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A Beginner’s Guide to Yoga



Although yoga has enjoyed a recent surge in popularity in the Western world, it is most certainly not just a fitness trend.  With roots dating back to the Indus Valley civilization of three to five thousand years BC, yoga is the oldest and most-practiced disciplines around the world.  It is a beautiful and sophisticated practice that emphasizes balance; even the name “yoga” itself engenders the idea of balance.

Translated from the ancient Sanskrit, “yoga” means “yoke” or “yoke together,” yet the practice of yoga is intended to free the individual from the constraints of the physical world.  Through this controlled discipline, body and mind can be united in a healthy life.

The Practice of Balance:

Yoga is intended to bring balance and discipline through three crucial factors:  breath, exercise, and meditation.  As the key to life, breathing is a highly valued focus of yoga.  Through a deliberate breath pattern, it is possible to optimize the performance of the body and the clarity of the mind.

Read: An Introductory Guide To Yoga Poses

The purposeful breathing of yoga carries the body through exercise, achieved by practicing specific positions, called asanas, often in a prescribed progression called a vinyasa.  Each location is designed to strengthen a particular system or region of the body, and so different vinyasas can result in entirely different effects on the body.  Concentrated focus on the breath and exercise prepares the body and mind for meditation, which calms and clears the spirit of its stresses.

Schools of Yoga:

After several thousands of years in existence, yoga has been expanded by various influences.  There are many schools of yoga, each with its approach and goals.  Hatha yoga, which is the most commonly practiced form of yoga in the United States, focuses on a variety of different positions and movements (asanas and vinyasas), combined with controlled breathing.

This form is intended to encourage relaxation, release stress, and improve health.  Jnana yoga focuses mainly on intense meditation, while Raja yoga emphasizes a balance of the three critical factors of the discipline to become a well-rounded person.  There are more than one hundred schools of yoga, some that are thousands of years old as well as some that have been developed more recently; Bikram yoga, for example, originates in the 1970s and became a widely practiced craze in the early part of the 21st century.

Further Study:

Because yoga is much more than merely a tactic for burning calories or losing weight, it requires guidance from a knowledgeable instructor.  Initially, yoga was passed down teacher to student, one at a time.  Although it is most commonly taught in group or class format now, that connection between instructor and student is still vital.  The yoga instructor must have knowledge of the school of yoga he or she is teaching, the proper form of all positions, accurate demonstration techniques, and effective methods to explain how students can achieve each position.  Source of Yoga offers registered training programs for yoga enthusiasts who’d like to instruct this ancient practice.