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What is yoga?
The true definition of Yoga comes from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is: “Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodah” - Yoga is stilling the fluctuations of the mind. A beautiful description of Yoga can also be found in the Bhagavad Gita, which is the most important authority on Yoga Philosophy. Sri Krishna explains to Arjuna the meaning of Yoga. It is said:
‘A lamp does not flicker in a place where no winds blow; so it is with a yogi, who controls his mind, intellect and self, being absorbed in the spirit within him. When the restlessness of the mind, intellect and self is stilled through the practice of Yoga, the yogi be the grace of the spirit within himself finds fulfillment. The he knows the joy eternal which is beyond the pale of the senses which his reason can not grasp. He abides in this reality and moves not therefrom. He has found the treasure above all others. There is nothing higher than this. He who has achieved it, shall not be moved by the greatest sorrow. This is the real meaning of Yoga – a deliverance from contact with pain and sorrow.’
Yoga means Union - the union of individual consciousness with the universal consciousness. Through yoga we can stop our mind from focusing on external things that create stress in our lives. Yoga is a means of balancing and harmonizing the body, mind and emotions. Through yoga practice, awareness develops of the interrelation between the emotional, mental, and physical levels, and how a disturbance in one of these affects the others
Yoga has succeeded as an alternative form of therapy in diseases such as asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, digestive disorders and other ailments of a chronic nature. The ability to focus one’s attention while remaining relaxed has many benefits. When the mind is serene we develop clear perception, deep insight and creativity. Yoga can teach us to respond to events with awareness. Both the body and the mind harbor tension and knots. Every mental knot has a corresponding physical, muscular knot, and vice versa. Asana, poses, can reduce these knots.
A Yoga session whether seated or regular is a great practice to help activate a person’s relaxation response. The most effective way to approach the relaxation response is through the body. In order to slow down the agitation in the mind, in yoga we work with the breath and the body. This practice helps the stress that people are going through.
The yoga Asanas (poses) keep the body healthy and strong and in harmony with nature. Attention on the body, combining the movement of the breath and the body helps to focus on where we are at present. Yoga then becomes a movement mediation that activates the parasympathetic nervous system (when we are calm). The poses by stretching the body will help relieve upper body tightness and tension and take us out of our flight or fight syndrome. Yoga can thus bring calmness and tranquility.
There are different styles of yoga, Hatha, Iyengar, Kundalini, Hot Yoga and others. Hatha is the traditional Yoga with focus on the poses and going at a gentle pace. Iyengar follows the teachings of BKS Iyengar and the approach is very technical, and very detailed where you learn how the body moves learning anatomy. Kundalini follows the breathing techniques to reach the energy that lies dormant in the body. Hot Yoga usually heats a room to 105 degrees so that the body finds it easier to limber, not recommended for all. Go try different styles and stay with the one that resonates with you. If you do not like a particular style, try a different teacher or different style. You will make the ultimate decision.
I did my yoga teacher training at Integral Yoga Institute, New York City and was very happy with the thouroughness of the courses. I have furthered my education at the Iyengar Yoga Institute, in New York City.