Yoga: Exercise, Discipline and Spiritual Well Being

When most people think of yoga, they think of exercise. They envision a slow-paced exercise program complete with lengthy poses and stretches combined with some deep breathing exercises. While all of this is true of yoga, there is much more to it than what can be seen with the eye.

Yoga is an ancient discipline that is just as much mental and spiritual as it is physical. Yoga has been used to enlighten spiritually, to calm emotionally, to attain a superior state of consciousness, to heal and to meditate as well as to strengthen the body physically. All of these uses are reasons why yoga is a popular form of alternative medicine.

Yoga originated in India as early as 2600 B.C.E. While the written and illustrated texts describing yoga poses and meditation date much later, about 900 B.C.E., seals depicting figures in yoga-like postures have been found that date back to the earlier time period.

Throughout history, much has been written about yoga and its use as an alternative remedy. And while yoga has changed somewhat in its practice, the theory remains much the same today as it was in years past. In fact, most forms of modern yoga still practice the eight concepts of ancient yoga:

1.    Five Abstentions – Somewhat similar to the commandments in Christianity, the five abstentions are commandments to avoid: violence, lies, covetousness, sensuality and possessiveness.
2.    Five Observances – The following should be strived for: purity, contentment, austerity, study and surrender (to god).
3.    Seat – Postures used for meditation.
4.    Lengthening Life Force – Lengthening the breath or life force of the body.
5.    Abstraction – Numbing the senses to external stimuli.
6.    Concentration – Narrowing the mind to a single object or purpose.
7.    Meditation – Intense contemplation.
8.    Liberation – The merging of the consciousness with meditation.

Modern Yoga and Alternative Remedies

Today, many people use yoga as a form of exercise only. Some also use yoga as a form of meditation, but few recognize yoga as the all-encompassing discipline that it really is. Regardless, there are many health benefits to be derived from yoga. Research has shown that physical health as well as a positive mind set help patients heal and recover faster from all types of illnesses. Yoga helps foster both physical health and mental well being.

People also practice yoga to varying degrees. While some participate in a class regularly, others practice select poses along with breathing exercises and meditation at home. The truth is that there is no right or wrong way to practice yoga. Whether you dive right in or dabble here and there, there are many health benefits to be gained from practicing yoga.

If you are just getting started in yoga, you should know that there are still several different styles of yoga that are being taught in classes. You will need to study the styles and find the one that best suits you. The most popular styles of yoga taught today include Ashtanga, Bikram, Hatha, Lyengar and Vinyasa flow.

If you find that you are overwhelmed by all of the information and intricacies of yoga, take a step back and observe the fundamentals. Start with the basics. You can always add to your knowledge and skill later. The most important thing is to just get started.



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