Yoga - a Blend of Exercise and Mediation
Originating as a Buddhist practise in ancient India, yoga has become an essential part in the daily lives of millions of people, worldwide.
While yoga is sought-after for its numerous mental health-benefits, for many people, it’s benefits go way beyond the mat. Yoga has proven to be a great tool to build strength, awareness, and harmony within both the mind and body.
From downward dog to peacock pose, no matter your skill-level or age, yoga can be accessible for everyone.
History of yoga
Yoga is believed to have been passed down through oral transmission by early Buddhists, meaning the exact date is unknown. The earliest writings were transcribed on palm leaves that were damaged, destroyed or lost. Shiva is seen as the first yogi or Adiyogi. Yoga is divided into four stages: pre-Vedic period (2700 B.C.), Classical period (500 BC - 800 AD), Post Classical period (800 - 1700 AD) and Modern period (1700 - 1900 AD). Upon its creation, yoga was mainly practised in the name of religious rituals. It wasn't until the nineteenth century that it gained popularity amongst the western countries and became a popular hobby that people take up in order to ease their bodies and minds.
Pictured here is a seal discovered in 1928, believed to be the earliest depictions of Shiva, the Lord of Yoga (Vinyasa Yoga School)
‘Yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘Yuji’, meaning to 'join’, to 'yoke’, or to 'unite'.
There are a plethora of both mental and physical benefits come with practising yoga, including:
Increase in muscle strength: yoga is a game of balance and flexibility. You are encouraged to push yourself a little bit each time in order to see any improvements. Poses such as upward dog and plank pose build upper-body strength in the biceps, triceps, and pecks. Whereas standing poses like the warrior pose and the eagle build strength in your calves, hamstrings, back, and abs.
Chronic pain relief: many yogis report that the reason they started yoga was due to complaints surrounding headaches, arthritis, stomach issues, or back pain. Although it has not been scientifically proven that yoga can cure chronic pain, it has certainly demonstrated glowing results for a significant number of yogis. Pain has the potential to be directly connected to the mind, due to anxiety's tendency to manifest in a physical form, often resulting in stomach cramps and tension headaches. That being said, allowing yourself to have some time during your week to focus on mindfulness and breathing would definitely be a good idea.
Lower blood pressure and blood sugar level: As mentioned above, one of the purposes of yoga is to slow the breathing and clear the mind. People who suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure) benefit from practising yoga significantly.
Improves mood: Stress and mood swings are one of the biggest problems among young people, hence why a large chunk of "new wave" yogis are millennials/older gen z kids. We tend to blow our problems out of proportion and have a hard time separating our school/work life from our home/social life. Yoga has become a great safe space for young folk. If you are able to carve our time from our busy days of working, volunteering, studying, socializing, and other commitments, I would highly suggest trying to get into yoga.
How does it work?
A new study from investigators at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) finds that deep breathing induced by such practices produces immediate positive change in the expression of genes involved in immune function, energy metabolism and insulin secretion. Yoga effectively reduces the body’s stress response by decreasing cortisol production through physical postures and breathing techniques. The body slows down the rate of nerve firing and further relaxes the brain, heart and muscles.
Types of yoga
There are many types of yoga you can practise. Here are the most common ones that can be practised at home or in a studio.
It is an incredibly common style. It is a flow where the poses are synchronized with breathing in a continuous rhythmic flow. It helps to develop a more balanced body and prevent repetitive motion injuries.
It is designed to balance opposing forces. The balance in hatha yoga comes from strength, flexibility, physical and mental energy or breath and the body. It is more suitable for beginners.
Here is a link to 20-minute Hatha yoga.
It is designed to help you sit longer in mediation by stretching connective tissue around the joints. It helps you stretch and lengthen those rarely-used tissues.
Try this full-body yin yoga.
It is similar to Vinyasa yoga but it is more active and is done at a quicker pace. It helps strengthen the muscles as well as flexibility. Those who want a good workout can try this.
Try to get sweaty through this routine.
It involves a silky sling-like hammock that is draped from the ceiling and supports your full body weight. You will climb on the fabric and hold poses like handstands or perform tricks. It is more advanced and requires a lot of strength and mindfulness. It can be challenging but fun.
Check these 10 beginner elegant moves.
Yoga moves for different levels
Don’t worry. Don’t be intimidated by the challenging pose. Start with simple moves and focus on breathing and knowing your body. This will help you find a love for the practice.
Downward facing dog
Bharadavaja’s twist (Vinyasa Yoga School)
Cobra Pose (Vinyasa Yoga School)
Downward-facing dog (Vinyasa Yoga School)
Here is a link to a 20 minute home yoga
After you have developed certain strength and flexibility, try to practise these intermediate poses to keep you on the yogic path.
Big toe pose
Eagle Pose (Vinyasa Yoga School)
Bow Pose (Vinyasa Yoga School)
Here’s a link to 30-minute intermediate Vinyasa yoga
The following moves require high flexibility, strength and balance. With years of yoga experience, you are ready to explore new variations and challenge yourself!
King pigeon pose
Peacock Pose (Vinyasa Yoga School)
King Pigeon Pose (Vinyasa Yoga School)
Check this link to do a challenging Vinyasa yoga flow!
There are a lot of free apps with a lot of yoga moves and routines. Click this link to find out more! https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/top-yoga-iphone-android-apps#glo
Every style of yoga has its unique benefits. Some classes involve a mix of types in their routine. Due to the unprecedented time, it is easy to get stressed and develop mental illness. Try to spend 20-30 minutes to do a yoga video on youtube. As it becomes your daily habit, you can definitely notice some changes, both physically and mentally, in your body. Stay safe and positive!
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Featured image courtesy of Wix
Article Authors: Michelle Lam, Maria Giroux
Article Editor: Sherilyn Wen