core strength that keeps you upright.
Most of us take shallow breaths and don’t give much thought to how we breathe. Yoga breathing exercises focus our attention on breathing and teach us how to take deeper breaths, which benefits the entire body. Certain types of breath can also help clear the nasal passages and even calm the nervous system, which has incredible overall health benefits.
Physical activity is good for relieving stress, and this is particularly true of yoga. Because of the concentration required, your daily troubles, both large and small, seem to melt away during the time you are on the mat.
The joy of yoga is that it can be done anywhere, in your living room, on the porch, in the garden or on the beach.
Some people even incorporate yoga into their yearly holiday and book a yoga and/or spa retreat. These holidays are more common nowadays and can be booked around the world in some beautiful destinations in places such as Europe, Australia and Thailand to name but a few. Hotels, luxury villas and specialist retreats all offer such holidays, go on spoil yourself.