by Terri Johansen
Yoga comes from an ancient tradition dating back between 3000-4000 years. Yet its popularity today makes it appear modern to those unaware of its history. The therapeutic effects of yoga allow it to be considered medicinal and scientific. The original poses are constantly being adapted to make them fresh and relevant to the demands of today’s fast-paced world. We can change and combine poses (asanas), breathing (pranayama) and other yogic techniques to fit the large variety of individual needs.
Yoga can help you take care of yourself!
It is different from other kinds of exercise in that it emphasizes your individual performance. In yoga you do not worry about how you look, you are concerned with how you feel. Yoga can help you discover the peace and quiet available within yourself, thus giving you inner health as well as physical strength.
Patterns of competition that are prevalent in our society are learned behaviors. In yoga we learn to let go of the “We” and to focus inward discovering who we are and what we want to be. Yoga helps us find a relaxed energy in our own minds and bodies.
In today’s world we have learned to think of many things at the same time. Doing this wastes much of our energy. One of the main purposes of yoga is to quiet the mind so that the mental energy can be reserved and used to focus and concentrate on what is really important. The yoga poses and breathing slow you down, and your body and mind become more relaxed. The beliefs of yoga are different than other forms of exercise. Here are some principles to remember as you practice yoga:
- Yoga should feel good. If it hurts then something is wrong. Don’t force yourself through pain. You can adapt the pose or eliminate it all together. You are in charge of your own body. Always remember that you come first.
- There is no stress and competition in yoga. Avoid competing with yourself and with other students. Draw your attention inward and feel yourself relaxing into the pose, never pushing.
- During your yoga practice stay strong, relaxed and alert. Concentrate on the muscles you are using. You can work hard but without pushing yourself past your limits. We call this the comfort zone. Stay within your comfort zone. Remaining alert and focus on your breath as well as how your body is feeling.
- Yoga poses are designed to help you focus your mind and to become more aware. Each pose is a gentle form of meditation in motion, or a form of gentle mental discipline. If your mind wonders, don’t let it disturb you. Just accept it and gently bring it back to your breathing.
- Within each person is a source of strength, clarity and peace. The highest purpose of yoga is to find this inner source. Yoga can help you become aware of something deeper and more important regardless of what name you give it, The Source, Spirit of Life, or God. What is important is that yoga can create inner growth. You can experience a greater sense of inner calm, happiness, and an increase in care and compassion for those around you.
Terri Johansen is the Editor of the Exercise Site for BellaOline.com. She has been a yoga teacher for many years and a great deal of her writing is centered there. Terri’s work with yoga and exercise has been published in local magazines as well as online.