The Philosophy of Yoga
Yoga continues to facinate me the more I learn about it. It feels like such a wonderful antidote to western troubles both physically and mentally. For me Yoga is all about release, releasing all the tensions in my body letting go of it all and releasing all of the worry in my mind.
Helping people find Yoga is the most satisfying thing I have ever done. Seeing the difference on their faces from when they walk into the room tense, tired, achy, scrunched up faces and then to afterwards they seem to actually look younger and lighter, their faces totally relaxed eminating warmth.
I love the fact that for each individual Yoga is different for some it is an escape, for others it is helping them to find/understand themselves, some therapeutic, some for exercise, some for meditation and for some it is a life changing experience.
Whatever Yoga does for you, I think that the most wonderful gift it can give you is to be in that moment, to be still with no thought of yesterday or tommorrow. How often do we do that? Have a place to be and accept ourselves.
Go with Light and Love - Gwen (Studio Manager)
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What is Yoga ?
Often associated with Hinduism, yoga actually is older. It is the oldest physical discipline in existence. The exact origins of yoga are unknown, but it is thought to be at least five thousand years old. The earliest evidence of yoga practice can be traced back to about 3000 B.C. The original purpose of the postures and breathing exercises was to bring stability and relaxation so practitioners could prepare for the rigors of meditation, sitting still and alert for long periods of time.The word yoga has its roots in the Sanskrit language and means to merge, join or unite.
Yoga is a form of exercise based on the belief that the body and breath are intimately connected with the mind. By controlling the breath and holding the body in steady poses, or asanas, yoga creates harmony. Yoga is a means of balancing and harmonizing the body, mind and emotions and is a tool that allows us to withdraw from the chaos of the world and find a quiet space within. To achieve this, yoga uses movement, breath, posture, relaxation and meditation in order to establish a healthy, vibrant and balanced approach to living.
Modern scholars have defined yoga as the classical Indian science that concerns itself with the search for the soul and the union between the individual, whose existence is finite, and the Divine, which is infinite.Yoga is one of the original concepts which today would be labeled as holistic. That means that the body is related to the breath; both are related to the brain; in turn this links with the mind, which is a part of consciousness.The essence of yoga is to be in the driver's seat of life. Control is a key aspect of yoga: control of the body, breath and mind.The secret of yoga practice lies in a simple but important word: balance. In every area of our life, yoga represents balanced moderation.
In The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which is a two-thousand-year-old collection of the oral teachings on yogic philosophy, there are one hundred and ninety-five statements which are a kind of philosophical guidebook for dealing with the challenges of being human. The Yoga Sutras provides an eight-fold path called ashtanga, which literally means "eight limbs". These eight steps are basic guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life. They are a prescription for moral and ethical conduct. They direct attention toward one's health, and they help us to acknowledge the spiritual aspects of our nature.The first four steps or stages concentrate on refining our personalities, gaining mastery over our body, and developing an energetic awareness of ourselves, all of which prepare us for the second half of the journey, which deals with the senses, the mind, and attaining a higher state of consciousness.
Health Benefits of YogaYoga has both preventive and therapeutic benefits. It has been shown to offer both physical and mental benefits to the body and the mind.The many physical benefits of hatha yoga are: it improves flexibility and muscle joint mobility; strengthens, tones, and builds muscles; corrects posture; strengthens the spine; eases back pain; improves muscular-skeletal conditions such as bad knees, tight shoulders and neck, swayback and scoliosis; increases stamina; creates balance and grace; stimulates the glands of the endocrine system; improves digestion and elimination; increases circulation; improves heart conditions; improves breathing disorders; boosts immune response; decreases cholesterol and blood sugar levels; and encourages weight loss.The mental benefits include: it increases body awareness; relieves chronic stress patterns in the body; refreshes the body by relieving muscle strain; relaxes the mind and body; centers attention; sharpens concentration; and frees the spirit.Western doctors and scientists are discovering additional health benefits of hatha yoga. Studies have shown that it can relieve the symptoms of several common and potentially life-threatening illnesses; such as arthritis, arteriosclerosis, chronic fatigue, diabetes, AIDS, asthma and obesity. Many believe it even fends off the ravages of old age.
