What is Yoga?
Yoga is a five thousand year old physical and philosophical system designed to improve a person on all levels. Yoga is a Sanskrit word (from the same Indo-European root as the English word 'yoke'), which means 'union'. Yoga is principally concerned with uniting the disparate elements of body, mind, intellect, emotions, nerves, soul an so on for a more fulfilled and more efficient living.
So it's not all about stretching and breathing techniques?
No. Yoga teaches the student to keep their body in tune with their mind and their soul. The body, mind, intellect and breath are all concentrated when performing an asana.
Who can practise yoga?
Everyone from children to those in their senior years. It is open to all people of all ages, races, religions and abilities.
But I thought Yoga was just something practised by women? No, not at all. Although in the West yoga is predominantly practised by women, the numbers of men who are turning to yoga is increasing all the time.
How often should yoga be practised?
There is no minimum or maximum recommended time. A daily practise, however short, can be more effective that an intense weekly class. Dedicated yogis normally spend several hours a day
But don't you have to be really flexible to do yoga?
No. Yoga is non competitive - ie. every posture is practised to the best of that person's ability. As the yoga practice progresses, students find that their flexibility improves greatly.
What are the physical benefits of practising yoga?
Yoga is a powerful discipline that can improve health and fitness. Yoga postures can increase flexibility, stability, stamina and strength and help bring proper alignment and posture. They also bring a feeling of well being to the entire body by stimulating the organs and improving circulation. As the body works more efficiently, problems like headaches, back pain, stiff hips and digestive disorders can all be alleviated. Pranayama, the breathing techniques can lower the blood pressure, increase cardiovascular efficiency and aid relaxation.
What about the mental benefits?
Yoga can help reduce stress, improve concentration alleviate mood swings. It brings awareness and the ability to be 'still'. Practising pranayama helps bring mental clarity and calm.
Can yoga help certain medical conditions?
A regular practice can help improve the following conditions: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, menopause, ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, migraines, insomnia, fused vertebrae, arthritis, chronic pain, scoliosis, sciatica, respiratory ailments, digestive disorders and diabetes. It benefits many other conditions also.
What is meditation?
Meditation is the result of sustained concentration. The desired purpose of each meditation technique is to channel our awareness into a more positive direction by totally transforming one's state of mind. To meditate is to turn inwards, to concentrate on the inner self. Meditation calms the mind, brings emotional balance, mental clarity and focus.
What is yoga philosophy?
Yoga philosophy is a philosophy of life. The basis of yogic philosophy is the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali. Written over 2000 years ago, the Yoga Sutras contain four 'Padas' or chapters brought from all paths of yoga and creating a comprehensive text. Within the sutras, Patanjali describes the Eight Limbs of Yoga, which must be practised and developed before true mental liberation is reached.
For more information on philosophy join Ruth at her Wednesday class 11:15 - 12:00 philosophy, mindfulness and meditation.