We might already have an idea of what Yoga is but to understand it better, we have to know what it has become as well as its roots and beginnings. A quick look at the history of Yoga will help us appreciate its rich tradition and who knows, it might help us incorporate Yoga into our lives.
Although Yoga is said to be as old as civilization, there is no physical evidence to support this claim. Scholars, however, have a reason to believe that Yoga existed long before that and traced its beginnings in Stone Age Shamanism.
For a better discussion of the history of Yoga, we could divide it into four periods: the Vedic Period, Pre-Classical Period, Classical Period, and Post-Classical Period. During this time, the Vedic people relied on rishis or dedicated Vedic Yogis to teach them how to live in divine harmony.
Yoga shares some characteristics not only with Hinduism but also with Buddhism that we can trace in its history. Just as the Upanishads further the Vedas, the Gita builds on and incorporates the doctrines found in the Upanishads. Patanjali believed that each individual is a composite of matter (prakriti) and spirit (purusha). Patanjali's concept was dominant for some centuries that some Yogis focused exclusively on Meditation and neglected their Asanas.
Sivananda wrote more than 200 books on Yoga and Philosophy and had many disciples who furthered Yoga.
Up to this day, Yoga continues to proliferate and spread its teachings, crossing the boundaries of culture and language. Ancient Yogis had a belief that in order for man to be in harmony with himself and his environment, he has to integrate the body, the mind, and the spirit. In Yoga, the body is treated with care and respect for it is the primary instrument in man's work and growth. Breathing techniques were developed based on the concept that breath is the source of life. Hatha Yoga is perhaps the path of Yoga you are most familiar with since this is the most popular branch of Yoga in the West.
If what you want is a peaceful mind and a healthy body to go along with it, Hatha Yoga may just be the path for you. A Raja Yogi sees the self as central, and as such, respect to oneself and for all creation are vital to this path. Jnana Yoga is the path of Yoga that basically deals with the mind, and as such, it focuses on man's intelligence. Karma Yoga is the path of service for in this path, it is believed that your present situation is based on your past actions. Perhaps the most misunderstood of all the paths, Tantra Yoga is about using rituals to experience what is sacred.
You may first approach Yoga as a way to achieve a great body or to keep fit and that is perfectly alright. If you are completely new to yoga and don't know where to start, it is recommended that you try Hatha yoga first.
All yoga styles are said to eventually lead to the same goal; you can consider the various styles as different paths toward the same destination - to achieve a healthier mind and a healthier body, and enlightenment ultimately. Different styles emphasise on different aspects in a yoga practice, like body alignment, breath and flow of movement. To get to know the Basic Yoga Postures or Asanas , you can get them from this website or download an Introduction to Yoga book, or watch the video tutorial below. One of the advantages of Yoga is that it can be practiced almost anywhere, without special equipment, and by people of all ages. It is also best to practice Yoga on an empty stomach or about one or two hours after a full meal. Practicing first thing in the morning is an excellent way to revitalize the mind and body, while practicing Yoga Breathing and Meditation Exercises at night helps induce a deep, restful sleep.
Like in regular exercise, you always start with easy poses to condition your body for the more difficult exercises that follows. Sitting Poses - sitting poses allows you to infuse with the breath and prana, and to revitalize from a pose by giving you a calm and quiet feeling.
Twists - twist exercises releases the tension in your spines, relieves backaches and makes your shoulders more flexible. Supine and Prone Poses - these poses releases tension in your abdomen and increase the mobility of your spine. Inverted and Balance Poses - inverted and balance poses defies gravity and develops coordination, increase stamina and strength, and improves grace, agility and poise. When performing the asanas, try to concentrate on each movement - the process of moving is just as important as attaining a given position. Each asana may be repeated up to three times, but it is better to perform a posture once correctly than repeating it three times quickly and sloppily. Consult a health professional before starting to do the exercises, especially if you have certain medical conditions. The Asanas or the Yoga Poses usually start in breathing slowly and deeply, concentrating your mind, and making yourself centered. The Corpse Yoga Pose is considered as a classic relaxation Yoga Pose and is practiced before or in between Asanas as well as a Final Relaxation.
This is one of the classic Meditative Poses and is usually performed after doing the Corpse Pose. Many people hold tension in their necks and shoulders, leading to stiffness, bad posture, and tension headaches. The Sun Salutation or Surya Namaskar is a Yoga Pose which limbers up the whole body in preparation for the Yoga Asanas. A Double Leg Raise is similar to a Single Leg Raise, only this time, you will raise both legs. Headstand is one of the basic postures in the world of Yoga and is considered as the king of Asanas because of its numerous effects on the entire body. Doing the Fish Pose relieves stiffness of the neck and shoulder muscles and improves flexibility of your spine.