Yoga Benefits as an Exercise
A near-perfect fitness routine, hatha yoga provides the means for people of any age not only to get and stay in shape but also to develop balance, coordination, and a sense of centeredness. It renews, invigorates, and heals the body - stretching and toning the muscles, joints, and spine and directing blood and oxygen to the internal organs (including the glands and nerves).Yoga is distinctly different from other kinds of exercise. It generates motion without causing strain and imbalances in the body. When practiced correctly, hatha yoga has no such negative effects on either the inner or outer body.When done with dedication and purpose, hatha yoga can be a quite demanding, yet an immensely rewarding type of exercise. While not inherently aerobic, it involves almost every muscle in the body and challenges the body to work in a different and often more passive way. Since the limbs function as free weights, resistance is created by moving the body's center of gravity. This strengthening gives way to endurance as poses are held for longer periods of time.Unlike conventional forms of exercise, such as weight training, walking, biking or hiking, hatha yoga stresses quality of movement over quantity. A consistent hatha yoga practice can quiet the mind and refresh the body, bringing health, relaxation, and happiness.
Yoga at all Ages
Whatever your age, yoga can enhance your lifestyle...As well as being fun for children, learning yoga develops self-discipline and can enhance their physical and mental health. Asanas are good for developing coordination and help to improve concentration and memory. Regular practice can enable young people to keep their natural flexibility for many years.It can help teenagers to keep their youthful flexibility and give them the inner strength to say no to negative influences.Older people often find that gentle yoga exercises allow them to retain mobility and may relieve problems such as arthritis and poor circulation.During pregnancy, yoga promotes good health in both mother and unborn child. Yoga asanas lessen the effects of such problems as overweight, backache, and depression. Most women who practice yoga find that it can make labor easier and shorter. Although some asanas have to be modified during pregnancy, their essence is perfectly suited to this time of expanded self-awareness. Pregnancy is also a very good time for meditation.Everyone can benefit from following a regular yoga routine, as it counteracts many of the problems suffered in modern life. Asanas release the physical tensions caused by hours of sitting, deep breathing gives vitality by increasing the supply of oxygen to the brain and meditation enhances the powers of concentration. Yoga improves strength and flexibility in the mind as well as the body, and aids relaxation. Yoga can enable one to relax fully, and promotes sound sleep; it also improves digestion and stimulates circulation. It frees the practitioner both physically and mentally, often heightening intuition and creativity.
When should you practise
Try to practice yoga every day. Set aside a time when you will not be disturbed and you will not have to rush. It is best to practice yoga on an empty stomach. Wait at least two to three hours after a large meal, and one to two hours after a lighter one or a snack before beginning.Practice regularly, even if it's only a few minutes every day. If done every day or nearly every day, even 10 to 15 minutes will help build concentration, increase flexibility and strengthen willpower, making it easier to practice the next day. Consistency is key. If possible, establish a regular time of day to set aside for practice. Morning or evening practice is advised.Practice when your body is most limber. Some people find their bodies are stiff in the morning, making practice more difficult. Night practice, however may limit the kinds of postures you do as some are too stimulating and affect asleep. The key is regularity. Enjoy whatever time you have set aside for practice.Most yoga instructors believe that there is more benefit to doing a brief practice regularly than hit-or-miss home practice sessions, sporadic class attendance, or the occasional workshop. The greatest and longest-lasting benefits are achieved when at least 3 or 4 yoga asanas are done every day.Most experts recommend a minimum of 10 minutes of practice every day. However, to practice a range of postures and incorporate breathing or meditation, 15 to 25 minutes is necessary. These brief practice sessions should also be interspersed with longer sessions several times a week.
