Welcome to our introduction to Yoga, the 5000 year old Indian practice which many people worldwide participate in as part of their daily lives. The practice is not just holding a series of poses (or ‘Asanas’) for a few seconds, which most people believe. Yoga is a combination of exercise, diet, meditation and breathing techniques which has transformed the lives of millions.
Yoga originates from the ancient Sanskrit word “yuj”, which roughly translates to English as “Union”. Union refers to the union of mind, body and spirit, which ultimately leads to something many people crave in their lives – harmony.
Yoga originates from Hinduism, which is widely considered to be the oldest religion in the world. However, one does not need to be of Hindu faith to follow the practice. Yoga is practiced by millions of people all over the globe from all religious beliefs.
Contrary to popular belief, Yoga is not just a few ways to stretch whilst sitting on a mat, it is far more than that. Practicing Yoga more of a search for inner peace and tranquility, and to find balance in all areas of life.
Introduction to Yoga: The Different Forms
Although most people have heard of one or two different types of Yoga, it actually comes in many different forms and variations. Here are some of the most popular:
Has a slow pace and gentle nature. Here you will be slowly transitioning between poses, holding each pose for a few breaths.
Much faster than hatha and often accompanied by music and a more continuous motion.
A 90 minute sequence of 26 set Yoga poses, which are undertaken in a heated room.
- Yin Yoga:
Often considered to be the “Zen” of all Yoga forms. Yin Yoga poses can last for several minutes at a time, which help to channel your inner sense of peace.
Both physically and mentally challenging, Kundalani Yoga combines repetitive exercises with chanting meditation and singing. It also has a focus on intense breathing, designed for those who are looking for a more “spiritual” experience.
The above are just a few variations of the many different forms of Yoga. Hatha is by far the most popular form of Yoga and is popular with beginners. It has a slow pace where you’re required to hold a series of poses for a few breaths at a time. Hatha Yoga classes are generally thought of as a “gentle” form of Yoga, however this isn’t totally accurate. “Hatha yuj” actually translates into English as “any yoga”, therefore all forms of Yoga that teach postures, poses and breathing techniques are hatha.
Because Yoga comes in so many variations and forms, it has no limit to who can benefit from it. Whether you’re a teenager or a pensioner, there will be a form of Yoga that is just right for you.
Introduction to Yoga: The Benefits
Yoga has a wide range of benefits to those who practice it, with fitness being top of the list. An hours session of even the gentlest form of Yoga will burn more calories in an hour than walking or hiking would. Those who choose to practice Vinyasa Yoga though, would burn almost 600 calories an hour based on a starting weight of around 155lb.
There are many other physical benefits to practicing Yoga. These include:
- Increased flexibility which can protect from injury
- Better muscle strength and overall body tone
- An increase in energy
- Weight management
- Improves posture
- Better cardiovascular health
- Improves balance
Apart from the physical benefits, there are countless other ways Yoga can improve your life. Improvements can also be seen in spiritual, mental and emotional areas of your life too. These include, but are not limited to:
- Increased self-esteem and inner strength
- Better focus
- Helps with relaxation
- Releases stress and tension
- Better sleep cycles
- Increased awareness and spiritual growth
- Benefits relationships
We could go on for ages about the benefits of practicing Yoga. The list is too long though, and would take up way more space we have here. Each individual who indulges in it will experience different benefits. Suffice it to say, you’ll only ever find out just how it can benefit you if you try it out for yourself.
So, now you have had an introduction to Yoga, are you ready to get started? Then head over to our next article which will teach you how to start doing Yoga.