Nearly 5,000 years ago, the desire for heightened self-understanding as well as a healthy, long life gave birth to the classical techniques of Yoga. Interestingly, the word Yoga means “to yoke or to join together,” as the goal of Yoga is to unite the mind and body together in one harmonious experience. Stone carvings indicate the people of ancient India utilized these mental, spiritual, and physical disciplines for the sole purpose of attaining spiritual tranquility.
My first introduction to Yoga came along unexpectedly from curiosity about a family friend. Throughout my life, I observed this woman juggle the responsibilities of being a lawyer, mother, wife, and friend. Each time, I could not help but notice her calm demeanor and temperament. I wanted to know her approach to healthy living. It was Yoga! While there was so much I did not know about it, I found Yoga to be challenging, mysterious, and captivating. I had to learn its secrets.
Traditional Structures of Yoga
Yoga’s traditions of self-realization and enlightenment were first passed to each generation through oral teaching and visual demonstration. This altruistic and pure form of Yoga remained for thousands of years.
The system of Yoga was built on three foundational structures: exercise, breathing, and meditation.
- Exercise: Postures called Asanas are used to twist and to stretch the body in a controlled way. These techniques help one become aware of the different types of imbalances within the physical structure in order to relieve muscular and physical stress.
- Breathing: Ancient Indians believed that breathing was intimately related to emotions and intellect. Therefore, deep, tranquil, slow breathing techniques are used to give the individual more control over his/her emotional and intellectual expression.
- Meditation: As a form of psychotherapy, exercise and breathing prepare the mind and body for meditation. These relaxation and concentration techniques used in meditation allow the individual to experience the energy of his/her inner spirit.
Although several different branches and types of Yoga exist today, one universal function remains the same: All forms of Yoga attempt to tone the body, to calm the emotions, and to steady the mind.
Yoga has become a 3.2 billion dollar industry as more physicians across the world have recognized the benefits of focused meditation. Whether practiced in groups or alone, the benefits of Yoga are endless as it helps to:
- Combat illnesses and to better control arthritis, stress, anxiety, asthma, and blood pressure
- Reduce stress and tension, allowing the mind and body to relax
- Increase energy, flexibility, strength, and muscle tone
- Improve concentration in order for one to be more productive
- Provide a better sense of self-esteem and positive thinking towards life
The practice of Yoga continues to fascinate me. Since my first experience, Yoga has provided me a source of vitality.
Yoga is changing my life all the time. It allowed me to recognize the life balance I had lost. Through Yoga, I have become more physically, mentally, and emotionally stable because it encourages an attitude of conscious living. Therefore, I see Yoga as a great teacher since I can relax my mind, refocus my energy, and discover new things about myself and other people around me.
How could the practice of Yoga change your life?