History of Yoga

history of yoga

I’ve been doing some reading to find out just how yoga came into being, and the answer is not clear.  A number of sources claim that yoga predates the written word and is over 5,000 years old.  The evidence of this comes from archaeological dig sites where yoga poses have been found.  There is some conjecture that yoga evolved from Hinduism but Hinduism’s religions structures  were developed much later and incorporated yoga but did not create it.  Initially yoga was passed down from teacher to student through oral instruction and by demonstration.

One of the earliest texts on yoga came from a scholar named Patanjali, who created a book named Yoga Sutras anywhere from the 1st or 2nd century B.C. to as late as the 5th century A.D.  Patanjali wrote about a system called “Ashtanga Yoga,” or the eight limbs of yoga.  There are many (hundreds) schools, styles, and types of yoga but some of the more common include:

  • Hatha Yoga: The physical movements and postures, plus breathing techniques. This is what most people associate with Yoga practice.
  • Ashtanga Yoga: The system is based on six series of asanas which increase in difficulty, allowing students to work at their own pace. In class, you’ll be led nonstop through one or more of the series. There’s no time for adjustments—you’ll be encouraged to breathe as you move from pose to pose.
  • Bikram Yoga: This method of staying healthy from the inside out was designed by Bikram Choudhury, who sequenced a series of 26 traditional hatha postures to address the proper functioning of every bodily system.  Usually this form of yoga is done at temperatures approaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and the idea is that you will sweat out the toxins in your body.
  • Raja Yoga: Called the “royal road,” because it incorporates exercise and breathing practice with meditation and study, producing a well-rounded individual.  Raja yoga was first described as an eightfold or eight-limbed (aṣṭanga, ashtanga) path in the Yoga Sutras of Patañjali.
  • Jnana Yoga: The path of wisdom; considered the most difficult path.
  • Bhakti Yoga: The practice of extreme devotion in one-pointed concentration upon one’s concept of God.
  • Karma Yoga: Of the four paths to realization, karma yoga is the process of achieving perfection in action. Karma yoga is derived from the spiritual life. Karma yoga is said to be the most authentic way to progress in the spiritual life. Found in the Bhagavad Gita karma yoga is a part of nature. Karma yoga is taught by teachers of zen who promote tranquility.
  • Other styles include: Iyengar, Power Yoga, White Lotus, Kali Ray TriYoga, Jivamukti, Viniyoga, and on and on and on.

downward facing dog

Even by these definitions one can see that it is difficult to separate the exercise component of yoga from the meditative aspect.  The word Yoga means “to join or yoke together,” bringing the body and mind together into one harmonious experience.  The system of Yoga is built on three main structures: exercise, breathing, and meditation; all three components must be in harmony to properly practice yoga.  My next post will begin to focus in on Ashtanga one of the forms of yoga mentioned above in more detail.  Remember you can make up your own sequence of asana’s for your practice, but understanding a few of the more popular disciplines will help you gravitate to what suits your personality and desires.

Namaste

Namaste

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Benefits of Yoga

benefits-of-yoga

I was just reading an article on the health benefits of Yoga, and wanted to add my two cents to the topic.  We all do yoga for different reasons and often a set of common reasons.  The health benefits of yoga mentioned in the article below include:

  • The personal time you spend on yoga reduces stress and boosts your immunity
  • Yoga poses done correctly combine exercise and breathing allowing you to control your mind and breathing
  • Yoga poses and sequences like sun salutations have a slimming effect on the body helping to keep you lean
  • Yoga poses strengthen and lengthen your muscles improving your sitting and standing posture
  • Yoga combined with meditation makes you happier, more joyful, and loving

Yoga Sunset

Let me throw in a few of my own benefits of doing yoga:

