Yoga

Yoga


Yoga

A form of gentle exercise to harmonise body and mind.

There are many different styles of Yoga – contact the teacher of the class to find out what type they teach and if it would be suitable for you.

Classes vary from 1 to 2 hours and begin with gentle warm up exercises. During the early stages of yoga you will learn to perform basic asanas suitable for beginners. You will also be encouraged to be conscious of your breathing. Beginners should never push themselves too far or compete with classmates. If practising yoga for medical reasons, keep your teacher informed of any important details of your condition.

Main Uses

  • Problems with mobility
  • Stress
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • Depression
  • Circulatory disorders
  • Astluna. Bronchitis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Digestive disorders
  • Back pain
  • Menstrual problems

History

Yoga (the word is Sanskrit for ‘union’) originated more than 5,000 years ago in India, where it was traditionally practised by Hindu ascetics, or yogis, as preparation for spiritual development. It was introduced into the West in the 19th century, when scholars translated ancient Hindu religious texts. Yoga has grown rapidly in popularity since the 1960s. In the West it is valued more for its physical than spiritual benefits, such as its ability to increase suppleness and vitality, and relieve stress.

Key Principles

In the purest form, yoga is a complete system of physical and mental training – a series of spiritual stages on the path to enlightenment. These begin with ethical guidelines including healthy eating habits, and progress through the practice of as, (physical postures) and pranayama (breathing techniques) to meditation and eventually to the supreme level of pure consciousness.

Today there are many types of yoga, including yoga therapy to help specific medical complaints. The most popular form in the west is Hatha yoga, using asanas and pranayama. “Hatha” means balance, reflecting the balance of mind and body. A calm mind promotes regular breathing and a relaxed body and vice versa.

Asanas are performed slowly and deliberately and are co-ordinated with breathing. Practitioners say they improve mobility and stimulate tone and circulation. It is claimed that various postures can also stimulate the nerve centres that govern internal functions, including heart digestion and hormone production. Breath is seen as the outward form of prana, or life energy. Controlled breathing regulates prana in the body, bringing spiritual benefits.

Does it work?

Reputable studies have confirmed that yoga can benefit a wide range of conditions. Yoga meditation has been found to affect the heart and circulation, while yoga breathing has been shown to reduce the frequency of asthma attacks and restore energy. A 1994 study indicated the therapy could help with rheumatoid arthritis.

Learning Yoga

Most people find it helpful to join a class when learning yoga. It is advisable to find one with a qualified teacher. The class should be held in a warm room without draughts, lightweight clothing should be worn. You may need a rug or blanket to keep warm during relaxation, and a mat if the floor is hard.

Classes vary from 1 to 2 hours and begin with gentle warm up exercises. During the early stages of yoga you will learn to perform basic asanas suitable for beginners. You will also be encouraged to be conscious of your breathing. Beginners should never push themselves too far or compete with classmates. If practising yoga for medical reasons, keep your teacher informed of any important details of your condition.

A slight stiffness of the joints may be felt when first practicing yoga, but asanas should never cause prolonged or serious pain. Beginners should avoid advanced asanas such as the lotus position. When practising yoga it is important to progress gradually. You should aim to practice for 30 minutes about 3 times a week, with short stretching sessions between. Regular practice should increase energy, tone muscles and help you cope with stress.

Precautions

Don’t eat just before a class – allow two hours after a meal before exercising. Take care if you are practicing yoga during pregnancy or menstruation: some asanas should be avoided. Headstands and some inverted postures should be avoided if you have a neck or back injury, high blood pressure or circulatory problems, disorders of the heart, brain, ears or eyes.

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