Some Great Benefits Of Yoga
The benefits of yoga are numerous. It is a physical science based on coordinating the health of the body, mind and spirit for optimum health and ability to fully function using your personal potential. The many benefits of a regular yoga practice will help to control and focus your mind, increase your physical strength, coordination and balance.
People ask: "Is It A Religion of Some Kind?"
In spite of what some people think, yoga is not a particular religious practice, or method of worship. It is simply an individual path, or journey to a balance in your life, using your mind to focus on placing your physical body in certain positions that help to open your natural energy pathways, increase blood circulation, reduce blood pressure, relax, and focus your busy mind.    The benefits of yoga are different for each person, and progress depends on how important it is for each individual to work towards their potential. If you do follow a particular religion, the benefits of yoga can be looked at as a way for each person, individually, to maximize their God given potential, and use that new found physical and mental focus to more fully be a part of your religious beliefs.     It is also not any kind of physical competition.
I consider one of the benefits of yoga, after practicing it for over 40 years, to be a kind of “safe harbor” for the stresses of modern life. You can look at it, in your mind, as visualizing yourself in a ship lost in one of the worst storms (modern life) you can imagine. Yoga is the “safe harbor” that suddenly appears, and the stormy seas are now outside of you, and not affecting you in the least.
• Judo, etc.
The way most of the martial arts originated was out of a necessity for everyday individuals to be able to defend themselves without any weapon other than their mind and body, and maintain flexibility and health.
Ancient people learned that there is tremendous power within the human mind that, if an individual focuses, he or she can tap into. You have seen or read about something similar to this when you read a story about a mom, or wife who literally lifted a car off of her child or husband to keep them from dying. Those are examples of the power of the mind, when everything but the task at hand is dismissed and the focus is 100% on attaining the goal, in this case, saving a loved one.
What is amazing to me is that this power resides in every single person….. without exception! One of the most important benefits of yoga is increasing your ability to tap into this power. How would you feel if you knew that all you had to do was to focus on your breathing for 5 minutes, or, do 10 minutes of yoga asanas, and your stress would dissolve, leaving inner peace, tranquility, and good health in it’s place? That is yoga.
History of Yoga
Yoga originated in ancient India, and means “union”. As you seriously practice yoga, through following a particular set of physical poses, or “Asanas”, you truly do achieve a union of the body mind and spirit as your body relaxes through the stretching. Some basic benefits of yoga are that your mind becomes more uncluttered and your spirit opens to your natural energy flow. This naturally improves your overall health as well.
The Eight Sections of Yoga
According to one of the ancient texts that are the basis for the philosophy of yoga, there are 8 sections of yoga, each one focusing on a different benefit of yoga.    The “language” of yoga, which is called “Sanskrit”, is thousands of years old, and, just like ancient Greek, it may seem a little out of the ordinary to the modern person. I know that some people let a particular language, or words, influence them to the point where they are almost paralyzed, and unable to move forward, even though they will increase their potential, and their health to incredible levels. Don’t let this be you.
Guidelines regarding moral behavior towards others, Called “Yama”:
• Being non-violent;
• Being truthful;
• Being honest;
• Being pure of heart;
• Being free from desire.
Guidelines regarding behavior towards oneself, “Niyama”:
• Being clean in body and mind;
• Being content with who you are;
• Austerity: being focused on spiritual and personal growth;
• Being in a state of constant gratitude, studying and learning;
• Surrender to God: (This is YOUR God in YOUR religion).
Physical cleansing, “Asana”:
• Practice of Yoga postures for the physical benefits of Yoga.
Breath, “suspending, or controlling breath”, “Pranayama”:
• Practice of breathing exercises.
Overcoming distractions, “Pratyahara”:
• Withdrawal of the sense organs from external objects, meaning the external world is not a distraction from the world within oneself.
Concentration and Focus, “Dharana”:
• Fixing the attention on a single object without being distracted (easier said than done!)
Intense contemplation, “Dhyana”:
• Meditation, every religion, without exception, involves a type of meditation, or, focus on whatever your particular belief system is. This is another benefit of yoga.
• Merging your consciousness with the object of your contemplation. The merging of your “self” with the universe. Sometimes translated as “enlightenment”. Again, this blissful feeling is not a particular religious belief, but it is our natural mental state of mind and body unified through disciplined, focused physical and mental activities. It is an incredible way for you to live your life.
One of the significant benefits of Yoga is this mental focus and ability to move your mind to an inner state of bliss, no matter what the outer circumstances are.     It is also a way for you to be the most effective in an emergency situation where others need your help: several breaths, and an inner focus on your power as a human being is all it takes.
