Yoga & Fitness
Definition of Yoga
Yoga is a complete science of life that originated in India many thousands of years ago. It is the oldest system of self development in the world encompassing the body, mind and spirit. It is the union of the personal consciousness and the universal consciousness. The Ancient Yogis had a profound understanding of man’s essential nature so that he could live in harmony with himself and his environment. They perceived the physical body as a vehicle, with the mind as the driver, the soul as the owner, and action, emotion and intelligence as the three forces which pull the body-vehicle. In order to these integrate these, these three forces must be in balance. Taking into account the interrelationship between body and mind, the Yogis formulated a unique method for maintaining this balance – a method that combines all the movements you need for physical health with Breathing and Meditation techniques that ensure peace of mind.
The classical techniques of Yoga date back by more than 5,000 years. In ancient times, the desire for greater personal freedom, Health and long life, and heightened self-understanding gave birth to this system of physical and mental exercise which has since spread throughout the world. The word Yoga means “to join or yoke together,” and it brings the body and mind together into one harmonious experience.
Yoga is a method of learning that aims to attain the unity of mind, body and spirit through three main Yoga structures: Exercise, Breathing, and Meditation. The exercises of Yoga are designed to exert pressure on the Glandular Systems of the body, thereby increasing their efficiency and total health. The body is looked upon as the primary instrument that enables us to work and evolve in the world. A Yoga student; therefore, treats it with great care and respect. The Breathing Techniques are based on the concept that breath is the source of life in the body. Yoga students gently increase their breath control to improve the health and the functioning of both body and mind. These two systems prepare the body and mind for Meditation, making it easier for students to achieve a quiet and stress-free mind. Regular daily practice of all three parts of this structure of Yoga produces a clear, bright mind and a strong, capable body.
Six Branches of Yoga
Hatha Yoga or Yoga of Postures is the most popular branch of Yoga. Hatha Yoga considers the body as the vehicle for the soul. It uses Physical Pose or Asana, Breathing Techniques or Pranayama to bring the body in perfect health, and Meditation for the subtle spiritual elements of the mind to emerge freely. The practice of Hatha Yoga will result in the union of the body and the soul. It aims to make the body perfect and fill it with life force.
Bhakti Yoga is the path of heart or the Yoga of devotion. Yogis who practice Bhakti Yoga see the Divine in everyone and everything they encounter. This leads him to develop love, acceptance and tolerance for all. Bhakti Yoga teaches a person to have devotion to God and all things through devotion to life and love.
Raja means “royal”. Raja Yoga is the path of Yoga that focuses on meditation and contemplation. It is based on the Eight Limbs of Yoga, which is mentioned in the Yoga Sutra. This Yoga path teaches deep self-respect through self mastery. The Self is honoured here. Raja Yoga believes that the universe exists for the self, giving the self an illusion of centrality which results in self respect and respect for all creatures. Raja Yoga is also referred to as the Yoga of. Kings
Jnana Yoga is the path of Yoga that deals with wisdom and knowledge or the Yoga of the mind. Jnana Yogis pays tribute on man’s intelligence. They try to surpass limitations by unifying intellect and wisdom. Jnana Yoga tries to obtain existence beyond doctrine and ideological controversies by accepting all other philosophies and religion. It also uses an open, rational and curious mind in studying the spirit.
Karma Yoga believes that your present situation is based on your past actions. Karma Yoga is the path of service; it refers to the energy of action. This path requires you to be selfless. Performing a selfless service is the essence of Karma Yoga or consciously choosing a future that is free from negativity and selfishness knowing that your life is a consequence of your past actions. Karma Yoga practices try to change your action towards the good – good words, good thoughts, good deeds, in order to change your soul. By being selfless, you change your consciousness which leads to a change in your destiny.