  • Many of us work in an office, spending much of our day sitting in a chair which tends if anything to constrict or tighten muscles in your back and hamstrings for instance.  Yoga can combat this situation by elongating those muscles reversing much of the damage done by sitting all day.  Many yoga poses also help you elongate the spinal column, and other joints like your knees and shoulders.
  • Yoga has many things in common with meditation in that to perform an asana correctly you must stop thinking about other things and focus on the pose and your breathing.  For this reason you begin to let go of other thoughts and relax your mind and your body.  For most of us this doesn’t happen for but a few moments during the day, and yoga can help you just be in the moment.
  • There is a great efficiency to doing yoga in that it takes maybe 20 – 30 minutes to perform a fairly extensive routine where you start to realize the benefits mentioned above.  So yoga is a very efficient form of exercise for both the mind and body.  This is meaningful for those of you have so much to to do, and for all of you who have other fitness interest like running, biking, and strength training for instance.
  • Yoga complements other fitness activities by stretching the muscles helping runners and strength training devotes alike, keeping their muscles loose and helping with recovery.  You won’t find too many runners or serious weight lifters who don’t stretch.  Yoga provides a more comprehensive opportunity to really stretch all the body parts in a very structured way helping the runner or strength trainer to stay healthy and manage pain.

What benefits have you received from you your yoga practice?

Health benefits of yoga:  http://www.healthcaremagic.com/insights/why-yoga-is-important-to-your-health/40

Time for a little Yoga

This is my first post on the topic of yoga, so for all of you experienced practitioners this might be a bit too elementary for you, but then again who knows.  I have in one form or another been doing yoga poses (asanas) for some time now, well actually for years.  I’ve often mixed in asanas with Pilates exercises, and other forms of stretching during my morning session.   While this is a great way to add some stretching oriented exercises to your morning workout it does not constitute what anyone would consider practicing yoga.  So over the past few weeks I have been devoting some of my morning workouts purely to the practice of yoga.  Being a bit of self study kind of person, I went  back to my library and pulled out a book I had purchased some time ago from Yoga Journal.  This book provided detailed instructions on how to perform the asana along with pictures of each position in the correct sequence.

So the question is why would anyone want to do yoga?  I mean come on you can find better and faster ways to exercise than yoga can’t you.  Sure there are at least a dozen ways to torture yourself physically that are more efficient that yoga, although anyone who has ever taken a yoga class knows it is not as easy as one might think.  The physical torture part is just not the point.  If you are looking for something that kicks your butt stay with squats or running, but if you are looking for a form of exercise that is really more than exercise maybe yoga deserves a look.

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My next post will dig into the origins of yoga and the benefits of regular practice.

Namaste

What am I eating?

eating-at-4am

You workout every day, doing strength training, cardio, yoga, pilates, you are reading motivational works, you take all the right supplements, spend time meditating, and still you feel like crap.  Maybe just maybe your diet needs some analysis.  This is exactly what I’ve been asking myself lately and I’m sure most of you are saying Joe come on your diet is at least 50% of the equation and you didn’t know that.  Well I think I realized that what I was consuming was not optimal, and in my own warped way I thought if I took the right vitamins and supplements it would fill in all the gaps and I would feel great.  Seriously there are days where I don’t consume a single vegetable or fruit, and I’m not sure that slice of tomato or pickle on my hamburger or that bag of fries counts.  Maybe that pepperoni pizza with a bit of tomato sauce and mushrooms counts as my daily allowance for vegetables; who am I kidding?

pan-pizza

Sure I throw in an occasional salad in every week, but that can’t overcome the other 6 days of the week where vegetables and fruits have been omitted from my diet.  Just last week I was at a Mediterranean restaurant and ordered the vegetarian feast, basically a buffet filled with various salads, bean dishes, humus, bread, pastas, etc. and after consuming a large plate of this good stuff I thought I was going to explode.  I’m not sure if my body was revolting against the foreign substances, but for the next 6 hours the gas was trying to escape from all orifices.  And while I try to limit sugar and simple carbs from my diet as much as possible I am in need of a diet overhaul.  So I am on a quest of start this diet overhaul and I mean now.  So I plan on putting together some future posts on how I have overhauled my diet, and what it does to my energy levels and overall well being.  I am open to any suggestions you may have.

Joe