Where should you practise
For practicing indoors, you will need a clear space with no furniture. Select a place with enough space where you can stretch upwards as well as to the sides for standing and floor postures. The room should be comfortably heated and well ventilated. When relaxing you can cover yourself with a blanket if you get cold.Set aside a special place to practice. Turn off the radio, TV, and telephone, and set the answering machine volume to the low setting. Minimize distractions. Clear the room of pets and kids, if possible. Locate a level surface. A bare hardwood floor is ideal, but if your feet slip, use a sticky mat. If practicing on carpet, choose an area with a tight weave, such as Berber.A yoga mat or exercise mat is good to provide a warm, cushioned, surface. A small firm pillow or folded blanket is helpful for seated postures if your hips, lower back and hamstrings aren't very flexible. Also a long strap, bathrobe tie or belt is helpful to use to stretch the hamstrings in either a seated or supine position. If you use props: mat, pillow, blanket, cushion, strap, wooden blocks, folding chairs, blankets etc.; store them together and set aside or bring to the practice area before beginning.If practicing outdoors, select a shady spot with plenty of room to move. Dress accordingly.
How should you practise
Bare feet are ideal when you practice yoga and actually serve a dual purpose. First, you need to have traction for the standing poses so that you won't slip. Second, working without shoes helps you fully exercise and articulate your feet. An exception to this would be if you doing a practice on a cold floor and you need socks for warmth.You do not need any special clothing for yoga, but what you wear must be comfortable, warm but not too warm, and allow the maximum range of movement. Clothing such as: leotards, cotton tights, bike shorts, loose T-shirts or tank tops would be good. Bulky or overly loose clothing will only get in the way. If you have long hair tie it back, so it does not interfere with your asanas. Keep a sweater close by in case you start to feel cold.
Dont' force your body
Before you begin your yoga asanas, it is important to recognize your body's capabilities. Never force your body into a posture or try to go beyond your limit. Yoga is not a competitive sport. Progress may be slow, but with time your body will become flexible. Ease yourself gently into each position, and when you are holding a pose, check the body to see if you can feel tension building up anywhere. If you do, consciously try to relax that tension using the breathing.Some poses affect mood and energy differently.
Poses that are more stimulating include Sun Salutation, backbends, and standing poses. These poses are best done early in the day. More appropriate for the evening are forward bends, inversions, and restorative poses. Sitting forward bends are ideal for relaxing and recharging.Many of our regular daily activities tend to emphasize the use of one part or side of the body. To achieve a healthy and harmonious balance, it is important to keep all parts of the body equally strong and flexible. Yoga exercises make each group of muscles work equally on the left and right sides of the body to achieve equilibrium. To achieve body balance, always exercise both sides of the body equally. Balance forward bends with backbends to work both front and back of the body.Whatever the purpose of a particular practice session, it should begin with 2 - 3 warm-up postures, such as Mountain, Downward Facing Dog or Sun Salutation, as they stretch the spine, arms and legs. Then you can move on to more strenuous poses that strengthen the body and increase endurance. Standing, inverted and backbend poses would apply here. To wind down and settle the nerves, practice seated forward bends or supine poses.Your routine should be well-rounded and should include some poses from all the major groupings of poses: standing, inversions, twists, forward bends, and backbends. While in the pose, do not hold the breath. Between postures, take 1 to 2 breaths to quiet the mind.Inhalations are generally mated with upward or expanding movements. Going into a backbend such as Cobra, for example, you begin on an in-breath. Hold the pose and breathe rhythmically.
An exception to this rule: Upward movements of the legs work best on the exhalation since the legs are much heavier than the arms.Exhalations are usually mated with downward and contracting movements, such as lowering the arms and with any positions that employ flexion of the spine (such as folding the body into itself such as in forward bends, abdominal curls, lateral stretches or twists.) When you lift a substantial weight, exhale on the effort. This applies whether you're lifting a 10-pound dumbbell or your leg. The out-breath helps contract the abdominals which in turn stabilizes and protects the lower back.Moving from one pose to another without breaking form is called "sequencing" or vinyasa in Sanskrit. This method of practice allows for a balanced workout regardless of practice length. Sequences can consist of related poses for the purpose of energizing (as with standing poses or backbends) or relaxing (with forward bends or restorative poses) the body or working on specific areas such as the hips, shoulders, or feet.At the end of your practice it is important to take 5 to 10 minutes to relax your body. Relaxation is a state of total receptivity where, through deep breathing, the body can replenish and rejuvenate itself as the natural potential of the body to heal itself comes into play. Always end with several minutes in Corpse Pose to renew both mind and body.
