DOES THE WORD YOGA MEAN?
The word yoga means unity, or to yoke together, to connect.
The practice of yoga is one of the world's oldest systems of self
healing. It began in India thousands of years ago and is still continuing
and flourishing today.
yoga strengthens weak and ailing bodies and calms anxious, stressful
minds, many people in the west have become interested in this ancient
practice and goal of yoga is to still the mind so that we can be
at peace with life instead of struggling against it. There are many
types of yoga practices. They all involve learning skills that allow
the experience of being in the present moment, with full body/mind
focus. The yogic state of present moment awareness is called Samadhi
or our true nature.
involves gently disciplining body and mind to achieve, through balance,
a state of harmony.
Yoga is not just a series of physical or mental exercises, nor is
it just a philosophy; it is the theory and the practice of becoming
healthy, strong and content; learning how to be at peace, at one
with ourselves and our universe.
the centuries different pathways or schools of yoga have developed
suiting different personalities. In the western world hatha yoga
has become one of the most popular forms, although today an integrated
system is often taught. There are several million people today who
practice some form of yoga.
IS HATHA YOGA?
of us know Yoga firstly as a type of physical keep fit system. This
type of yoga is known as 'Hatha Yoga'. Indeed many Yoga students
do not know that Yoga is fundamentally a philosophy that teaches
many ways or practices to ' Self-realisation' of which Hatha Yoga
- (which focuses mainly on breathing and posture work) - is only
one. Other Yoga practices include sitting meditation (as practiced
in Raja Yoga); self understanding (as is practiced in Jnana Yoga);
selfless service (as practiced in Karma Yoga)' and celebration of, or devotion
to life itself (as practiced in Bhakti Yoga). Hatha Yoga, as
a form of physical exercise is of tremendous value to our health
on every level and practiced along with other Yogas can become a
beautiful journey of Self-discovery.
Yoga offers many benefits.
Hatha Yoga works by releasing tension from the mind and body. Our
energy levels increase when we release tension. The yoga poses help
stretch away physical tension and tone muscles, joints and the spine,
which improves posture in general. Good posture prevents and eases
backache, increases energy and boosts self-confidence.
The yoga breathing exercises quieten the mind, calm the emotions,
and through increased oxygen intake, nourish all the cells of the
The hatha yoga relaxation techniques and meditation practice keep
the mind sharp, improves awareness and encourages a happy and peaceful
attitude towards life.
Hatha yoga which includes breathing exercises, stretching exercises,
and relaxation techniques seems to have developed at least 1000
years ago, although its origins are quite obscure. One of the concepts
behind hatha yoga is that in order to experience true well-being
we need to understand and care for our bodies.
research on hatha yoga shows that it can restore health to some,
alleviate illness for others and to some extent slow the ageing
practice of hatha yoga is a powerful preventative medicine.
practice can result in a deep sense of inner security and strength.
CAN PRACTICE HATHA YOGA?
Hatha yoga involves working a series of postures that exercise virtually
every part of the body. And yet no one is too old to practice, for
there are gentle poses as well as the more difficult. In fact our
attitude, rather than the perfection of the pose is the most important
posture becomes perfect, when the effort of achieving it vanishes."
breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, meditations and lots
of the postures are available to all, regardless of age or state
who are not so able physically gain greater mobility by practising
the postures, and the ability to control pain by practising yoga
Those who suffer emotional swings find calmness in the breathing
and relaxation exercises.
Seekers of self awareness increase their understanding through hatha
yoga practice. Anyone regardless of their age, state of health or
religious belief can practice and therefore benefit from hatha yoga.
CAN I EXPECT TO GAIN FROM PRACTICING HATHA YOGA?
can expect, from regular Hatha Yoga practice, an improvement of
your general well-being, perhaps release from back pain, freedom
from insomnia, indigestion or tension headaches, and more willpower
and self-esteem. In time with continuous regular practice, you will
notice a change from deep within, a growing awareness of a state
of inner peace. Yoga works slowly and gently, so you need to be
patient. It has been likened to the way water gradually changes
the shape of a rock or cliff, yoga over time changes our state from
dark or unwell, to light and vibrant.
While the practice of Hatha Yoga improves health and releases tension,
you may find to begin with that you feel more under the weather.
