Yoga was originally developed as a system for quietening the mind. As Patanjali states “Yoga is the resolution of the agitations of the mind”. When the mind is bought to a place of stillness, our worldly worries & concerns drop away and we connect with our True Self, experiencing a greater sense of peace, clarity and joy.
Yoga is a Sanskrit word meaning “to yoke” or “union” and can be understood as uniting body, mind, breath & spirit. Through the dedicated practice of yoga (including tempering the body with asana/ physical posture and regulating the flow of breath/ prana/ life-energy with pranayama/ breathing techniques), the yoga practitioner can work towards maintaining a single-point of focus and ultimately attain the state of yoga; Self-Realization, merging ones physical self with ones true self. This can also be described as a feeling of wholeness or bliss.
This may seem like a far-fetched lofty goal for the beginning yogi & that’s perfectly okay. The point of entry into yoga for most people in the western world begins with the body and therefore the physical practice of yoga, which is asana. Hatha Yoga is one of the most common forms of yoga practiced in the west today and combines asana (physical posture) with pranayama (breathing techniques) to encourage a healthy and balanced body & mind.
Hatha Yoga offers a myriad of health benefits, which will be different for each individual depending upon their unique body make-up and daily habits. It is a great way of attaining balance. It can help to strengthen your weak areas, whilst enabling your tight areas to become more supple. If you’re wound-up or over-worked it will help calm & relax you, if you’re tired or sluggish it will help energise you.
It can strengthen muscles & bones, keep joints mobile & healthy, keep spinal discs supple, improve overall flexibility, improve circulation, stimulate digestion & elimination, stimulate the nervous system as well as the glands & organ function and increase the drainage of lymph fluid to help fight infection.
It teaches you to relax & slow the breath, helping to reduce stress. It can increase mental clarity & concentration, coordination and stamina. It has the ability to make you more conscious and aware, enabling you to break destructive habits and become aware of unconscious ones. It provides “time out”, a respite from your busy daily life. It can help you to sleep better. And if that’s all not enough, the ancient yogi’s say that the regular practice of inversions actually reverses the aging process!!
The more you practice the more you will begin to notice the amazing follow-on effects yoga can have in your life. As you begin to change your posture, you can change the way you breathe. As you are able to breathe deeply, your entire nervous system can change & you will find yourself feeling calmer in the face of adversity. Your entire outlook on the world may change as a result!
Yoga is something that anyone can come to at any point in their life. It is something you can practice for the rest of your life. Each time you step onto your mat, you’re likely to learn something new (I know I do!). It is truly a journey of self discovery, self love, self acceptance. Learn about your body, tame your mind. Feel more peace & joy. Feel like the very best version of yourself. Experience it for yourself :)