Yoga For Mind & Body
Yoga is a well-known natural therapy in the West, where many people view it as a form of gentle exercise that consists of body postures and breathing techniques with perhaps some meditation thrown in. However, in its purest Hindi form yoga is in fact a way of being that controls all aspects of life. The father of yoga, Patanjali, describes stages to enlightenment, starting with ethical guidelines that include eating habits and personal hygiene, progressing through postures (asanas) and breathing techniques (pranayama), to meditation, and eventually withdrawal to the supreme level of pure consciousness (akin to nirvana in Buddhism).
As with some of the ancient Chinese therapies yoga is said to influence the flow of prana (qi, life energy) through nadis (meridians, energy channels) that cross at chakras (the body's energy centres). A chakra can be associated with a specific mantra such as the most sacred manta "OM", which represents the original sound of the universe. The flow of energy in the subtle or astral body equates to electrical impulses, neurological pathways, and nerve centres and organs when talking about the physical body.
There are many different types of yoga, the most commonly practised in the west being Hatha yoga. Hatha means "balance" and focuses on balancing mind and body. Asanas are designed to benefit both mind and body, and are performed slowly coordinated with breathing. Other examples of yoga types are Bikram (vigorous), Iyengar (uses props), Jnana (yoga of self-knowledge), Sivananda, and Tantra (the body is your temple!).
The easiest way of learning yoga is to join a class, preferably given by a qualified teacher, however once you have mastered the asanas and pranayama it can be very therapeutic to practice alone. A popular series of asanas is "The Salute to the Sun", which was traditionally practised facing the rising and setting sun. It comprises of 12 asanas that should flow into each other and synchronise with correct breathing patterns. It is an excellent way to warm up at the beginning of a yoga routine.
Conventional medical opinion agrees that yoga is a good exercise regime and/or relaxation technique. Such is its acceptance that it has been incorporated into a number of healthcare programmes, and most doctor's feel that its benefits should be investigated further relating to medical complaints.
Examples of conditions where Yoga can be useful are:
- Stress, fatigue, depression and anxiety.
- Headaches and migraines.
- Circulatory disorders.
- Asthma and bronchitis.
- Rheumatoid arthritis.
- Digestive disorders.
- Back pain.
- Menstrual problems including PMS.
- Improving mobility and flexibility.
- Light on Yoga: The Definitive Guide to Yoga Practice by B.K.S Iyengar
- Yoga Girl - Finding Happiness, Cultivating Balance, and Living with your Heart Wide Open by Rachel Brathen
- Yoga Guide for Curvy Girls - Easy Beginner's Poses for Women with Curves by Carmen Reeves
- Yoga for Runners by Lexie Williamson
- Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs by Anna Semlyen
- Yoga for Pregnancy and Birth by Uma Dinsmore-Tuli