Relax your body and mind, stretch your hamstrings, shoulders, and spine, relieve stress, and improve your posture and concentration by practicing the Seated Forward Bend. This Yoga Pose improves spinal flexibility and strengthens the muscles in the arms and back. Develop your sense of balance, coordination and concentration and strengthen your arms, hands, shoulders, and abdominal muscles by doing a Crane Pose.
The Hands to Feet Pose or Pada Hastasana gives many of the same benefits as the Forward Bend - trimming the waist, restoring elasticity to the spine, and stretching the ligaments of the legs, especially the hamstrings. In Hindu art, the triangle is a potent symbol for the divine principle, and it is frequently found in the yantras and mandalas used for meditation. For you to appreciate the benefits of relaxation, you should first be familiar on how it is to be tense.
Earliest archaeological evidence of Yoga's existence could be found in stone seals which depict figures of Yoga Poses .
Both Shamanism and Yoga have similar characteristics particularly in their efforts to improve the human condition at that time. Rishis were also gifted with the ability to see the ultimate reality through their intensive spiritual practice.
The 200 scriptures of the Upanishads (the conclusion of the revealed literature) describe the inner vision of reality resulting from devotion to Brahman. It is devoted entirely to Yoga and has confirmed that it has been an old practice for some time. In the Gita, three facets must be brought together in our lifestyle: Bhakti or loving devotion, Jnana which is knowledge or contemplation, and Karma which is about selfless actions. Written by Patanjali around the second century, it was an attempt to define and standardize Classical Yoga. He further believed that the two must be separated in order to cleanse the spirit - a stark contrast to Vedic and Pre-Classical Yoga that signify the union of body and spirit.
It was only later that the belief of the body as a temple was rekindled and attention to the importance of the Asana was revived. It was first studied as part of Eastern Philosophy and began as a movement for health and vegetarianism around the 1930's. Some of them were Swami Satchidananda who introduced chanting and Yoga to Woodstock; Swami Sivananda Radha who explored the connection between psychology and Yoga, and Yogi Bhajan who started teaching Kundalini Yoga in the 70's. The word "Yoga" came from the Sanskrit word "yuj" which means "to unite or integrate." Yoga then is about the union of a person's own consciousness and the universal consciousness.
Yoga Exercises improve circulation, stimulate the abdominal organs, and put pressure on the glandular system of the body, which can generally result to better health.
This branch of Yoga uses physical poses or Asana, Breathing Techniques or Pranayama, and Meditation to achieve better health, as well as spirituality. This path is considered to be the King of Yoga and this may be due to the fact that most of its practitioners are members of religious and spiritual orders.
Jnana Yogis consider wisdom and intellect as important and they aim to unify the two to surpass limitations.
So by doing selfless service now, you are choosing a future that is free from negativity and selfishness. Although sex is a part of it, sex is not the whole of it since this path aims to find what is sacred in everything we do. A committed practitioner of yoga is referred to as a yogi , yogin (masculine), or yogini (feminine). Yoga really does help in improving your health for stretching can tone your muscles and exercise your spine and your entire skeletal system.
You will learn the basic yoga asanas or postures, pranayama or breathing exercises, and so on in Hatha Yoga, which will help you with the various other styles of yoga practices offered in different classes.
Which style is suitable for you really depends on your personal preference and level of fitness. In looking for a studio, choose a place that is relatively free from distractions, the place should be quiet, clean and well ventilated. Empty your stomach, clean your nostril and throat, and consume a glass of warm water 15 minutes before you start. Opens the hips, stretches the legs, add strength to your back and increases your range of movement.
These poses greatly contribute in shaping your buttocks and legs, and in adding vitality and suppleness to the spine. It also facilitates in the circulation of blood and nutrients in the body making it necessary for the health of the inter-vertebral discs. It also improves you concentration and focus since being quiet is necessary to be able to do these poses. It also releases tension in the front body and in your shoulders and pelvic girdle, and improves the flexibility of your spine.
Remember that you should not strain or continue holding any Yoga posture if it causes pain. Try to perform the poses in the prescribed order, since the routine is meant to help balance the different muscle groups. Yoga Exercise will only require you 30 minutes each day, a Yoga Mat or blanket, and a small exercise space.You might be surprised to learn that your body can actually do things you did not think possible.
It can ease the tension building in your muscles and joints without experiencing fatigue and overexertion. Remember that your body movements and breathing must be coordinated until such time that they are one and the same. The Easy Pose helps in straightening the spine, slowing down metabolism, promoting inner tranquility, and keeping your mind still. By moving the eyes in every direction, without turning your head at all, these Five Yoga Eye Exercises will strengthen the eye muscles, help prevent eyestrain, and improve eyesight. In doing this Yoga Pose, make sure that the full length of your back is resting on the floor and your shoulders and neck are relaxed.
This Yoga Pose improves circulation, strengthens the abdominal area, and stimulates the thyroid gland. It benefits the thyroid gland and abdomen, eases tension in the shoulders and back, and reduces stress.

It strengthens the muscles in the back area, improves posture, and helps in dealing with several gastrointestinal problems. Not only can you change your body by using this video — but you may even change your mind about yoga. These explain three subjects: the ultimate reality (Brahman), the transcendental self (atman), and the relationship between the two.
Siddharta Gautama, the first Buddhist to study Yoga, achieved enlightenment at the age of 35.
The Gita then tried to unify Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, and Karma Yoga and it is because of this that it has gained importance.
It is composed of 195 aphorisms or sutras (from the Sanskrit word which means thread) that expound upon the Raja Yoga and its underlying principle, Patanjali's Eightfold path of Yoga (also called Eight Limbs of Classical Yoga). It no longer strives to liberate a person from reality but rather teaches one to accept it and live at the moment. The Yogis formulated a way to achieve and maintain this balance and it is done through exercise, breathing, and Meditation - the three main Yoga structures.
In Meditation, students bring the activities of the mind into focus resulting in a 'quiet' mind. There are many styles within this path - Iyengar, Integral, Astanga, Kripalu, and Jiva Mukti to name a few.
Since they wish to gain knowledge, they are open to other philosophies and religion for they believe that an open and rational mind is crucial in knowing the spirit. Karma Yogis change their attitude towards the good and in the process, change their souls, which leads to a change in their destiny. Tantra Yogis must possess certain qualities like purity, humility, devotion, dedication to his Guru, cosmic love, and truthfulness among other things.
Try a few different styles and continue with the one(s) that you feel most comfortable with. Some loose fitting clothes or no clothes at all, and a small secluded spot in your house will be enough for you to start with. Using a mat, a blanket, or towel will provide support and added comfort when you do lying or sitting positions. You may eat fruit, energy bar, drink a glass of juice or water an hour before class to avoid getting really hungry during practice. Warm-up exercises open the shoulder muscles, the spine, the hips, the lower back, and the groin. Standing poses facilitates digestion, blood circulation and is good for those who want to lose weight. Yoga isn't a competitive sport, and the extent of the stretch is less important than the technique.
Take the wide range of Yoga Poses that can help an individual attain a high level of self-awareness, balance, and strength.
Keep in mind, though, that this pose should not be done by people who are suffering from serious back or knee injury. Take note that this Yoga Pose is not for people who are suffering from serious neck or back injury.
Hold the Fish Pose for at least half the amount of time you spent in the Shoulderstand in order to balance the stretch.
Everything related to that position including suggestions on how to do it is discussed in further detail in this article.
Though we know Yoga as focusing more on the self, it started out as community-oriented before it turned inward. The Vedas contains the oldest known Yogic teachings and as such, teachings found in the Vedas are called Vedic Yoga.
The central point to the Gita is that - to be alive means to be active and in order to avoid difficulties in our lives and in others, our actions have to benign and have to exceed our egos.
The Gita was a conversation between Prince Arjuna and God-man Krishna and it basically stresses the importance of opposing evil. By designing physical poses and Breathing Techniques that develop awareness of our body, Yoga helps us focus and relieves us from our everyday stress. Bhakti Yoga teaches a person to have devotion to the "One" or to Brahma by developing a person's love and acceptance for all things.
In fact, Yoga is being practiced by a lot of people from different religions like Christians, Jewish, Buddhists, and Muslims. The seven primary types of movements that your body can make through Yoga exercise are flexion, extension, hyperextension, abduction, adduction, rotation, and circumduction.
The basic yoga moves involved in the poses and exercises will provide inner peace and radiant health. Coming into a pose, holding it, and coming out of it must be continuously done with gracefulness.
This program will demystify the mystical so that you can experience the fabulous benefits of yoga. This is characterized by rituals and ceremonies that strive to surpass the limitations of the mind.
The use of props also minimizes the strain and supports your muscles, thus allowing you to save your energy by exerting less effort on a pose.
You can do a combination of these movements to have a stronger, more flexible, and balanced body. As little as 15 minutes of exercises and 15 minutes of Breathing and Meditation each day can yield benefits.
The props provide support, enabling them to do the poses that their ailments or old age prevent them from doing.
The program incorporates standing, sitting, and laying down poses to increase muscle tone, enhance flexibility, and provide relaxation.
This video also includes a bonus intermediate yoga workout for when you're ready to move past the basics.

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