Adjust your practice to your schedule and feelings. Some days you may not feel as energetic or flexible or you may feel week or tired. On those days, try doing restorative poses, such as supine poses and forward bends. Don't practice when you have a fever. If you have a cold or other minor illness, use your judgement and restrict your practice to restorative ones.Regard yoga as an ongoing process rather than a single accomplishment. Some people are genetically less flexible or have tighter muscle groups than others. Be patient with yourself. Yoga can be a life-long pursuit, but persistency, consistency and discipline are required to gain the many lasting benefits yoga offers.
Have a look at the Yoga Posture Gallery!
Yoga embraces a wide range of disciplines whose ultimate goal is the joining of body, mind and spirit, this ultimately means becoming one. Yoga’s that we offer cover all four classic Yoga's and the expansion of styles that have developed.
The Main Groups of Yoga PosturesThe main groups of yoga postures are: standing, seated, reclining (prone & supine), forward bends, back bends, side bends, twists, inverted and balancing postures.
These poses invigorate the mind and body by eliminating tension, aches, and pains. Internally, these postures stimulate digestion, regulate the kidneys, and alleviate constipation, as well as improve circulation and breathing by developing the strength of the legs and the flexibility of the pelvis and lower back. Through regular practice, standing poses lend strength and mobility to the hips, knees, neck, and shoulders. On a psychological level, standing poses create confidence, enhance willpower, and strengthen character.
Generally, these poses are considered calming, as they soothe the nerves, eliminate fatigue, and refresh the brain. They also help regulate blood pressure and assist in recuperation from illness, as well as promote restful sleep. Some poses are beneficial in that they increase flexibility in the lower back, hips and hamstrings.
These poses fall into two categories: prone and supine poses. The prone poses are done facing the floor, either on the hands and knees or lying on the stomach. They rejuvenate and energize the body and can be especially strengthening for the arms and back. Supine poses are done while lying on the back. For the most part, these poses are more relaxing and restful. Reclining poses serve mainly to stretch the abdomen and increase the mobility of the spine and hips, thus opening the groin and strengthening the back, arms, and legs. The less strenuous of these poses traditionally are done at the end of a practice session to cool down the body and restore energy.
Forward bends improve the blood circulation, aid digestion and calm the emotions. They stretch the lower back and lengthen the hamstringsBack BendsBack bends invigorate and encourage deep breathing. They open and energize the body and mind; they develop courage and lift depression. They open the chest, stimulate the nervous system, strengthen the arms and shoulders and increase flexibility of the spine.
Side bends stimulate the main organs, for example the liver, kidneys, stomach, and spleen.TwistsThese postures free, energize and balance the body. Sitting twists are the most intensive, as they increase the range of motion of the spine. They promote flexibility in the spine, hips and upper back, thus relieving backaches, headaches, and stiffness in the neck and shoulders. This group of postures also tones and stimulates the abdominal organs, thus aiding digestion and relieving constipation. Ideally, twisting postures are done after a series of sitting poses or forward bends, which gives the hips and spine a proper warm-up. When done after backbends, they tend to relieve any lower back discomfort.
Inverted postures reverse gravity, bringing fresh blood to the head and heart, thus revitalizing the mind and the whole body. These poses tone the internal organs and glandular system, stimulate brain function, improve circulation and refresh tired legs.
Balancing postures develop lightness, strength and agility. They also help develop body control, muscle tone, coordination, and concentration.In yoga, the body is gently and skillfully maneuvered in all directions. Consequently every muscle is stretched and toned. The internal organs are massaged, squeezed, and expanded, improving their general function. The skeletal system is flexed, extended, rotated, and twisted, creating greater joint mobility. The spine is encouraged to maintain a healthy, upright, and pain-free condition. The circulation is improved. The breathing capacity and elasticity of the lungs is enhanced.