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A Life Philosophy

Yoga is different things to different people, so what it means to you will depend greatly on how you were introduced to it and how you enjoyed your initial experiences with it. For some people Yoga is simply a method of exercising that ensures they have a healthy supple body. For other people Yoga transcends a method of exercise and is a spiritual experience that allows them to find the balance and centring their lives need. This type of Yoga comes closer to a life philosophy than any other.

Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga is often placed in this final type when assessing it’s place as a Yoga discipline. It descends from a document known as Korunta Yoga which deals with the 8 spiritual movements which are described by Patanjali in Sutra Yoga. Today most Yoga disciplines are directly descended from the descriptions of Yoga exercises in these documents, and so most forms of Yoga are variations of Ashtanga Vinyasi.

Getting a complete understanding of Ashtanga Yoga is important as it’s proponents treat it as more that a form of exercise. While it’s base is in physical movement it is suggested that it’s power in fact comes from the strength of spirit that is developed from regular and disciplined practice of the 8 stages of Yoga. Through the eight stages of Yoga the body and mind become pure, and so they are seen as a purifying discipline.

This Statue of Shiva is Approximately 65 feet ...

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Furthermore the discipline of Ashtanga Vinyasa deals with a profound and deep way of relating to others. The closest word to describe this aspect of the Yoga discipline is manners, but it really does go beyond that. Yoga is a discipline of balance, and the physical balance required to complete many of the exercises should be mirrored by an internal balance or harmony of the soul. It is said that a hyperactive person canot be successful with Yoga and this is true on several levels. Firstly they lack the discipline to sit calmly through the exercises, but they also lack the mental calm to focus wholly and completely on a single task. Yoga requires deep concentrating on the simple act of breathing and feeling the breath bring life to different areas of your body.

The power of Yoga is found in it’s combination of the physical strength and flexibility needed to complete movements and the mental discipline that is required to maintain them. Yoga is not just a form of exercise but most often it is thought of as a form of meditation. Meditating successfully with Yoga requires a pureness of thought and singularity of focus that is not found in most modern exercise programs. It seeks to bring the body back into balance and focus on maintaining that balance.

This aspect of Yoga is often misunderstood, but balance plays a huge role in Eastern Medicine and the purpose of Yoga and similar meditative techniques is often no more than to achieve and maintain the level of balance that keeps our bodies healthy. Yoga teachers will often talk about one-ness and inner harmony, and this can be mis-interpreted by people who lack a holistic understanding of what Yoga seeks to achieve. Simple the harmony that is achieved through Meditation and Yoga is a self-contentment or acceptance of oneself. This shows that the first step to becoming completely happy and healthy is to be content with yourself and your life.

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The Different Motivations And benefits Of Yoga

Yoga Class at a Gym Category:Gyms_and_Health_Clubs

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There are many different reasons for taking up and practising Yoga. For one person they may be ill and looking to rejuvenate themselves. Another will want to maintain and improve their current level of health. Some people like the mental challenge…and for some it is a physical challenge that can be overcome. Some people may use Yoga as a relaxing form of stress relief. The great thing about Yoga is that all these people are going to find what they are looking for and so much more.

Yoga has a long list of benefits, both physical and mental, associated with it. Yoga can assist in recovery from a heart attack through it’s blood lowering and distressing effects. There has been a considerable amount of research done into heart patients and Yoga, most notably by Dr Ornish who is now also a best selling author. Dean Ornish has no reservations in recommending Yoga both as a way of recovering from heart attacks and also avoiding future heart problems. Yoga has also been reported to be very beneficial to people with diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis due to it’s ability to assist with balance and muscle tone.

Yoga gently works muscle groups around the back and spine of spinal injury sufferers and because it puts very little stress on the muscles while still working them thoroughly it is a fantastic way of strengthening this part of the body. Regular Yoga for back pain sufferers can result in complete restoration of their range of movement.

As we age most of us become frailer and less co-ordinated in our movements, but Yoga can help us age more gracefully by ensuring we are always in control of our body and mind. In fact most Yoga sessions are filled with a slightly older crowd who recognize the ongoing benefits it gives them.

Yoga is also a strength building discipline that allows even progression in the arms, the legs and the trunk or core of the body. Many of us take strength for granted until it fails us, but increasing your physical strength will benefit you not just with lifting heavy objects, but also in everyday tasks like getting groceries or mowing the lawn. It even makes it easier for us to move ourselves!

As well as strength Yoga will greatly increase the range of motion we are able to achieve, particularly in the spine and joint areas. Once again this is often something we take for granted unless it is missing. The act of reaching up to put something in a cupboard is natural to many of us, but for others it can cause a jolt of pain down their back, they simply cannot move their arm through the range of motion needed to reach up, or when they do their grasp is not strong enough to grab anything from the cupboard.

