What is yoga and can it help me? Have you ever wondered what Yoga is and if it can help you in some way? Yoga Ladies is here to help lead you through these questions. Today I’m going to discuss what yoga is and a few things about what it’s not as well.
No one is going to try and covert you in a religious way here. Yoga is flexible and you can pick and choose from its offerings
What is yoga?
Yoga is an ancient practice with its origins in Hindu, Buddist and Jain traditions. It is a holistic endeavour covering our physical, mental and spiritual well-being. But don’t panic, no one is going to try and covert you in a religious way here. Yoga is flexible and you can pick and choose from its offerings taking just the ones you want to include in your life and leaving the rest behind.
The word yoga is often said to mean to join as in joining the body and mind together. Other meanings are to connect. It is a coming together of mind body and spirit in a most beneficial way. Most of us come to yoga through the postures or the meditations but these are just two of yogas many aspects.
How old is yoga?
Yoga originated thousands of years ago. There are ancient texts going back over 2000 years and they refer to yoga being practised for millennia before then. The yoga practised in the West today is not quite the same as it was back in ancient India. It has evolved over time with each generation bringing new insights. Much of what we practice today has evolved over the last 200 years as knowledge of our anatomy and exercise has improved.
Paths of yoga
There are several paths of yoga, each of which is huge and wide-ranging. It is normal for individuals to follow just one of these paths maybe dipping into the others just a little.They are:
- Raja Yoga – non-violence, wisdom and knowledge, introspection and self-study
- Jana Yoga – Intellectual wisdom and knowledge. The study of ancient texts
- Baki Yoga – devotion and service to God. Chanting, prayers and mantra
- Karma yoga – Selfless service and giving to others
Most yoga we see in the West today is Hatha which is just a part of the Raja yoga path. Raja means Royal path. The Royal path is a method to bring our bodies and minds under our own control. In its turn, it is subdivided into eight Limbs
- Yamas ( standards to live by)
- Niyamas ( the way we treat ourselves)
- Asanas (our yoga postures)
- Pranayama ( breathing)
- The other 4 paths are ever deepening stages of meditation leading eventually to enlightenment
Yoga is flexible and you can pick and choose from its offerings taking just the ones you want to include in your life and leaving the rest behind.
What is Yoga nowadays?
In the West, most of the yoga taught in classes these days are the physical postures or Asanas with some breath work and meditation. Just three of the limbs of Raja yoga. Many like me follow Hatha yoga. The styles include Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Iyengar yoga, restorative and hot yoga. There is acro yoga, partner yoga and areal swing yoga. You may have noticed modern styles such as goat yoga, dog yoga, swimming yoga and even beer yoga emerging. Many of these are just attempts by yoga teachers to build a brand and market something different. Try them all if you like and pick the one that suits you best.
For most complete beginners I recommend you start with a gentle Hatha class.
What is yoga not?
Yoga is not just exercise, it is way more than that. Even at a basic level, we move with our breath and with focus on our bodies. A much higher level of concentration is required in a yoga class than during many other exercises. It helps us develop a mind-body connection that is not usual in an aerobics class or a gym session. Most new to yoga start to feel better right from their very first class.
Can Yoga help me?
Well, that actually depends on the help you want. Will it help you get rich? Most likely not. Generally, yoga teachers are not rich. Can yoga help yoga help you feel and look better? Yes, most certainly it can. It can also help you be calmer and more centred. Recent scientific research has shown that it has huge benefits for a whole range of illnesses as well. You will, of course, need to put a little effort in, an absolute minimum of one hour a week to start with.
Heres a list of all the things yoga can help with and there may be more.
If you are just looking to feel better and look better then I suggest that you start with a local yoga class. It is much better to do at least a few real-life classes than learning from books or the internet. In a real-life class, you will see others like yourself struggling and improving. Books and generally the internet just show more advanced practitioners and beautiful bodies. This is the reason that I put pictures of myself on here – someone a lot more average than most you see on yoga website. You will enjoy following yoga on the internet much more once you have mastered the basics.
This is just a whistle-stop tour of what is yoga. There is so very much more to it and I will be bringing you more before too long. Is there anything specific you would like me to cover first? Just drop a comment and I will see what I can do.