Introduction to YOGA   
by: Vasanthi Bhat (vasanthi@indolink.com)

Introduction

Yoga is the oldest system of personal development encompassing body, mind, and spirit. The origin of Yoga goes back more than 5000 years. This valuable science developed by the ancient sages of India, and modified through generations, took many years to spread around the world. In the modern times, the value of Yoga is being increasingly recognized for general health, and its preventive and curative effects.

Yoga, a Sanskrit word for ŽunionŽ, means an experience of oneness or union with your inner being (self). This union is the mind uniting with the body and breath to attain a higher level of conciousness. The integrated approach of mind and body control leads to ultimate physical health and happiness together with the achievement of mental peace and tranquility.

Asanas are body positions in which one remains steady and comfortable, both physically and mentally, for a desired length of time without strain. Asanas help the muscles relax by improving circulation, which in turn relieves built-up tension and stress. Stretching helps to tone and condition the muscles, thereby helping to prevent injuries.

Prana refers to vital air or energy, and Yama is the control and direction of that energy. Pranayama, therefore, is the control and direction of this vital energy via steady breathing. Steady breathing increases the prana in the body, resulting in good health.

Meditation is the practice of mindfulness, focussing on awareness whole heartedly. It is the practice of paying attention to everything, down to the smallest thing you do in life. Meditation is not a practice to achieve blank space or blank thought by blocking, suppressing and neglecting our concerns. It is the feeling of happiness , fulfillment, contentment and peace within when we close our eyes and integrate our body, mind and spirit.

Although Yoga is taught and practiced in different ways; Hathayoga a unique combination of Asanas, Pranayama and Meditation, provides a balanced and wholesome approach to achieving perfect physical and mental health, happiness and tranquility.


Who Can Practice YOGA?

Yoga can be practiced by anyone, at any age, with any physical condition, depending on individual needs. For example, athletes and dancers can practice for restoring the energy and to improve stamina; housewives for rejuvenating the energy and to reduce fatigue; executives to give a break to the overworked mind; children to control the wandering mind, muscle toning, to improve memory and concentration; seniors to feel strong, and to improve memory. Yoga breathing techniques (Pranayama) are very powerful since they work as a tonic to reduce stress, insomnia, emotional imbalance, headache etc. Yoga, therefore, is for all ages from 5 years to as long as we live.

How To Practice YOGA?

It is very important to practice Yoga with the full mind. Best time to practice Yoga is either in the morning or in the evening, Beginners find it easier to practice in the evening because the body is supple. It is best if practitioner practices Yoga at a time that best suits his or her schedule, as long as the stomach is empty prior to the practice.

YOGASANAS And Their Benefits

Yogasanas help relax body and mind together. Stretching helps relax and tone the muscles, to improve circulation, to regain the vital force or energy, lose or gain weight, feel and look young, and improve concentration. It can relieve conditions like stress, back-pain, allergy, headaches, high and low blood pressure, insomnia and depression. Some of the Yogasanas are easy to practice and yet very powerful.


Vasanthi Bhat is an internationally recognized yoga teacher, author, publisher, and producer. She is also the founder of Vasantha Yoga Health and Fitness Center in San Jose, California. She has been practicing and teaching yoga for over 22 years.

Vasanthi has produced a series of Video tapes, audio CDs, and has written several books.

For more information visit: http://www.indolink.com/Vasantha