It’s important not to just focus on the physical benefits of Yoga because the mental benefits are at least as impressive. Simply put Yoga will focus and sharpen your mind. Each posture is performed with a focus and an awareness of your body and your breathing. This is not a gym session with mind numbing reps or chatter between exercises. Whatever you are doing during a Yoga session is done with absolute focus on the movement, the body, the breathing and the moment. Breathing is something that most of us do wrong most of the time. We are accustomed to taking shorter, quicker breaths, but with Yoga the breathing is deeper and fuller. These deeper breaths will make the mind calmer and more focused. Yoga enthusiasts often describe this calmness as a sense of well-being. The deep breathing also makes it easier to release the stress and negative thinking that accumulates in us. Just as the physical blocks are removed through increased blood circulation during the exercises, so the mental blockages are removed by clarity of thought.

Yoga is not a discipline you simply know or do not know; it is an ongoing learning process. There are a huge number of different postures and each posture has a number of different variations on how it can be performed. This never-ending sea of options keeps the body stimulated and engages the mind constantly. Behind the postures and exercises themselves there is a complex philosophical system based in the writings that Yoga derives from. Not many people think of a complete code of ethics including steadfastness, truth, self inquiry and an opposition to stealing, harming others and hoarding when they think of yoga, but these ethical issues are a central part of the system on which Yoga was founded.

The different postures, breathing exercises and the deep philosophy of Yoga all lead to the same end – a deep contemplation. Because Yoga relaxes both the body and the mind tension and stress are greatly reduced. This is highlighted during a Yoga class by pauses for us to get in touch with how we are feeling and reacting. Ending the class in a point by point contemplative meditation performed on the back is common.

Yoga is an exercise, but it is also a meditative process, a code of ethics and a confidence and character building course all rolled into one. It’s no wonder the group of people who attend the classes are so diverse.

 

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Is Yoga The Perfect Exercise?

Is Yoga the perfect form of exercise and relaxation? Let’s make a list of what our ideal type of exercise would do. Firstly it would be simple enough that anyone could do it, but have enough variations and different methods that it would maintain the interest of someone who had been practicing it for years. It would need to be easy to learn so that people could pick up the basics quickly and stat seeing the benefits as soon as possible. To be a perfect form of exercise it would need to be capable of keep our body in good shape all by itself. It would help with weight loss, circulation and increasing the strength of the muscles. It would stimulate the lymphatic system as well as the blood flow and help the body dispose of waste products, improving the overall immune response system. It would also have benefits that went beyond health – the sharpening of the mind and an increased sense of well being and contentment. Ideally it would be an exercise form that required no expensive equipment and that could be practiced practically anywhere, alone or in a group.

This is quite a demanding set of prerequisites for a perfect form of exercise. Let’s see if Yoga measures up to these standards.

YOGA! July challenge

YOGA! July challenge (Photo credit: lululemon athletica)

Yoga is a discipline that has it’s routes in India. The documents that modern Yoga is based on are hundreds of years old, and the principles behind these documents were practiced long before that. It is a low impact form of exercise that has been tweaked and customized by literally thousands of different teachers and enthusiasts. The are numerous resulting ‘styles’ of Yoga, but they all have the same core background and beliefs. What we refer to as Yoga in the West is usually the physical component of an entire life philosophy that has it’s own beliefs and code of ethics built in.

The physical focus of Yoga is on poses and slow movements that are low impact and usually use nothing more than our own body. Sometimes props and supports are used to assist the body in achieving and holding a particular pose. The poses can vary greatly in their degree of difficulty and even the same pose can have many different stages or levels. The perfect example is a simple forward stretch. One person may be able to stretch out past their knees, another may be able to reach their ankles and somebody else may be able to touch the floor. This level of progression allows us to see a physical difference in our flexibility level as we practice Yoga more regularly. And because Yoga does not require any special equipment we are not refined to set class times and can practice Yoga anywhere and any time the fancy takes us. We can even do breathing exercises to clear the mind while sitting at a work desk.

Yoga has some incredible health benefits which stem from controlled breathing and increased blood flow. Our bodies organs simply do not operate at peak efficiency unless they are receiving the oxygen and nutrients that they need. The waste products from our muscles and organs are carried away by the lymphatic system. Both systems can develop chokepoints and blockages that different Yoga poses will address and correct. The result is a better more regular blood pressure, a more efficient immunity system and a optimal digestive process.

Because Yoga movements are slow and simple, the focus on correct breathing has a pronounced mental affect on the body. It provides us with an enhanced ability to focus, and to un-clutter our thoughts. This is a valuable edge in modern life and its importance should not be under estimated.

Finally many regular Yoga enthusiasts will tell you that there is a spiritual side to Yoga, how far this affects an individual will probably depend on their beliefs before they begin practicing Yoga, but it can perhaps be thought of most accurately with a greater comfort and connection with your own body. The increased acceptance of yourself, and comfort with your own being results directly in more happy people.

So, it looks like Yoga does indeed check all the boxes and can be thought of as a perfect exercise form.

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