Can Yoga Help You Live Better and Healthier? | yoga meditation

Can Yoga Help You Live Better and Healthier?

Instructor de Kundalini yoga practicando Pranayama

Instructor de Kundalini yoga practicando Pranayama (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Article by RC Walker

Yoga literally means union. It is a spiritual practice the goal of which is to unite the human being with the spiritual center. It is not a religion. Yogis (male) and Yoginis (female) practice yoga in order to uplift, purify and enlighten.

There are many benefits associated with the practice of yoga including a calm peaceful mind, strong flexible body and stamina. The health benefits attributed to this age old system developed in Central Asia are numerous as it specifically targets the nervous system, endocrine system, cardiovascular system and musculo-skeletal system.

By finding the right styles of yoga, and the right instructor(s), you can greatly improve your fitness level and well being overall. The list below and the brief descriptions provided will help you on your journey.

Anusara

Anusara Yoga, created by John Friend, is a modern school of hatha yoga grounded in the Tantric philosophy of intrinsic goodness.  Called heart-oriented, this style of yoga integrates the celebration of the heart, universal principles of alignment and energetic asanas.

Ashtanga

A traditional style of yoga developed by K. Pattabhi Jois in Mysore, India and is intended to heal the body through a dynamic series of postures, each building on the previous. Ashtanga yoga is meant for everybody and it is best to learn from a qualified teacher.

Bikram

Bikram Choudhury’s yoga is hot, hot, hot, so be prepared to sweat, sweat, sweat. In class, they crank the thermostat up high, then perform a series of 26 asanas, sometimes twice, that is designed to “scientifically” warm and stretch muscles, ligaments and tendons in the order in which they should be stretched. Founder Bikram Choudhury studied yoga with Bishnu Ghosh, brother of Paramahansa Yogananda.

Integral

Developed by Swami Satchidananda, the man who taught the crowds at the original Woodstock to chant “Om,” Integral classes put almost as much emphasis on pranayama and meditation as they do on postures. Integral yoga is used by Dr. Dean Ornish in his groundbreaking work on reversing heart disease.

Iyengar

Ever think standing was just a matter of keeping your body on top of your legs? It’s hard to appreciate how involved a simple thing like just standing can be, how much concentration and how many subtle movements and adjustments it takes, until you take an Iyengar yoga class. Of course, the point is that you’re not just standing. You’re doing Tadasana, Mountain pose, and in yoga in the style of B.K.S. Iyengar, Tadasana is an active pose. B.K.S. Iyengar is one of the best-known yoga teachers and the creator of one of the most popular styles of yoga in the world. His style of yoga is noted for great attention to detail and the precise alignment of postures, as well as the use of props such as blocks and belts. No doubt part of Iyengar’s success is due to the quality of teachers, who must complete a rigorous 2-5 year training program for certification.

Kids Yoga

For kids, Yoga helps to counteract the everyday pressures of school, busy schedules and the incessant bombardment of technology in their lives. Through Yoga, kids learn relaxation, inner fulfillment, self esteem and body awareness in a setting that non competitive and compassionate.

Children derive enormous benefits from yoga. Physically, it enhances their flexibility, strength, coordination, and body awareness. In addition, their concentration and sense of calmness and relaxation improves. Doing yoga, children exercise, play, connect more deeply with the inner self, and develop an intimate relationship with the natural world that surrounds them. Yoga brings that marvelous inner light that all children have to the surface.

When yogis developed the asanas many thousands of years ago, they still lived close to the natural world and used animals and plants for inspiration—the sting of a scorpion, the grace of a swan, the grounded stature of a tree. When children imitate the movements and sounds of nature, they have a chance to 
03;et inside another being and imagine taking on its qualities. When they assume the pose of the lion (Simhasana) for example, they experience not only the power and behavior of the lion, but also their own sense of power: when to be aggressive, when to retreat. The physical movements introduce kids to yoga’s true meaning: union, expression, and honor for oneself and one’s part in the delicate web of life.

Kripalu

Called the yoga of consciousness, Kripalu puts great emphasis on proper breath, alignment, coordinating breath and movement, and “honoring the wisdom of the body” — you work according to the limits of your individual flexibility and strength. Alignment follows awareness. Students learn to focus on the physical and psychological reactions caused by various postures to develop their awareness of mind, body, emotion and spirit. There are three stages in Kripalu yoga. Stage One focuses on learning the postures and exploring your bodies abilities. Stage Two involves holding the postures for an extended time, developing concentration and inner awareness. Stage Three is like a meditation in motion in which the movement from one posture to another arises unconsciously and spontaneously.

Kundalini

Kundalini yoga in the tradition of Yogi Bhajan, who brought the style to the West in 1969. Before that time it was only taught in a master to student lineage and was known only by dedicated disciples of the master. It focuses on the controlled release of Kundalini energy. The practice involves classic poses, breath, coordination of breath and movement, meditation.

