Yoga: Exploring Its Physical And Meditative Components
Yoga is a complicated and ancient practice that is rooted in Indian philosophy. It started as a spiritual activity but became famous as a way to encourage physical and mental wellbeing. Yoga and two Chinese-origin practices — tai chi and qi gong — are often called meditative movements. All three activities cover both physical and reflective components.
What is Yoga?
Yoga is a practical physical, mental, and spiritual activity originating in ancient India. The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit root Yuj, which means “to unite,” or “to yoke.” The practice aims to establish a union between the mind, body, and spirit. Such a union helps to neutralize ego-driven thoughts and actions, generating a spiritual awakening sensation.
Throughout the years, yoga practice has been developed and has presented many different interpretations and styles. It is considered an art capable of touching the human soul and improving one’s attitude and quality of life. People tend to believe that the ultimate goal of yoga is to achieve liberation from suffering. Although each culture and tradition of yoga has its emphasis and practices, most focus on bringing the mind, body, and spirit to alter the energy of shifting consciousness.
Yogis have been alluding to the mental and physical powers of yoga for thousands of years. Yoga is a therapeutic tool for many psychological and physical conditions. The literature isn’t as well known as the yoga practice itself, but a lot of research has been done. Yoga has become a widespread practice in today’s society, which is not surprising, considering the amount of stress that a typical working day can bring. This beneficial activity is becoming increasingly popular because of its positive effects on our mental health and wellbeing.
Modern yoga is most associated with the physical practice of asana, a series of postures often woven together in styles such as Vinyasa Flow or Ashtanga. Asana practice aims at increasing strength and endurance, enhancing stability, agility, and balance, and calming the body. However, this poses only one specific part of the yoga practice as a whole.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are the traditional foundation of yoga that outlines the eight-fold path of practice. Identified as the ‘Eight Limbs of Yoga,’ this approach advises committed individuals who wish to establish a union of mind, spirit, and body.
Exploring the Eight Limbs in Yoga
The first limb, Yama, deals with one’s sense of integrity and ethical standards. Yamas are traditional activities that mostly apply to what we recognize as the Golden Law, “Look to someone what you might have them do to you.”
The second limb has everything to do with self-discipline and spiritual observance. Observing temple or church services, saying grace before meals, establishing your unique contemplation habits, or having a ritual of taking contemplative walks of your own are all forms of niyamas in action.
The poses practiced in yoga include the third limb. Through performing asanas, we cultivate the practice of concentration and the capacity to focus, all of which are important for meditation.
It translates as breath control, and this fourth stage consists of techniques designed to master the respiratory process while at the same time recognizing the connection between the breath, the mind, and the emotions. As the literal translation of pranayama, “extension of life force,” implies, yogis believe that can rejuvenate the body and extends life. Pranayama can be performed as an isolated technique(i.e., practice several breathing exercises while sitting) or incorporate it into your daily hatha yoga routine.
Pratyahara, the fifth limb, means retreat or sensory transcendence. It is at this stage that we make a conscious effort to draw our awareness away from the outer world and the external stimulus. Keenly aware of, yet cultivating a detachment from, our senses, we direct our attention inwardly. The practice of Pratyahara allows us to step back and take a look at ourselves. Such withdrawal helps one to critically examine our cravings: behaviors that could be detrimental to our wellbeing and which are likely to conflict with our inner development.
It is the ability to bring the mind into focus and hold the concentration to a single point. In true Dharana, all body-consciousness and distracted thoughts cease to occur, enabling one to concentrate on the topic of meditation without interruption.
Dhyana is considered as a contemplation yoga. It trains you to keep your mind away from unnecessary things and concentrate on what you need to do. Dhyana yoga makes it possible for you to find the truth. It allows you to distinguish perception from reality and see things for what they are.
It is the state in which experience is infinite, single, and whole. It’s the eighth and final phase on the journey of yoga defined by Patanjali. Samadhi can be achieved through deep, continuous, and correct meditation.
Health Benefits of Yoga
Yoga is one of the most significant opportunities to enhance endurance since the first lesson, and many people find improvements in their bodies. Last year, Colorado State University published a report on the effect of meditation on student-athletes. The researchers noticed that after ten weeks, 14 students who enrolled in bi-weekly yoga sessions demonstrated considerable flexibility and balance. Flexible individuals are less likely to get hurt compared to those who aren’t. This is why the activity is prescribed to professional athletes as a wholesome way to enhance results.
