Yoga is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India. There are a broad variety of yoga schools, practices, and goals in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. There is no written record of the inventor of yoga. Yogis (yoga practitioners) practiced yoga long before any written account of it came into existence. Yogis over the millennia passed down the discipline to their students, and many different schools of yoga developed as the practice widened in global reach and popularity.
Yoga has become popular as a form of physical exercise based upon asanas (physical poses) to promote improved control of mind and body and to enhance well-being.
Yoga, in ancient times, was often referred to in terms of a tree with roots, trunk, branches, blossoms and fruits. Each branch of yoga has unique characteristics and represents a specific approach to life. The six branches are:
- Hatha yoga – physical and mental branch – involves asana and pranayama practice – preparing the body and mind
- Raja yoga – meditation and strict adherence to the “eight limbs of yoga”
- Karma yoga – path of service to consciously create a future free from negativity and selfishness caused by our actions
- Bhakti yoga – path of devotion – a positive way to channel emotions and cultivate acceptance and tolerance
- Jnana yoga – wisdom, the path of the scholar and intellect through study
- Tantra yoga – pathway of ritual, ceremony or consummation of a relationship
Yoga has many health benefits and is proven to help with physical and mental well-being.
Just a few of the benefits of yoga include:
- Increased flexibility.
- Increased muscle strength and tone.
- Improved respiration, energy and vitality.
- Maintaining a balanced metabolism.
- Weight reduction.
- Cardio and circulatory health.
- Improved athletic performance.
- Protection from injury.
Yoga is a perfect low-impact exercise, suitable for all ages and abilities. One of the most important benefits? It makes you happy!
If you’re new to yoga, it can be difficult to know where to begin, but the good news is, you need very little to get started with this wonderful exercise. Before you begin, it is worth doing a rough assessment of your health- any ongoing problems with joints or health complaints should be reported to your yoga instructor.
Don’t forget that the key to successfully practicing yoga is your breath control. Remember to always take deep breaths through your nose, filling out your belly. Sit on the floor in a relaxed Easy Pose – seated with your legs crossed and your back and neck straight. Concentrate on your breathing, and feel your body balanced and controlled.
Although it might sound easy, mastering your breathing and back muscle control in this way is an essential part of beginning your yoga routine. Once you feel relaxed, stand up straight and stretch your arms slowly up above your head as you breathe in, then exhale as you reach down toward the ground. Go as far as you can without straining.
Once you feel comfortable with these simple beginner yoga poses, you can incorporate them into a sequence for a more advanced workout.
Yoga can be done anywhere and with very little equipment. We are lucky that Shepway has many wonderful beaches and parks- why not try outdoor yoga in the summer?