Yoga Practice: In a Class, Or At Home?
Personally, I like a combination of the two. When you are doing your practice at home, you can set your own schedule, and more easily work it into your daily activities.
You really don’t need special, or expensive equipment:
• a 1/4'' Extra Thick Deluxe Yoga Mat that will keep your feet from slipping is a really a good idea for all types of Yoga!
• A 6' Cotton Yoga Strap, for stretching more comfortably is a great idea!
• “Props”, such as a 3" Rigid Foam Yoga Block that will help you to relax into the pose, take the pressure off, and, even if you are not very flexible, a block prop helps you to relax into the pose so that you get the maximum benefit. Also, if your prefer natural cork blocks, they are available as well.
• A great way to practice at home is with yoga music & instructional DVDs. It's almost like having a teacher “in your living room!”,    Go to: Types of Yoga for information on the best starting point for you.     Another addition you might like To help you relax, and get the most benefit from your practices, choose your own custom Yoga meditation and relaxation kits.     If you would like to involve your kids in your Yoga practices, which will help them a LOT with all their daily interactions and stress at school, there are even "kid size" yoga mats, so your children can have their own mats, for when they want to practice on their own.
Yoga’s focus is based on women and men striving for a way to more fully utilize their mental strength, improve their health and physical body so that they can live a full, focused life, without the levels of stress that impact most people.    The benefits of regular yoga practice is also a way to increase your spiritual connection to God, no matter what your religion may be. Even kneeling for prayer is difficult for a lot of people, especially as we all get older. Through the benefits of a regular yoga practice, your body responds to your requirements more easily, and one of these is flexibility, and increased comfort in sitting or kneeling positions for longer periods of time.      For any program to be effective, including being able to enjoy the full benefits of yoga, you must take action.     Following is a short, but effective "action guide" that will help you to improve every aspect of your health. Use these steps as building blocks, an easy path towards better health, improved quality of life, better relationships....a better you.
Action Steps You Can Take
1. To start to see the benefits of yoga, you first need to either sign up for a yoga class or get a dvd that you can use at home.   For more information on different types of yoga go to: Types of Yoga
2. Make a commitment to try it every other day at home, if you can, for at least 3 weeks;
3. Keep a personal “how do I feel, how is my health” journal from day one, and write in it every day, start with what you want out of your practice;
4. Before you start your practice, get a yard stick or tape measure and write down how far, in inches, you can go for reaching your toes in a sitting and in a standing position, how far you can stretch to the side from your center position, and any other flexibility measurement that you want to improve;
5. If you are going for a class, see if you can observe the class before you sign up. If the instructor is moving around the room helping students into the proper positions, you probably have a good instructor, if he or she is not, I would stay away from the class since you may over-stretch and hurt yourself. It is critical that you work with your body, and how flexible you are. This will, of course, change as you progress in your Yoga practice.
6. If you have a good friend, see if she or he would be interested in getting together for an hour several times a week and learning yoga together;
7. Be aware of how you are “moving in the world” everyday:
• How do you walk? Do you “clump” with each step, or are you light on your feet;
• How are your toes pointed when you walk? Do they point out to the side, to the inside, or are they aligned straight ahead;
• What is your posture when you catch yourself in the mirror? Do you slump over or are you rigid;
• How do you breathe? Are you taking full breaths, or very shallow. Time each inhale and each exhale. This may seem kind of silly, but the deeper your breaths, the more oxygen your cells and brain receive, the better your health will be;
• How do you sit? Are you sitting leaning heavily back in your chair, or do you not use the chair back very much;
• How is your energy? Good? bad? ok?
I know that this seems like a lot of "detail" about yourself, but, this is all just kind of a “check in with yourself”. There is no grading, one person is not better than another. You just want some kind of written assessment of you before you begin your practice. At the end of one week, two weeks, three weeks, and four weeks, recess yourself, re-measure yourself, and see your progress.     We forget really fast, where we were when we started something, whether it is Yoga, an exercise program, a diet, or whatever, so it is really helpful to track it. Then, in a couple of months, you can look at where you started and say: "WOW, I didn't realize how far I've come!"
Do not expect an overnight miracle with your mind and body. Depending on your age, your body has become very “comfortable” in it’s present state, and, it will “protest” as you work towards changing it! Just keep going.    As you are noticing more and more benefits from your yoga practice, think about starting to change what, and how you eat as well.      You can go to other sections of my site to find out more information on how to use an improved diet to enhance your yoga practices. If you do this, your health will change dramatically, and you will not recognize the person you used to be when you look back at your journal in 6 months or a year!