Most professional trainers will tell you that if you want to make real progress in your journey towards a fit and healthy body, you have to combine or alternate between various types of sports or workouts. This is because in time, the body gets accustomed to the type of workout you’ve been doing, so progress is delayed or stagnates. In order to get out of the comfort zone, it is recommended to change the activity, as long as it is a difficult and exerting one. To help you gain perspective and find new ways of keeping healthy, we are going to talk about one of the oldest practices in the world, Yoga. Even though everyone’s heard of it, many of you may still be wondering, what is Yoga?
Those who are curious about what is Yoga should know that it has gained such popularity in the entire world because it is a practice that focuses on the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of a person. Its origins lay in ancient India and it is one of the six schools of Hindu philosophy. Versions of Yoga are in fact found all over Asian cultures and religions, so it is present in Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism. The most popular form of Yoga was that exposed in the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, and it is focused on the spirit and mind. However, a newer form, that focused on the health of the body, emerged. It was called Hatha Yoga and it would be a revelation to the western world.
If you ask a Westerner what is yoga, they will probably tell you that it is a form of physical fitness, because it is this aspect of the practice that we adopted more easily. Yoga arrived in the West in the late 19th century, brought by Hindu monks. However, it wasn’t until the 1980s that it truly became a popular practice for physical fitness, especially in the United States. Many studies have tried showing the exact benefits of this practice on the body, but it was difficult to pinpoint exact results. Nevertheless, studies carried out in the United States showed that Yoga practitioners had mental health improvements and musculo-skeletal improvements as well.
Because our website is dedicated to physical health, we’re not going to get into detail about the philosophical aspects of Yoga, but those who are interested can find a lot of resources online, in libraries and so on. We are, however, going to talk about the physical benefits of Yoga and see what is Yoga from this point of view. We mentioned that there are six forms of Yoga; to be thorough, they are: Hatha yoga, Karma yoga, Mantra yoga, Bhakti yoga, Jnana yoga and Raja yoga. Each form has a different goal, but the one that interests us is the first.
Hatha Yoga combines a series of physical postures called asanas; to practice these postures means striving for purity of the body, and for self-awareness and control of the body. Originally, this was just a way of preparing the body for meditation, but now many use it just for the physical benefits. Although it is not the oldest form of Yoga, Hatha yoga is still over one thousand years old, and it was developed by generations of monks. The word Hatha comes from the term Ha, which means “sun”, and the term Tha, which means “moon”. It is important to mention that this is the form that we in the west commonly refer to as Yoga; it is also important to say that although this physical-oriented practice that became popular here wouldn’t have had any chance of pervading in our society without the active interest of intellectuals and philosophers who brought attention to it.
If you are still wondering what is yoga and what it can do for you, there are reports and studies that clearly show its benefits on the health of adults. Because it combines exercise, meditation and breathing, yoga is very good for people with heath problems because it can lower high blood pressure. It has also shown improvements on people with chronic lower back pain, and it was used in the aiding and rehabilitation of cancer patients, treating or curing insomnia, fatigue, nausea, pain, anxiety, depression and stress. Yoga can treat or relieve symptoms of arthritis and it was even tested in treating patients with schizophrenia.
Those who want to start practicing Yoga should begin by taking classes from a trained professional, or they risk injury or incorrect practice. In order to do it correctly, you need to know what each asana tries to achieve, and you must also know how to adjust your mind accordingly. However, it is not recommended to young people under 16 because their bodies are still forming, and certain positions may affect them.