Please do not be anxious, and do discuss any problems with your
teacher. Sometimes new students experience symptoms such as an increase
in spots, headaches, and irritability, which is due to the cleansing
process of Yoga and will pass, though it could take some weeks or
even months. Try not to give up your practice; releasing years of
tension can take some time. The cleansing effect does not happen
to every student, and is a positive sign that your practice is working.
This cleansing process can also occur when advancing your practice.
HATHA YOGA A RELIGION?
Hatha yoga is not a religion. It is a journey of self discovery
and the development of a joyful attitude to life. It gives us the
energy to lead a more fulfilling life.
YOGA BRING ME PEACE?
The self discipline we develop through regular practice builds up
a wealth of inner strength. Practice induces a sense of well being,
which is so desperately needed by many of us living in a fast, materialistic,
competitive and stressful society. Yoga teaches us how to relax,
and once achieved relaxation becomes more and more a state of being.
Those upsetting complaints that often plague us such as frequently
feeling tired, being overwhelmed by stress, finding it difficult
to sleep, suffering from periods of depression, or any of the physical
problems living often brings us such as headaches, backache, upset
stomach can be significantly eased or even eradicated by the practice
Although the practice of yoga cannot take away the ups and downs
of our lives, it can make us stronger physically, emotionally and
mentally, so that we are more able to cope. Best of all, the graceful
postures, slow breathing exercises, self awareness meditations,
and tranquil relaxations are a pleasure to perform and experience.
Most people say they feel 'wonderful' after a yoga session.
ATTITUDE TO PRACTICE MATTER?
Yoga emphasises the importance of practising non-violence or ahimsa,
so remember to treat your body with care and respect. If you are
being competitive, you create an inner conflict and tension. Try
not to compete with others, or with yourself. The best posture that
you can do at any given moment is the perfect posture.
states, 'The posture becomes perfect, when the effort of achieving
When practicing try to stay mindful, and learn to
practice without competing. It can take time and patience to learn
how to relax while practising, yet once mastered your session will
become a joyful experience.
I NEED SELF DISCIPLINE TO PRACTICE?
In order to receive the benefits Yoga has to offer, we have to practice.
To practice requires a certain amount of discipline. It is difficult
to persevere at anything, even if we know our perseverance will
bring us a better quality of life. However, if we do not care for
the body it will become weak and more vulnerable to disease. If
we do not calm the emotions, they will overwhelm us. If we do not
still the mind it will have us running round in never ending circles,
preventing us from resting at the place, which in Yoga, is called
our 'true nature', a contented, alert and relaxed state.
CAN I INTEGRATE AND EMBRACE A YOGIC LIFESTYLE INTO THE EVERYDAY
WORLD ON A DAY TO DAY, EVENT BY EVENT, MOMENT BY MOMENT LEVEL?
1.Take 3 deep breaths extending the out breath.
2. Look around find something good to absorb into your heart &
3.Tuck under your tailbone, lift your spine, drop your shoulders
and draw in your chin.
4.Say something genuinely kind to yourself.
5. Inhaling tense up your body and exhaling soften and loosen every
6. Surround yourself with white or golden light. Feel its protection
7. Notice you do not manage on your own. The earth supports you.
The air sustains you. Food and liquids nourish you. Friends and
even strangers are often caring. You are not alone or separate.
8. Repeat a mantra often with your breath. Hum sah.
9. Stretch tension away from your neck, eyes, back wherever you
10. Practice having no fear. Refuse to worry about what might become
11. Train your mind to stay focused on this moment. Let go of thoughts
of the past or the future.
12. When feeling upset do a triangle meditation in your mind or
13.Think friendly and kind things to yourself and to others.
14. Meditate every day. Sit on your cushion even if it isn't there!
15 Do nidra/relaxation practice (a bit like a siesta), every day.
Give yourself 10 minutes rest.
16. Eat wisely... not too much not too little
17. Sleep well... not too much not too little.
18. Realise this is your life and you are living it. Make it a life
you are happy with.
19. Move your awareness down into your body. Move out of your head,
soften down into your body.
20.A yogin or yogini would strive to be upright and capable. Steer
your own chariot.
THE YOGA POSTURES CREATE A STATE OF ENERGY OR RELAXATION?