Tantra Yoga is the path of ritual and perhaps the most misunderstood path. Some may think of Tantra Yoga as sorcery, witchcraft, magic spell or some mysterious formula. Most people perceive Tantra Yoga as sexual. All of these perceptions are far from truth. Tantra is the knowledge concerning Tattva (Truth or Brahman) and Mantra (mystic syllables). It utilizes rituals to respectfully experience the sacred in everything we do, not just sex, though sex is a part of it. It aims to expand our awareness in all states – whether awake or asleep. Tantra Yoga practitioners must have purity, humility, devotion, courage, dedication to his Guru, cosmic love, faithfulness, contentment, dispassion, non-covetousness, and truthfulness.
The System of Yoga – Yoga Breathing, Poses, and Meditation
The System of Yoga is neither complex or mysterious. Below we have tried to give you a comprehensive overview of the system of Yoga. The interconnection between Yoga Exercise, Breathing and Meditation is the key to the system.
One basic assumption of the Yoga Sutras is that the body and the mind are part of one continuum of existence, the mind being more subtle than the body. This is the foundation of the yogic view of health. The interaction of body and mind is the central concern of the entire science. It is believed that as the body and mind are brought into balance and health, the individual will be able to perceive his true nature; this will allow life to be lived through him more freely and spontaneously.
Yoga first attempts to reach the mind, where health begins, for, mental choices strongly affect the health of the body. Choices of food, types of exercise, which thoughts to think, etc. all affect the body. As practiced traditionally in India, Yoga includes a set of ethical imperatives and moral precepts, including diet, exercise, and meditative aspects. In the West, Yoga focuses primarily on postures (gentle stretching exercises), breathing exercises, and meditation. Yoga is frequently used in Western medicine to enhance health and treat chronic disease as well as stress.
Yoga Therapy begins with relaxation. Living in an age of anxiety, we are often unaware of our tensions. We are often depressed, tired, and an easy victim of diseases. There are a number of reasons for our stressful life. Often it is lack of rest, anxiety, tension and fatigue. These are constantly draining our health energies continuously. Thus, the first priority is to get us into a relaxed state. Yoga employs asanas, pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation and/or visualisation.
Yoga Postures or Asanas
Postures are gentle stretching movements designed to help balance the mind and body. The Yoga Postures are designed to rejuvenate the brain, spine, glands and internal organs. They work by increasing the blood and prana supply to these areas and by stimulating them with a gentle squeezing action. The asanas were designed with economy of time and effort in mind. Most of them work on more than one aspect of the body at the same time. For example, the twist asana benefits the spine, adrenal glands, liver, pancreas and kidneys. The Yoga Asanas produce their beneficial effect on the organs and glands in three ways:
The position of the asana causes an increase in blood circulation to the specific target organ or gland.
The position of the asana often produces a slight squeezing of the organ or gland. This has the effect of massaging the organ or gland and stimulating it.
Deep breathing and visualizing the target area sends an extra supply of prana to that area.
Yoga’s effect on the spine is to increase its flexibility. This ensures a good nerve supply to all parts of the body, since the nerves from the spine go to all the organs and glands.
Pranayama: Breathing Techniques
“When the Breath wanders, the mind is unsteady, but when the Breath is still, so is the mind still.”
Hatha Yoga Pradipika
Breathing is life. It is one of our most vital functions. Pranayama or Breathing Exercise promotes proper breathing. Proper Breathing, in a Yogic point of view, is to bring more oxygen to the blood and to the brain, and to control prana or the vital life energy. Pranayama – the science of breath control, consists a series of exercises intended to meet these needs and to keep the body in vibrant Health.
Pranayamas are specially developed breathing techniques. Yoga Breathing produces a huge storage of energy in the solar plexus area. This will cause the body to radiate vitality and, if any sickness is developing, the body can call upon some of this energy reserve to combat the disease. Yoga breathing also improves brain function (intelligence and memory), as well as increasing the elimination of toxins from the system. The total effect of Yoga asanas and breathing is to produce a state of high vitality and rejuvenation.
Meditation and Positive Thinking
The benefits of the postures are greater if you concentrate the healing action where it is needed. You can incorporate a variety of affirmations, meditation/concentration practices and visualisation. Many times focusing on an object or sound (like clicking of a clock) can help us concentrate and leave our distracting thoughts away.