Meditation

Meditation is a self-directed or guided practice for relaxing the body and calming the mind. Most meditative techniques have come to the West from Eastern religious practices, particularly India, China, and Japan, but can be found in all cultures of the world. Until recently, the primary purpose of meditation has been religious, although its health benefits have long been recognized. It is now being further explored as a way of reducing stress on both mind and body.

Studies have found that regular meditation can reduce healthcare use; increase longevity and quality of life; reduce chronic pain; reduce anxiety; reduce high blood pressure; reduce serum cholesterol level; reduce substance abuse; increase intelligence-related measures; reduce post-traumatic stress syndrome in Vietnam veterans; and lower blood cortisol levels initially brought on by stress.

Prenatal

A prenatal Yoga practice is similar to a typical Yoga practice, combining Yoga poses, breathing and meditation. While there are some Yoga poses that you should not attempt while pregnant, most are safe during pregnancy.

When combined with cardiovascular exercise, Yoga helps pregnant women gain an appropriate amount of weight and stay strong and limber. You can practice prenatal Yoga throughout pregnancy, from the first trimester right up into early labor.

Practicing prenatal Yoga will help ease back and leg pain as well as reduce swelling and insomnia during pregnancy. Through deep breathing and relaxation, a prenatal Yoga practice can also help reduce anxiety and stress before and during labor. By practicing prenatal yoga, you can peacefully tune in to the changes happening in your body.

Restorative

Passive yoga poses lasting up to 20 minutes, supported by pillows, bolsters and folded blankets. This style is meant to encourage relaxation via the release of tension in the muscles and spine.

Sivananda

Sivananda is one of the world’s largest schools of yoga. Developed by Vishnudevananda and named for his teacher, Sivananda yoga follows a set structure that includes pranayama, classic asanas, and relaxation. Vishnu-devananda wrote one of the contemporary yoga classics, The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga. First published in 1960, the book is still one of the best introductions to yoga available.

Traditional/Hatha Yoga

The most widely practiced form of yoga in America. It is the branch of yoga which concentrates on physical health and mental well-being. Hatha yoga uses bodily postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), and meditation (dyana) with the goal of bringing about a sound, healthy body and a clear, peaceful mind. There are nearly 200 hatha yoga postures
, with hundreds of variations, which work to make the spine supple and to promote circulation in all the organs, glands, and tissues. Hatha yoga postures also stretch and align the body, promoting balance and flexibility.

TriYoga

TriYoga is a complete yoga method. The inspiration and guidance for the TriYoga Flows comes from yogini Kali Ray’s direct experience of kriyavati (kundalini manifesting on the plane of hatha yoga). In the TriYoga Flows, breath and focus are united with flowing and sustained postures in systematized series. Since the method is systematic, students can progress from Basics to Level 1 and then to subsequent levels as they increase their flexibility, strength, endurance and knowledge. Through sustained awareness on all aspects of the practice, the inner flow naturally emerges. This trinity practice is by the nature of its origin, deeply meditative and transformative.

Yin

Yin Yoga classes focus on the skeletal system and soft tissue of the body. Whereas other yoga styles are heat inducing and focus on the strength and flexibility of muscles, yin yoga aims to stretch soft tissue and activate the meridian system hidden within our connective tissue. The majority of yin positions are sitting or reclining, but there are some active ‘yang’ style poses in the yin tradition. Yin poses are held from 3-5 minutes as connective tissue is not as easily manipulated as muscle. Yin Yoga rehabilitates and strengthens connective joint tissue. This style of yoga is especially important for people who push their bodies with things like cycling, running, tennis, power yoga and other sports. It is a quiet, meditative practice that requires surrender.

Do your homework to find the right styles of yoga, and the right instructor(s), and you’ll improve your fitness level and well being overall.

The information compiled in this article is provided by the Suncoast Yoga Teachers Association (SYTA). More details can be found on their website at: http://www.suncoastyoga.org

You can also use their Find a Teacher function to search for qualified Yoga instructors, learn about upcoming Workshops & Events, view relevant Links or Contact them directly. If you’re a qualified yoga instructor you can even Join SYTA to receive their many member benefits.

The Suncoast Yoga Teachers Association is here to form a stronger yoga community. Teachers of all styles of yoga are members of this non-profit organization, including; Anusara, Ashtanga, Bikram, Integral, Iyengar, Kids, Kripalu, Kundalini, Meditation, Prenatal, Restorative, Sivananda, Traditional, TriYoga, Yin. SYTA members are provided training opportunities in all forms of yoga related instruction.

About the Author

 

The information compiled in this article is provided by the Suncoast Yoga Teachers Association (SYTA). More details can be found on their website at: http://www.suncoastyoga.org

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