Yoga is a low-impact, mind and body practice that focuses on breath control, posture, breathing techniques, relaxation, and meditation. Its history dates back 5,000 years, and possibly as far back as 10,000 years, but its exact origins are not certain due to the secretive nature of its teachings. There are many different types of yoga but most people know it for its physical poses and positions.
Yoga is often confused with Hatha Yoga which is the system of postures and movements, yoga itself is principally spiritual. It is considered an art and a science; as a science, it enables deep meditation by offering practical methods of mind and body control, and as art, it is required to be practiced intuitively and tactfully so as not to produce superficial results.
The imagery of a tree is used to convey the philosophy of yoga and each branch of the tree represents a different focus and group of characteristics. Choosing a specific goal to attain can help a person determine which branch – or type of yoga – is best for them to follow, there are six branches: Hatha, Raja, Karma, Bhakti, Jnana, and Tantra.
Male yoga practitioners are called yogis and female practitioners are known as yoginis, both taught and practiced yoga long before it’s documented history and passed the discipline down to their students. Different schools of yoga were developed over five millennia resulting in a global reach and an increase in popularity.
The practice of yoga is centered around the energy that flows through the body. Yoga teaches that “chakras” (“chakra” is directly translated to ‘spinning wheel’) are center points of energy and they determine the way people experience life. The flow of energy to our brains can be hindered by day-to-day stresses, tensions or illnesses, making it hard for the mind to concentrate. Our energy is also thought to be negatively influenced and weakened by harmful emotions. Physical, mental, and emotional imbalances are triggered by energy blocked in a chakra and these imbalances are then manifested in symptoms like anxiety, and lethargy. The goal of yoga is to use breath-control to attain a higher state of awareness and to calm the mind.
The Yoga Sutra came into the practice 2000 years ago and is now considered to be the guidebook to practicing yoga. It was curated by an Indian sage, Patanjali, and is a collection of 195 statements that provide philosophies on how to deal with the challenges that come with being human. It provides direction on how to gain control of the mind and emotions while offering advice on how to maintain spiritual growth.
Some benefits of yoga include increased flexibility, weight reduction, protection from injury, increased muscle strength and tone, and improving overall positivity and outlook on life. Because there are so many different types of yoga, there is something for everyone from every age group and every level of fitness. Yoga should not be used to replace conventional treatments, and people who suffer from certain conditions like sciatica should consult a physician first and then should only approach yoga slowly and with caution.