In the modern world, yoga is seen as a gentle form of exercise that is great for flexibility and mobility. However, the art of yoga has a long history and is originated as much more than just a way to exercise the body.
The Joining of Body and Mind
Yoga was so called because it originates from the Sanskrit word Yuj, which means joining together. Yoga encompasses the body and the mind, and those who practice yoga in a more traditional way suggest that the union of the body and mind are vital for one to be successful.
While there is no one person responsible for ‘inventing’ yoga, the roots can be traced back to India over 5000 years ago, meaning it has been around for much longer than may people realise.
The Third Element
Not only does the practice unite the body and mind but it places great emphasis on the spiritual as well. It combines poses that stretch and heal the body, with breathing techniques and meditation to address the body in a holistic way, that is to say, the three elements of body, mind and sprit as one.
Learning and using meditation techniques is seen as a way to heal and support the spiritual mind, and can involve using ‘mantras’. A mantra is a short phrase or saying that is used to focus the mind on nothing else, which is, of course, a vital part of meditation.
Modern Yoga Developed New Schools
Over the years various branches of yoga emerged with yoga masters or ‘yogis’ developing new ways of working. These strands all held the major elements of the original style of yoga, but some chose to focus more on the way in which the body was stretched, giving a more intense physical workout. For example, Bikram Yoga (developed more recently in the 1970’s) is carried out in extreme temperatures, and students move quickly to work up a sweat, whereas other forms focus more on the meditation and spiritual side, keeping the physical movements slow and gentle.
In the western world, the most commonly practised form of yoga is Hatha, which is a gentle exercise for that usually includes the correct breathing techniques and a form of meditation usually something quite short, to end the session.
Other Schools of Yoga
There are many other schools of yoga, as people have grown and changed over the years and taken their beliefs and transformed them into practices that are recognised across the world.
Embrace the Old
Many people feel that the meditation side of yoga is something they find uncomfortable. It is worth trying to get on board with the whole practice though, by embracing all parts of yoga you are really offering the best to your body as a whole, rather than just a physical form of exercise. Most yoga teachers are aware of issues regarding meditation and chanting but will offer lots of support to help you get started.
Overall yoga is believed to be one of the best exercises, because it embraces the body as a whole and is suitable for all levels and abilities, from the super fit to those bed or chair bound.