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The stress of modern living often causes us to experience an unhealthy disconnection between the body and the mind. Yoga is an ancient form of exercise which can ground us, restoring valuable self-awareness and allowing us to be one with our bodies once more.
‘Yoga’ comes from the Sanskrit word ‘yuj’ which means ‘to unite’.
Yoga is a 5 000-year-old Ayurvedic form of exercise, the essence of which brings holistic well-being to the fast-paced, forever-changing whirlwind of the modern world we inhabit today.
WHAT IS YOGA?
Yoga is often mistakenly, and superficially, thought to be an exercise that merely stretches and tones while one works up a mild sweat or glow. But, in its essential form, yoga is much more than that as it teaches a healthy lifestyle through a combination of thoughts, words and actions. Yoga not only brings flexibility of body but relaxes and creates peace of mind. Yoga postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama) and meditation create harmony within oneself and with the outer world, as your own personal journey becomes a calm and joyful experience.
Our bodies have an innate wisdom and understanding of correct movement and alignment, but through the body’s entanglement with the mind’s ideas, ideals and perceptions, we pull ourselves out of physical balance thus injuring ourselves and disturbing emotional balance which results in insomnia, stress and illness. Yoga restores balance and optimum health on all levels. A frequent yoga practitioner will be in touch with their body, mind and the environment.
Through pranayama, yoga becomes calmative. Correct breathing decreases stress levels in the body as the central nervous system is nourished, and through a calm and relaxed breathing rhythm the left and right hemispheres of the brain are balanced and peace of mind is obtained.
When performing head and shoulder stands, exercise awareness and deliberate action – natural elements of yoga – to avoid injury. Being upside down puts the head beneath the heart and the brain is flooded with blood and, quite literally, the more expansive, compassionate energy of the heart subdues the restless mind.
The consistent practice of yoga will lead to the mental health and well-being we all need to live our lives harmoniously. The yoga mat is the magic carpet which allows you to journey back to wisdom – a state beyond learned intelligence where you can attain inner confidence, calm and compassion. The relationship between the body and the mind is healed and enhanced to higher levels of efficiency, productivity and knowledge. This is done by cultivating awareness, the ability to detach from everything, to look and see what is driving and motivating you, or resisting and inhibiting you from moment to moment – the mat offers a safe, experimental space to practise this looking within.
As you adopt different asanas, you will notice if you are competitive in spirit (with yourself or others), if your body whispers are easily heard or not, if your mind dominates the body with a continuum of thoughts which either support and uplift you, or distract and deplete you, and you will notice if you love and accept your body or have a constant battle with it. Your relationship with your body speaks volumes about your relationship with yourself as a whole. You can gently begin to change your thoughts and actions while on the mat practising for the lifestyle of empowered inner wholeness.
Yoga has immense cardiovascular benefits. Through stretching and placing pressure on the muscles and organs, the heart pumps more strongly and the circulatory system is stimulated with oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood flowing through the entire system.
Our glands alone are responsible for hormones, calcium absorption and metabolism, and by nourishing them with oxygen and alternately applying and releasing pressure they reach optimum function and decrease mentally or emotionally related problems as a result.
Yoga is a non-violent way of achieving fitness, strength and flexibility. Weight-bearing exercises increase bone density and when the body is clean it influences the mind in a positive way.
Yoga, in essence, brings so much to the individual on so many levels. One is able to benefit mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Through the practice of yoga, the soul, the body and the mind become whole within a modern, fragmented world.
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