Yoga has been practiced for more than 5000 years and is one of the oldest forms of alternative medicine. It claims to increase the body's energy and improve self awareness.  It may be a path to self-improvement. In the advanced stages of yoga, super-conscious states said to be are attained which result in a feeling of bliss, deep peace, and enhanced of psychic powers.

Yoga classes are being held at many health and wellness centers in the United States. Many, who are otherwise skeptical of alternative treatments, support yoga. There are clinical studies that show that the practice of yoga helps stress, improves pain, and provides a feeling of well being. Yoga can be practiced in the comfort of your home. Even the simple breathing exercises taught by yoga can be profoundly relaxing.

Why Yoga?

Yoga is a set of exercises and treatments which simultaneously involve the combination of the  mind and the body (the mind-body).  Western medicine, in contrast, sees the mind and body as separate.

Yoga asanas and breathing deal with the physical body, also affect the mind.  Thousands of years ago, the ancient yogis turned their minds inwards and worked out a system of breathing exercises which results in vitality, rejuvenation, and feeling of peace of mind.

Why not enjoy the benefits of deep relaxation, but also do yoga to enjoy to gain vitality, rejuvenation, and peace of mind as well?

A Brief Philosophy of Yoga

The yogis believe in reincarnation.  If you live a good life, and follow the rules of yoga, you will advance in stature with each rebirth.  The yogis believe that the search for happiness should be everybody's goal.  They disdain those who settle for mere physical pleasure.

The yogis state that if we progress in our spiritual evolution, over many lives, we will become dissatisfied with the temporary pleasures of physical life and instead seek a deeper, more enduring, eternal bliss.  This is called Nirvana Methods to achieve this were developed and perfected over thousands of years. They consider that nature's laws to be designed to as to help us evolve spiritually a must. The main mechanism nature used in the early stages involves the avoidance of pain. When we find that money or alcohol, for example, do not produce happiness or a sense of purpose, we look more deeply into life.

In the later stages of spiritual evolution, pain is no longer to remind us of our purpose. Each stage of progress produces such peace and happiness that this entices us to go to a higher level of happiness. Thus, instead of pain, reward becomes the prime mover.

The above is a very brief indication of summary.  Yoga instead is a comprehensive system to deal with every aspect of life.  It seeks to allow followers to explore into the very nature of reality.

What is yoga?

In practice, yoga is an applied science of the mind and body. It comes from the Hindu Vedas (scriptures). Practice and study of it help to bring about a natural balance of body and mind. Yoga creates an internal environment that allows a person to come to his own state o balance. Yoga teaches that a healthy person is a harmoniously integrated unit of body, mind and spirit. Good health requires a natural diet, exercise, an untroubled mind and awareness of the deepest and spirit of God. Many devotees see that yoga is a philosophy that offers instruction and insight into every aspect of life. It is all-encompassing.

Yoga is best known as a set of physical practices that include gentle stretches, breathing practices, and progressive deep relaxation. These physical practices are intended to ready the body and mind for meditation as well as for a meditative perspective on life.

The Yoga System

One basic assumption of the Yoga Sutras is that the body and the mind are part of one continuum of existence. The interaction of body and mind is the central concern of the entire science. It is believed that as the body and mind are brought into balance and health, the individual will be able to perceive his true nature; this will allow life to be lived more freely and spontaneously.

Yoga first attempts to reach the mind. Choices of food, types of exercise, which thoughts to think, etc. all affect the body. In India, Yoga includes a set of ethical imperatives and moral precepts, diet, exercise, and meditation. In the West, yoga focuses primarily on postures (gentle stretching exercises), breathing exercises, and meditation. Yoga is most frequently used in Western medicine to reduce stress.

Asanas (postures): Postures are gentle stretching movements designed to help balance the mind and body. The yoga postures are designed to rejuvenate the brain, spine, glands and internal organs. They work by increasing the blood and prana  to these areas.

The asanas were designed with economy of time and effort in mind. Most of them work on more than one aspect of the body at the same time. For example, the twist asana benefits the spine, adrenal glands, liver, pancreas and kidneys.

The yoga asanas produce their beneficial effect on the organs and glands in three ways: the position of the asana causes an increase in blood circulation to the specific target organ or gland; the position of the asana often produces a slight squeezing of the organ or gland. This has the effect of massaging the organ or gland and stimulating it; and, deep breathing and visualizing the target area sends an extra supply of prana to the area.

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Yoga's View Of Disease

Yoga considers that most diseases are due to insufficient life force, either in the body as a whole, or a blockage of life force to one part of the body. This leads to a lowered body resistance or immunity to disease.  The best way to increase the general life force of the body is by good nutrition, sufficient deep steep, a positive mental attitude and yoga.

The ancient yogis were well aware of the importance of the spine in relation to disease, since most of their asanas or postures were designed to make the spine more flexible to prevent spinal misalignments. Some of the asanas will even correct minor spinal misalignments.

The spine is so important for a high vitality level, good health and the correction of many health conditions that a whole science of healing has been developed to correct spinal misalignments. In fact, chiropractic is now the second largest healing profession after medicine and the fastest growing healing profession in the world.

Types Of Yoga

One of the features of yoga, which can be confusing at first, is that a variety of forms of yoga are practiced. While these share common elements, some focus more on postures and breathing exercises, whereas others have a greater focus on spirituality. Each emphasizes a particular path that comprises a certain set of beliefs, Yoga forms can be thought of as a ladder of sorts, from the "lowest" form of Hatha yoga, with its focus on physical postures, to the "highest" form known as Raja, or "union by mental mastery."

The most popular forms of yoga are:  Hatha yoga ("the yoga of vitality') - The Foundation; Bhakti Yoga: The Yoga of Love; Karma yoga ("the yoga of action") - the Yoga of Selfless Action; Jnana Yoga: The Yoga of Knowledge; Raja yoga- The Highest form of yoga; Mantra yoga ; Laya, Tantra or Kundalini yoga ; Integral Yoga (Purna Yoga); and, Hatha yoga ("the yoga of vitality').   Newer forms of hybrids of yoga are also proposed such as Power yoga or Acu-yoga. There are also variations of yoga depending on "the teacher that is being followed."

An easy-to-learn basic form of yoga, which is popular in the United States, Hatha Yoga is the foundation of all Yoga systems. "Ha" means "sun" and "tha" means "moon." Thus, Hatha Yoga refers to positive (sun) and to negative (moon) currents in the system.

The ideal way to practice the Hatha Yoga poses (asanas) is to approach the practice session in a calm, meditative mood. Sit quietly for a few moments, and then begin the series, slowly, with control and grace, being inwardly aware as the body performs the various poses selected for the practice session. Do not overdo the asanas or try to compete with others. Take it easy and enjoy.

Go to the next page on physical therapy.

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Last modified: 08/07/08