Yoga is an ancient system of breathing practices, physical exercises and postures, and meditation intended to integrate the practitioner’s body, mind, and spirit. It originated in India several thousand years ago, and its principles were first written down by a scholar named Patanjali in the second century B. c. The word yoga comes from a Sanskrit word, yukti , and means “union” or “yoke.”
Yoga is suitable for most adults of any age or physical condition. Because of the non strenuous nature of our approach to exercise, even those with physical limitations can find a beneficial routine of Yoga. It is not a religion. It has no creed or fixed set of beliefs, nor is there a prescribed godlike figure to be worshipped in a particular manner. Yoga can also provide the same benefits as any well-designed exercise program, increasing general health and stamina, reducing stress, and improving those conditions brought about by sedentary lifestyles.
Yoga has the added advantage of being a low-impact activity that uses only gravity as resistance, which makes it an excellent physical therapy routine, certain yoga postures can be safely used to strengthen and balance all parts of the body. It has been used to alleviate problems associated with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, migraine headaches, asthma, shallow breathing, backaches, constipation , diabetes, menopause , multiple sclerosis, varicose veins, carpal tunnel syndrome and many chronic illnesses. It also has been studied and approved for its ability to promote relaxation and reduce stress .
Yoga can become a rewarding, life-long activity that promotes health and maintains function as one ages. Because of the many modifications available and the different types of yoga, it can be a part of almost everyone’s fitness plan, and the opportunities to advance and improve are endless.
Yoga is also a very accessible form of exercise; all that is needed is a flat floor surface large enough to stretch out on, a mat or towel, and enough overhead space to fully raise the arms. It is a good activity for those who can’t go to gyms, who don’t like other forms of exercise, or have very busy schedules. Yoga should be done on an empty stomach, and teachers recommend waiting three or more hours after meals. Loose and comfortable clothing should be worn.
Hatha yoga is the most commonly practiced branch of yoga in the United States, and it is a highly developed system of nearly 200 physical postures, movements, and breathing techniques. The yoga philosophy maintains that the breath is the most important facet of health, as the breath is the largest source of “prana,” or life force, and hatha yoga uses “pranayama,” which literally means the science or control of breathing.
Karma yoga is the science of karma or selfless action. Karma yoga teaches the student that all actions have inescapable consequences, some producing immediate results, others delayed results, and some bearing fruit in future lives. Emphasis is placed on altruistic actions that purify the individual soul and release it from petty desires. In karma yoga, actions are spiritualized by dedicating them to selfless service and divine will. While yoga can be used therapeutically to help alleviate certain symptoms in children with various medical conditions, it is not a cure. A physician should be consulted for standard medical treatment.