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Learn About Yoga and Yoga's Health Benefits

Woman Doing YogaWe all arrive in this world as nature's little contortionists. Chewing our toes, we would gaze at the backside of our own knees with the wonder of seeing them for the first time. We could twist and bend exploring our bodies with delight, but as we began to age, gravity tugged and pulled us downward, compacting the spine. This causes adult fatigue, and in turn inactivity, then less flexibility, and eventually our stress could literally wind us into harmful knots. This can be quite dangerous to our internal organs.

Human bodies need regular physical exercise along with mental challenge and inner balance. As our days get busier, there seems to be less time for the things that we know that we should be doing. The first to drop from our calendars is usually the time we dedicate solely to nurturing ourselves. Fortunately, by promoting a natural relationship between the mind, body and spirit, yoga principles offer many the chance to quickly incorporate healthy habits into their fast paced world.

By focusing on one's own breath (pranayama), holding a pose (asana) and displaying hand gestures (mudras), one gains the ability to quiet the mind and relax with yogic breathing. This prepares us to call on our own calm, even in daily situations such as getting bad news or being stuck in gridlock. A qualified yogi can teach us to challenge our bodies effectively, and show us the proper modifications as needed - we are all different so variations do exist for every asana. As the body and mind learn to surrender to each pose and live in each breath, tensions can be released and our bodies can heal.

Some incredible benefits of yoga:

  • tones muscles
  • increases flexibility
  • strengthens the core
  • promotes inner balance
  • helps maintain a healthy metabolism
  • helps with gradual weight loss
  • lubricates all joints, ligaments and tendons
  • massages all the internal glands and organs
  • promotes a lifestyle that is filled with patience and good feelings about oneself
  • stretches muscles lengthwise, causing fat around the cells to be eliminated, thus reducing cellullite
  • aides the body in detoxification
  • builds the bodies resistance and immune system
  • relieves lower-back tension
  • energizing asanas provide alertness and stamina
  • restorative asanas relax and calm

Many ailments that people suffer from in our modern world can be traced back to one form of stress or another. Sometimes it's the initial cause, other times it's simply a catalyst to hamper the body's ability to fight back quickly and naturally. For its numerous healing effects, we now see yoga being incorporated into many health care providers recommended therapies and lifestyle suggestions.

There are several very different styles and beliefs in yoga:

  • tantric yoga worships the feminine energy and sees ones body as the source of the divine
  • bhakti yoga is devotion and unconditional love for the divine
  • vkarma yoga teaches the right way of action without any expectations, as offering to the divine
  • jnana yoga searches for answers to the deepest questions, who we are and where we come from
  • raja yoga practices self control of the mind and freedom from worldly attachments

Two of the most popular yoga philosophies are hatha and kundalini, yet the basis for each is quite different.

Hatha translates to "the sun and the moon" and believes in the balancing of the positive and negative energies. It attaches the utmost importance to a physically perfect body, believing that with it one can achieve spiritual perfection.

Kundalini which in Sanskrit translates to "coiled up", is based upon the theory that a serpent like form lies dormant at the base of the spine and can awaken with the practice of such spiritual disciplines. As energy flows through the sushumna (the psychic channel) running from the base of the spine to the brain, the serpent rises up through the chakras of the body until self realization occurs. This blissful state is called samadhi.

We all search for enlightenment at some point in our adult lives. By practicing satya (truthfulness) and santosha (contentment) in respect to our limitations, we learn to be patient while building strength and focus. Because yoga is a spiritual belief system that is not aligned with any church or religion, absolutely everybody can benefit from living with a healthy body and a peaceful mind.