An Affirmation is a declaratory statement of yourself. They are inner-self conditioners. Our inner mind will believe everything we say with conviction and emotional force. It take some persistent repetitions to get the desired result.
Typical affirmations that can be used are:
I am at my desired weight (for dieters)
My lungs are pure and clean (for smokers who want to get out of the habit)
I feel continuously alert, vital and useful (general), etc.
Even more powerful technique than affirmation is Visualisation. Here, we show our subconscious mind a picture of what we are talking about. Forming such picture inside your mind is called visualisation. To be effective, visualisation should involve all senses, not just sight. Imagine the state or thing we want.
How does it feel when we have it?
What will you be with it? What does it feel?
What does it look like? How does it sound? How does it taste?
How does it smell?
For healing therapy, visualize the state without the condition. For example, for those trying to lose weight, visualize yourself in the desired weight and physical condition and imagine the life in the new state. In other words, you should mentally see the affected area as it receives fresh blood circulation, oxygen and physical massage. A diabetic should visualize the healing energies flowing into the pancreas, near the stomach. A rheumatic can concentrate on the release of synovial fluid. (Synovial fluid is a lubricant and also disperses waste matter which can cause stiffness at joints).
Thus, most effective Yoga therapy involves a three-pronged attack. When you practice postures, you are strengthening the body. When you control your breathing, you are creating a chemical and emotional balance. And when you concentrate your mind on affirmations, you are practicing the power of prayer. But when all three approaches are synthesized, you are entering the most powerful mystery of healing: the basic harmony of life.
YOGA AND FITNESS – The Health Benefits of Yoga
Yoga and Health are two words that are very closely related. The Health Benefits of Yoga is widely known. Yoga is a popular aid in improving and attaining both Physical and Mental Health. This is basically the most common reason why people practice Yoga – for health reasons. They want to ease their Back Pain, find a method to ease stress, or ways to deal with their Health problems. This Yoga and Health section takes a closer look on how your body functions and how Yoga can benefit your body.
“The Yogi regards the physical body as an instrument for his journey toward perfection.” Swami Vishnu-Devananda
Yoga is a science of Health – unlike modern Western medicine which is largely a science of disease and treatment. The teachings of Yoga are based on intricate and precise understanding of the healthy functioning of the human body and mind. Its techniques are designed to maximize your own potential for good health, vitality and lasting youthfulness. This section describes the functioning of our body, looking in particular at the three major functions: the body’s strong, flexible frame of muscles, bones and ligaments; the nutrient cycles of digestion, respiration and circulation which nourishes every cell and tissue; and the vital messenger systems of nerves and hormones which balance and regulate our physical, emotional and mental responses.
The Five Principles of Yoga are the basis of attaining a healthy body and mind through the Practice of Yoga. In this section, we give you detailed information on these Five Principles:
Principle 1: Proper Relaxation
By releasing the tension in the muscles and putting the whole body at rest, you revitalize your Nervous System and achieve inner peace, making you feel relaxed and refreshed. This relaxed feeling is carried over into all your activities and helps you conserve your energy and let go of all worries and fears.
Principle 2: Proper Exercise
This principle revolves around the idea that our physical body is meant to move and exercise. Proper Exercise is achieved through the Yoga Postures or Asana which systematically works on all parts of the body – stretches and tones the Muscles and Ligaments, enhances the flexibility of the spine and the joints, and improves Blood Circulation. The asanas are designed to regulate the physical and physiological functions of the body. Practicing these Yoga Poses makes your body relaxed, gives you more strength and energy, and rejuvenates the various systems of the body. The Yoga Posture goes together with Proper Breathing. Each movement and stretch should be guided by your breath, making your movement and your breath coordinated and feel like one and the same. The execution of the Asana is beneficial to the body, and at the same time contributes to spiritual and Mental growth.
Principle 3: Proper Breathing
This means breathing fully and rhythmically, making use of all the parts of your Lungs to increase your oxygen intake. Proper Breathing should be deep, slow and rhythmical. To achieve this, you need to be able to regulate the length and duration of your inhalation, exhalation, and the retention of air in your lungs or the pauses between breath. Yoga Breathing Exercises or Pranayama teaches you on how you can recharge your body and control your mental state by regulating the flow of Prana – the life force. This helps you achieve a calmer and more focused mind, and increases your energy level.
