What is Yoga?
Yoga is a Sanskrit word which translates as ‘union’. Yoga can be thought of as the union of body, mind and spirit which is characterised by a feeling of balance, harmony and well-being. Through practising Yoga, the mind settles into a state of increased calmness and clarity and the body is able to relax, strengthen and heal. Originating in India, the holistic system presented by Yoga has been tried and tested over thousands of years and is now actively practised worldwide.
In Yoga, the individual is treated as a number of inter-connected layers of being. The practices and ideas associated with Yoga operate on all levels to bring about a re-integration of these various layers leading to a sense of wholeness. Through working on the physical body we can make real, positive changes not only to our physical health, but also start to gain a sense of mental and emotional wellbeing and a quieter mind. Working with breathing practices we are able to balance our physical, mental and spiritual energy levels.
Through the deep relaxation reached during meditative practices, we are able to attain a sense of inner stillness, the effects of which radiate outward affecting our body as well our mind. Yoga provides lifestyle guidelines, ideas and philosophy from both ancient texts and contemporary sources, which are timeless and compatible with any belief system or stand alone as a framework for ethical living. As a holistic system Yoga brings us back to a natural state of balance and harmony.
What are the benefits of practising Yoga?
The combined effect of practising Yoga is a reduction in the unwelcome physiological effects which arise as a direct result of the stresses and strains of everyday life. Yoga practitioners report:
- Improved physical and mental health
- Better posture
- Fewer aches and pains
- More restful sleep
- Reduced anxiety
- More appropriate energy levels
- A greater sense of mental clarity and inner peace
- Improved concentration
- More patience
- An enhanced ability to deal with life’s ups and downs with ease and equanimity
Yoga poses work on the physical body, easing through muscular tension and helping us to reach a balance between strength and flexibility thereby maintaining joint health. By approaching the postures with an attitude of mindful awareness, we are able to work sensitively with the body and find new ways of moving which will help us in our everyday life. When practised appropriately and under proper guidance, Yoga may allow the body’s natural healing processes to function so that aches and pains such as low back pain and joint discomfort are relieved. Apart from the positive effects on the musculo-skeletal system, the Yoga postures have direct, positive effects on our breathing, digestion, circulation and the functioning of many of our internal organs.
The emphasis on breathing during Yoga poses along with separate, dedicated breathing practices, work directly to improve respiratory health and also help to reverse the physiological responses to stress which we all encounter in everyday life. Learning to control, direct and slow down the breathing has a profound effect on the mind, leaving us feeling calmer and more balanced.
The inner stillness achieved through meditative practices and deep relaxation builds upon the sense of calm achieved through working on the body and the breathing, providing a sense of harmony, clarity and peace, the effects of which enhance the sense of physical relaxation and balance experienced in the body.