An Introduction to the Art Form
you will be aware of yoga, seeing it
advertised in gyms alongside other classes such as ‘body
pump’ ‘kickboxing’ and
‘aerobics’ and therefore consider it purely as a
form of exercise, however yoga is much more than this. Read on to find
out about the basic principles of yoga and how to get started.
overview of Yoga
Yoga (also called ‘asana’) refers to the
traditional physical and mental disciplines based in India. The word
itself translates as ‘union’ and in this way
defines the union of the mind, body and spirit expressed through
physical postures and poses.
The biggest misconception people have about yoga is that it is purely
stretching but although stretching is involved, yoga is about the
balance in the body which is gained though postures and poses which
each develop strength and many other physical benefits. As an
individual starts doing yoga their experience is referred to as
‘their practice’ which is meant to describe how
your relationship with the discipline develops, evolves and changes.
Yoga isn’t a competitive practice and there are classes and
different types to suit different people.
Additional to yoga poses, the discipline focuses on breathing
techniques, meditation and many other calming practices which can make
the class a spiritual work out as well as a physical work out, however
this will vary from teacher to teacher.
There are many different types of yoga being practiced today (Hatha,
Vinyasa, Astanga, Iyengar, Kundalini and Bikram are the main types), so
make sure you find the right one for you.
benefits of yoga and its affect on the body
of yoga are numerous as well as varied healing both
physically and mentally, here are a few:
anxiety and muscle tension
in other medical conditions
and allergy relief
to quitting smoking
physical strength and flexibility
physical benefits of yoga in more depth
Many of us suffer from stiffness and tight muscles due to our lifestyle
as well as stress levels causing tension. Even the most athletic suffer
stiffness and painful muscles which are only remedied by deep intensive
sport massage. Yoga can therefore act as part of a training
schedule in addition to the main sport itself bringing more flexibility
and greater range of motion to muscles and joints stiffened through
other activities. I know as a runner myself I always suffer tight hips
and hamstrings so yoga has acted to loosen these areas up significantly.
Another ailment of other sports and activities is that they can cause
imbalances and weaknesses in certain parts of the body which then lead
to injury, requiring weeks and months of recovery. Yoga helps to reduce
these imbalances as it requires you to support the weight of your own
body in new ways, moving slowly in a controlled fashion through moves
which increases the strength of those areas.
Another great benefit of yoga is that it can reduce big problems such
as back pain. Many people suffer back pain from sitting at computers
all day, or on distance driving causing spinal compression and
tightness. Yoga improves the alignment of the spine and therefore
reduces many causes of chronic pain. However, it may be a good idea to
consult your doctor before seeking yoga as a cure for your problems.
The mental benefits of yoga in more depth
Yoga is renowned for its ability to bring calmness to the mind. By
focusing intently on each pose and what your body is doing, all other
stresses of life are pushed away.
Meditation also helps you to focus your thoughts and learn ways to
control your negative feelings with the belief that controlled
breathing helps to control the emotional mind. With this, yoga can
relieve stress and many of the problems related to stress such as panic
attacks, anxiety and depression. Learning to focus on the here and now
brings peace into your world instead of the usual rush of life. A
recent US study found that just 20 minutes of yoga a day can help
reduce stress by as much as 10 percent!
Another noticed plus I am personally aware of is self esteem and
confidence. By learning how to control and work
‘with’ your body as opposed to
‘against’ your body, you learn to accept your body
and become more confident in oneself increasing self esteem and general
happiness. Not only does yoga produce these benefits but it is also a
practice that can be done practically anywhere from a few minutes to a
few hours so easily fitting into one’s lifestyle and schedule.
The only drawback to yoga is that it demands patience and dedication to
learn the art form and so as with many other sports, benefits are
reaped over a period of time and not within a few sessions.
In my next and
following article I outline the different types of yoga and
all the practicalities you need to know in order to get started so do
Carter who is a fully trained fitness and life coach.
website at http://www.cartercoaching.co.uk
or email her at: