Yoga is a generalized term for an ancient practice of meditation and movement. It is a Hindu spiritual practice that includes breath control, meditation and individual body postures that people do for relaxation and to improve mental and physical health.
What are the Origins of Yoga?
Yoga practice began from about 5000 years ago to about 10000 years ago. There are four main periods of yoga’s history, which will be discussed further in the following paragraphs.
Yoga’s Pre-Classical History
The Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India is credited with developing the beginnings of yoga about 5000 years ago. Yoga was first mentioned in the Rig Veda, which is a part of the Brahman’s oldest sacred texts. Both Brahmans and Rishis, who are mystical seers, documented the development of yogic practice in the classic works the Upanishads and the Bhagavad-Gita.
The Upanishads writings taught sacrifice of the ego through self-knowledge, Karma yoga (action), and jnana yoga (wisdom). The most famous of the yogic writings is the Bhagavad-Gita, written about 500 BCE. The pre-classical era of yoga was a conglomeration of beliefs and practices that sometimes contradicted each other.
Classic Yoga History
Patanjali’s Yoga-Sûtras define the second period of yoga history. Patanjali’s Yoga-Sûtras organized the study of yoga into an eight-limbed path with steps toward enlightenment, or Samadhi. Patanjali is considered to be the father of modern yoga.
Post-Classical Yoga History
Yoga masters during this period rejected the ancient Veda’s teachings and created a system of yoga practice to rejuvenate a person’s body and lengthen life. This practice was named Tantra Yoga and consisted of strenuous and complex yoga techniques that used the body as the physical means to enlightenment. Eventually, the physical-spiritual connection developed into the creation of our modern concept of yoga, namely, Hatha yoga.
Modern Yoga History
Yoga masters in the late 1800s and 1900s traveled to the west and gained Western world followers. Swami Vivekananda impressed the attendees of the 1893 Parliament of Religions in Chicago with their concept of Hatha Yoga and their concept of the universality of the religions of the world.
Ashrams and other types of yoga centers were established, and a small following of yoga practitioners was established until 1947. Indra Devi opened a yoga studio in 1947 in Hollywood which brought yoga practice to popularity and gained yoga millions of followers. Today there are many varieties of Hatha yoga that emphasize many perspectives of yoga practice.
Why Should I Practice Yoga? What are the benefits?
The United States is a world leader in heart diseases, and heart-related ailments, Two of the primary of these heart problems are heart disease and high blood pressure. Thankfully, yoga may be one of the best ways to gain improvement in heart health.
One study zeros in on atrial fibrillation or irregular heartbeats. Symptoms of people with atrial fibrillation include:
- Shortness of breath.
- Chest pain.
- Low quality of life.
- A feeling of stress.
While there are medications and surgical therapies that can help people with A-fib, they have side effects and don’t tend to work for the long run.
Yoga, when combined with medical therapies, can greatly reduce blood pressure and improve the quality of life for many people in 12 weeks.
People participating in such studies also experienced heightened mental, physical and emotional health, which a common benefit whether your heart is healthy or not. Specifically, it was noted in some tests that people who practice yoga routinely experience less stress in their head, neck and shoulders as well as increased and improved circulation to the body core, as well as improved lung capacity.
Yoga provides other benefits as follows:
- A sense of well-being
- Yoga is well known as a holistic way to improve your concentration, build strength and promote flexibility
- Detox for the body
- Some forms of yoga focus on helping the body remove toxins from the internal organs and other areas of the body
- The increase in patience
- One of the common side effects of regular yoga practice includes the ability to become more patient and to experience peace and quiet
- Balance Hormones
- Yoga brings the entire body and mind into a feeling of equilibrium because it aids the endocrine system in secreting hormones
- A routine yoga practice calms and nourishes the hormones, creating healing through the body
- Improved concentration
- Yoga uses a single point to create a sense of focus and concentration
- Concentration means taking your attention to a single point for a specific purpose
- Instead of dwelling on work, family and duties, take a minute to clear your mind while you practice yoga
- Yoga uses being aware of the breath as one of the ways to improve focus and meditation
- This concentration on the breath can be used during yoga practice and at any other time during the day when you need to take a calming moment in a stressful situation
- Feeling Grounded
- Wide legged asanas like Warrior 1 and Warrior 2 and wide legged forward bends aid a person in feeling more grounded during times of stress and at any other time of day, too
- Stimulating Creativity
- Yoga poses that activate the sacrum stimulate creativity in the body
- Any yoga poses that activate the area of the tailbone or sacrum will stimulate your creativity
- Everyone, even if you are not an artist, needs to be able to use the creative parts of their being to solve problems
- Poses such as seated forward bend, Cobra, and Head to Knee pose can get your creative juices flowing if needed
How to Get Started in a Yoga Practice
All it takes to get started in yoga is comfortable clothing and a desire to learn.
You may also wish to get a yoga mat to give you extra grip on a smooth floor, and a yoga strap to help you stretch during your practice. There are many other accessories you can buy, but you don’t need them to start a yoga practice. Join a yoga class; use purchased videos or practice yoga with people online.
No matter your age or flexibility level, practicing yoga will enhance your mental and physical heath and improve your quality of life.