Originating in Ancient India, yoga has been practiced for centuries. It has evolved through time to fit the spiritual, physical, and mental health needs of diverse people and cultures. To truly immerse oneself in this practice, it is helpful to understand the philosophy, types, and benefits of yoga.


Philosophy

The philosophical core of yoga is the union of body, mind, and spirit. We often view them as separate. We miss opportunities to heal physical ailments through mind over matter. We miss opportunities to lift spirits by relieving physical tension. Yoga focuses on bringing these elements into alignment. Yoga Basics explains each of the dynamic underpinnings of this foundational philosophy.  


Types

There are several types of yoga, each highlighting different tenets of the philosophy. Regardless of the type, always follow the instructor carefully, tell them about any injuries, and alert them to any pain. Yoga is meant to challenge but never hurt. Huffington Post provides this detailed chart to help you choose a style based in one of these main categories:

  • Hatha is the term for any yoga incorporating a variety of poses.
  • Astanga is a physically intense, structured series of traditional poses for strength.
  • Bikram is yoga practiced in high heat for the purpose detoxification through sweat elimination.
  • Anusara is a newer form of yoga. It is rigorous and fast-paced, designed for evoking positive energy.
  • Iyengar is yoga comprised of poses geared towards physical alignment and relieving muscle tension and improving cardiovascular health.
  • Vinyasa is yoga connecting breath to movement for creating fluidity. It is excellent for achieving mental balance and concentration.

 


Benefits

Yoga benefits us both internally and externally. It is an excellent form of exercise, because it gets the heart rate up and tones the muscles, but it is much gentler on the joints and easier to modify to every body's needs. The Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine and the International Journal of Yoga review two studies highlighting some of these benefits, including:  

  • Relief of muscle tension, which prevents injuries, contributes to spinal realignment, and promotes healthy sleep.
  • Faster healing from previous injuries due to increased blood flow and flexibility.
  • Cleansing of toxins in the blood and organs that contribute to many physical health ailments.
  • Reduction of inflammation, a leading cause and contributor to most physical health ailments, from joint pain, to sinus allergies, to cancer. This article by the Harvard Medical Schooland Dr. Marlynn Wei highlights this benefit.
  • Relief of psychological tension and worry through relaxation and breathing regulation.


The yoga philosophy has stood the test of time due to its immeasurable benefits, especially in regard to overall physical wellbeing. Its evolution has created styles to suit every body, mind, and spirit. Try a few classes or videos of different styles until you find the ones that best meet your needs. A little bit goes a long way, so begin a yoga journey today.

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