Principle 4: Proper Diet
What you eat extremely affects your mind. Improper diet results to mental inefficiency and blocks spiritual awareness. Proper Diet is one that nourishes both mind and body. It should be well balanced and based on natural foods. Proper Diet in Yoga also means eating in moderation and eating only when you are hungry. We sometimes tend to eat when we are upset, using food to fill the gap or the emptiness that we feel. Bad eating habits will cause our senses to be dull that we won’t even notice how much we eat or how it tastes and may result to diet related ailments like Obesity and Diabetes. Food should sustain our body. It should keep the body light and supple, the mind calm, and it should also help in keeping a strong immune system.
Principle 5: Positive Thinking and Meditation
The way we think highly affects our way of life. Practice keeping a positive outlook in life, this will facilitate in having a peaceful mind. Positive thinking and Meditation helps you remove negative thoughts and puts your mind under perfect control.
The Different Styles of Hatha Yoga
Yoga continues to evolve through the years to meet the needs of every individual – from self-realization to Curing of Various Ailments.. Hatha Yoga is the Branch of Yoga that focuses on the physical well-being of a person and believes that the body is the vehicle of the spirit. A lot of different Yoga Styles rooted from Hatha Yoga. All these styles aim to balance the mind, the body, and the spirit through the Asanas or poses; however, the emphasis varies. Some puts emphasis on the strict alignment of the body while some focuses on the coordination of breath and movement.
All these Yoga Styles have common roots. In fact, the founders of three major styles — Astanga, Iyengar and Viniyoga — were all students of Krishnamacharya, a famous teacher at the Yoga Institute at the Mysore Palace in India. Two other styles, Integral and Sivananda, were created by disciples of the famous guru Sivananda. No style is better than the other. The Style you use is a matter of personal preference or a matter of need.
Ananda Yoga is a classical style of Hatha Yoga that uses Asana and Pranayama to awaken, experience, and begin to control the subtle energies within oneself, especially the energies of the Chakras. Its object is to use those energies to harmonize body, mind, and emotions, and above all to attune oneself with higher levels of awareness. One unique feature of this system is the use of silent affirmations while in the Asanas as a means of working more directly and consciously with the subtle energies to achieve this attunement. Ananda Yoga is a relatively gentle, inward experience not an athletic or aerobic practice. It was developed by Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, author of the spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi.
Anusara (a-nu-SAR-a) means: “to step into the current of Divine Will”, “following your heart”, “flowing with Grace”, “to move with the current of divine will.” A new style developed by John Friend, Anusara Yoga is described as heart-oriented and spiritually inspiring, yet grounded in a deep knowledge of outer and inner body alignment. It is a combination of Hatha Yoga and biochemical principles. Each student’s various abilities and limitations are deeply respected and honored. In practicing Anasura Yoga, you must keep your heart open and flow with grace as you do the postures. Anasura Yoga practice is based on three principles: attitude, action and alignment, making it different from Hatha Yoga.
For those who want a serious workout, Ashtanga may be the perfect Yoga. Developed by K. Pattabhi Jois, Ashtanga is physically demanding. Participants move through a series of flows, jumping from one posture to another in order to build strength, flexibility and stamina. It is not for beginners or anyone who’s been taking a leisurely approach to fitness. Ashtanga Yoga Practice involves performing challenging sequence of poses with Ujjayi Breathing and vinyasas (a flow of postures). This Yoga Style uses a system based on six series of increasing difficulty. Ashtanga Yoga practice will help you achieve increased strength, flexibility and stamina. The so-called Power Yoga is based on Ashtanga.
Bikram Yoga is named after its founder – Bikram Choudhury, who studied Yoga with Bishnu Ghosh, brother of ParamahansaYogananda. Bikram Choudhury’s Yoga is practiced in a room with a temperature of up to 100 degrees, thus be prepared to sweat a lot. Bikram Yoga enthusiasts crank the thermostat to high temperature then perform a series of 26 Asanas. Each posture is usually performed twice and held for a certain period of time. Their Yoga Sessions start from Standing Postures, then the Backbends, Forward Bends, and Twists. The poses are accompanied by Kapalabhati Breath or the “breath of fire”.