Yoga teaches that our natural state is a relaxed state. When in
the relaxed state we are connected to the wisdom of our being. In
yoga that is called our 'true self' or 'real self'.
When we get tense, anxious or agitated we lose that connection.
The word and the practice of yoga means to have that connection,
to be united with our true state.
Our upbringing, our habits and our reaction to the daily world creates
tension. Being tense uses up our energy. The asanas/postures and
pranayama/breathing exercises release tension and restore energy.
We can be relaxed and energised at the same time. Indeed the yogic
state is just that ...calm and alert, relaxed and energised.
Yoga nidra also releases tension and increases energy. Meditation,
asanas, pranayamas and nidra ALL release stress and tension and
create the calm alert state.
Nidra is practised in savasana at the end of a Hatha session after
asanas have stretched bodily tension away and pranayama settled
the emotions and focused the mind. A perfect time for body and mind
to experience an even deeper rest where connection with and development
of wisdom can occur.
CAN I EASE ANXIETY AND STRESS?
Getting anxious and stressed out can be caused by......
Not eating properly,
Working too much,
Not having enough purpose.
enough creativity in life.
Not getting adequate sleep.
equal in relationships.
Following habitual behaviour learnt
from others such as worrying or being angry.
Moving too fast, thinking
too fast, reacting emotionally too fast... being compulsive.
are just a few examples of causes of anxiety and stress.
THINGS ALSO CAUSE STRESS.
Find out what causes your anxiety and
stress then from that observation work out how to look after yourself
Meditate every day.
Practice hatha for 10- 20 minutes every day. Be patient it takes
time to change habits.
You could receive extra help from a counsellor,
or mindfulness practice, or from good quality CBT.
NEED HELP GETTING STARTED WITH MEDITATION.
Start by buying a cushion. Vow to sit on your cushion and observe
your breathing for one minute a day for 3 days. Then 2 minutes for
3 days, build up to 10-20 minutes a day. Keep a record of your experience.
You could join a meditation group.
WOULD LIKE TO PRACTICE AT HOME BUT NEED A PLAN.
How to put a session together. ...
Ask yourself 'What do you need
most?' How much time have you got to practice at home? Look in
your Saraswati yoga studio manual (click here for a copy)
on the page 'How to create a balanced session'. Plan a session from
the manual including your favourite postures, include the 4 spinal
movements. Choose your favourite breathing exercise/ meditation/relaxation.
Experiment. Give each home plan some time, be a scientist, keep
a record of how you feel during a 6 week practice. Review your plan
from those results.
WOULD LIKE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YOGA PHILOSOPHY AND HISTORY.
The word "philosophy" comes from the Greek (philosophia),
which literally means "love of wisdom".
is all about the love of wisdom, taking a wise position, living
from wisdom, discovering the truth of things. There is a lot of
wisdom in yoga philosophy
Of course it depends where you look. There is some not very rational
stuff in some of the yogic writings as well.
Yoga philosophy attempts to answer the problems of being human and
of how to overcome human suffering.
Buddha lived 2600 years ago.
He taught many skills that really do help ease suffering.
Buddha's teaching in The Dhammaphada explains that... "our thoughts
create our world."
You might like to read Buddha's little book of wisdom...The heart
sutra... The Karaniya metta sutta
is described in several works including
The Yoga sutra of Patanjali (Raja Yoga) from approx 2200 years
ago ... The yoga sutra teaches 8 limbs of meditation and how to
understand the mind and how to still it and how to behave, suggesting
a yogin create a state of contentment. The Sutra teaches how
to overcome negative emotions and states by nurturing the opposite.
Upanishads were written by priests who practiced meditation and
taught about the unity of life.
The Katha Upanishad teaches how to practice self control with a lovely
description of a Chariot. It also teaches the concept of discriminating
what is healthy from what is harmful in the description of Preya
The Isha Upanishad teaches that 'All is one' in a beautiful poem.
Both written 2200 years ago
Bhagavad Gita is a part of the story The Mahabharata. It's date
unsure, possibly 2200 or 1800 years ago. The Gita debates which
yoga is best Karma or Jnana.
There are many wise words written in the mentioned yoga texts above
that are still relevant to us today and can be very helpful.
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