“Yoga is not about self-improvement, it’s about self-acceptance.” – Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa.
Yoga is a beautiful, age-old ascetic discipline that marries the breath and the soul together. Yoga can be traced back to over 5,000 years ago, but some researchers think that yoga may be up to 10,000 years old even. It is a dance between self-control and surrender. Yoga is not about performing postures perfectly, but also about trying again when you fail.
Yoga has been accepted and popularized in the world now. That is because Yoga helps in creating strength, awareness, and harmony in the body. There are more than hundreds different schools which have similar yet mildly different forms of yoga but they ultimately focus on breathing through every posture and stretching or flexing different muscle groups with age-old researched techniques.
Despite Yoga being developed as a means of enlightenment, modern Yoga is also a form of preventive medicine for a fit mind and body. It is now viewed as more than a restorative, relaxing practice for the mind. It is practiced to prevent lifestyle disorders and as a remedy for several ailments such as chronic lower back pain, arthritis, headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome. It is also useful to lower blood pressure and balance hormones.
There are so many other benefits that include increased flexibility, muscle strength and improved respiration, energy and vitality. Yoga helps maintain a balanced metabolism and aids in fat loss while improving cardio and circulatory health. For people who are fairly or extremely active, yoga helps prevent injury and relaxes strained muscles. If the goal is to gain lean muscle, Vinyasa yoga, Ashtanga yoga, Kundalini and Bikram yoga or hot yoga as it is popularly known, are excellent for fat burning and muscle tone.
Apart from physical benefits, yoga is effective in combating stress and the side effects of stress that manifest themselves in the form of headaches, lack of sleep and concentration, drug abuse and so on. Regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness, increases body awareness and relieves chronic stress patterns while relaxing the mind and sharpening concentration. Body and self-awareness are particularly beneficial because they can help with early detection of physical problems and allow for early preventive actions. It is of immense importance to be in tune with our bodies, to observe disruptions in patterns of fatigue, hunger, sleep, excretion and menstrual cycles in women as they could be a sign of something serious. Restorative Yoga forms, like Hatha Yoga, are excellent for relaxation of the body and distressing the mind.
The beauty of Yoga lies in its simplicity. Anybody can integrate yoga into their lifestyle, no matter how fit they are. If forming a habit to exercise is hard, then yoga is the best way to begin. It is an encouraging and loving form of moving with your breath. Most importantly, it motivates you to try harder every single day, even when you step off the mat. It is excellent for someone dealing with depression or low self-esteem. Yoga is not about touching your toes. It’s what you learn on the way down. It is so important to slow down and give ourselves time to breathe, let go of the day, give our body what it needs and pay close attention. Even a few minutes of breathing and paying attention to your body goes a long way to stay fit, healthy and happy.
Written by: Achala Balgi
Edited by: Lipi Gupta