Bikram Yoga is designed to “scientifically” warm and stretch muscles, ligaments and tendons in the order in which they should be stretched. Practice of this Style of Yoga promotes the cleansing of the body, release of toxins and utmost flexibility. Bikram Yoga may be practiced by people who are already in good shape and even those who are suffering from any chronic ailment, however, you should ask for your physician’s advice before getting involve into any exercise activity.
Integral Yoga puts equal emphasis on the Pranayama (Breathing Control), on Meditation, and on the Asanas (Physical Poses). This Style of Yoga was developed by Swami Satchidananda, the man who introduced chanting to the crowd of the original Woodstock. Integral Yoga is also used for therapeutic purposes; in fact, Dr. Dean Ornish who is Swami Satchidananda’s student, used Integral Yoga in his groundbreaking work on curing Heart Disease. The practice of Integral Yoga revolves around eight main goals: 1. Physical Health and strength; 2. control over all senses; 3. clear, calm and well-disciplined mind; 4. higher level of intellect; 5. strong and pliable will; 6. love and compassion; 7. purer ego, and; 8. ultimate peace and joy.
Iyengar Yoga was named after B.K.S. Iyengar who is one of the best-known Yoga teachers and who is also the creator of the most popular Styles of Yoga in the world. Iyengar’s style is noted for great attention to detail and precise alignment of postures, he also popularized the use of Yoga Props such as blocks and belts. This great attention to detail, posture, and alignment has also become the notable characteristics of Iyengar Yoga.
The Yoga Poses are held longer and repeated several times, only when one achieved a certain level of mastery of these poses can he move to Pranayama. The props helps Iyengar Yogis to achieve the best possible pose, it also provide support and minimizes the risk of getting injured. One of the most popular pose in Iyengar Yoga is the Tadasana or the Mountain Pose. Part of Iyengar’s success may be attributed to the quality of teachers who must complete a rigorous 2-5 year training program for certification.
Kali Ray Tri Yoga
Kali Ray Triyoga was founded by Kali Ray. This Style of Yoga brings Posture, Breath, and Focus together to create dynamic and intuitive flows. The Tri Yoga exercises combine flowing and sustained postures following a spinal wavelike movement, economy of motion, and synchronized breath and mudra. The flows are arranged by level and can be as gentle or as challenging as desired. Students may progress from basic to advance as they increase their flexibility, strength, endurance and knowledge of the flows.
Kripalu Yoga is also called the Yoga of consciousness. Kripalu puts great emphasis on Proper Breath, alignment, coordination of breath and movement, and “honouring the wisdom of the body” — you work according to the limits of your individual flexibility and strength. Alignment follows awareness. Students learn to focus on the physical and psychological reactions caused by various postures to develop their awareness of mind, body, emotion and spirit. There are three stages in Kripalu Yoga. Stage One focuses on learning the postures, proper breathing, and exploring your body’s abilities. Stage Two involves holding the postures for an extended time, developing concentration and awareness of your thoughts and emotions. Stage Three is like Meditation in motion in which the movement from one posture to another arises unconsciously and spontaneously while you are in a meditative state.
CHAKRAS AND THE CHANNELS OF ENERGY
Inside every human being there is a network of nerves and sensory organs that interprets the outside physical world.
At the same time, within us resides a subtle system of channels (nadis) and centers of energy (chakras) which look after our physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual being.
Each of the seven chakras has several spiritual qualities. These qualities are intact within us, and even though they might not always be manifest, they can never be destroyed.
When the Kundalini is awakened, these qualities start manifesting spontaneously and express themselves in our life.
Thus, through regular meditation, we become automatically very dynamic, creative, confident and at the same time very humble, loving and compassionate. It is a process which starts to develop by itself when the Kundalini rises and starts to nourish our charkas