Reduce Back Pain
Different poses reduce back pain by stretching muscles and rotating joints. Yoga is particularly recommended for those suffering from sciatica. Sciatica is characterized as the pain in the sciatic nerve, the longest nerve in the human body that travels from the central nervous system to the foot. Pain occurs when the nerve is compressed and is often located in the lower back. Iyengar yoga aids individuals who are suffering from chronic back pain by incorporating blocks, straps, and stretch chairs. Studies show that regular practice can help people reduce their use of pain medications.
Yoga is excellent for building muscle strength. Unlike weight lifting at the gym, different yoga poses work with body weight. Poses like crow and crane involve putting full pressure on the arms. Other poses, such as warrior and bridge, help build up the glutes. The entire session can target almost every muscle in the body, and it has less risk of injury than lifting free weights.
A breathing exercise, otherwise known as the 4-7-8 method, can appease anxiety. Deep breathing exercises do not only reduce stress, instead helps in clearing the mind and reducing distractions.
Yoga can boost your energy and mood. Individuals who practice it do so for its benefits in terms of relaxation and stress management. Yoga is an exercise that works both the body and the mind, which can yield emotional health benefits. Yoga practice is not only limited to movement; rather, it is a dynamic movement that is tied to breathing.
Yoga enhances the respiratory function of an individual by extended cycles of deep breathing. Posses such as a bridge, a cat, a cobra, and a cow all stretch the chest and work the lung muscles. People who take part in several weeks of classes have shown an increased lung capacity, and some studies have found that the practice also helps to ease the symptoms of asthma. There is a growing body of evidence that your heart can benefit from yoga. Several studies suggest that yoga may help reduce known risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure among hypertensive patients, according to a review published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2017.
Another research that tracked patients with heart disease showed that the introduction of eight weeks of yoga to their therapy enhanced their workout ability, strengthened their cardiac wellbeing, and strengthened their overall quality of life relative to people that did not do yoga in addition to daily care. According to Kogon, “Yoga improves the supply of blood and sends oxygen to the surface of the body and relaxes the blood arteries that are ideal for heart disease. This eases the strain on the heart.”
Physical activity, relaxation techniques, and meditation on a stand-alone basis are also proven to help reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors.
Several poses help to improve posture, as they both increase muscle and lengthen the spine. A strong position can prevent chronic back pain and enhance people’s self-esteem. A robust stance is more important as people grow older. Older women and men with hunched stance are at higher risk of fractures, suffer from restricted breathing, and have a higher overall death rate. Older people with hunched postures are more at risk of fractures, suffer from restricted breathing, and have a higher overall death rate. Only 10 minutes of poses like a mountain, tree, or a downward-facing dog are only a couple of the wellness advantages of yoga.
Classes also require various forms of stretching and turning the body, both of which enhance the protection of the joint. The joints have a specific range of motion. Nevertheless, daily yoga can allow people to extend outside the usual scope. It is, therefore, suitable for individuals who are suffering from joint discomfort. Studies have shown that people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis profit from the practice, particularly hot yoga or gentle classes.
Becoming a Mindful Eater
Practicing yoga has been shown to raise awareness not just in class, but in many aspects of a person’s life. Mindfulness applies to concentrate your mind on what you are doing at the moment without judging yourself.
Researchers define mindful eating as a non-judgmental perception of the physical and emotional experiences of feeding. A test was created to assess the consciousness of eating by using these behaviors:
- Eating even when full.
- Being aware of how food tastes, smells and looks
- Eating in response to environmental cues, such as the smell or sight of food.
- Eating when stressed or sad.
- Eating when distracted by other things.
Researchers found that people who practiced yoga were more thoughtful eaters according to their scores. Both years of yoga experience and the number of minutes of exercise every week have been correlated with improved healthy eating results. Practicing yoga helps you to be more aware of how your body feels. This heightened awareness can take you back to mealtime as you taste every bite or sip and notice how food smells, tastes, and contacts in your mouth.
Promotes Weight Loss and Maintenance
People who perform meditation and become conscientious eaters are more in tune with their bodies. They might be more responsive to hunger and sensations of fullness.
Researchers observed that individuals who performed yoga for at least 30 minutes a week over at least four years accumulated less weight during middle adulthood. People who were overweight were losing weight. Overall, people who studied yoga had lower body mass indexes (BMIs) relative to those who did not practice yoga. The researchers have related this to mindfulness. Mindful eating can result in a more positive relationship with food and eating.
Several reports have verified much of the emotional and physical effects of yoga. Yoga can further enhance overall wellbeing, boost energy and endurance, and reduce the impact of tension, depression, and anxiety. Taking the time to practice yoga a few days a week can be enough to make a significant difference when it comes to your wellbeing.