“Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.” – B.K.S. Iyengar
Overview of Yoga
Yoga has been practiced for over 4,000 years. It originated in India as a means of attaining self-awareness, and became a component of the Ayurveda system of health. The word “yoga” means “to yoke” or “union” as it unites the body and the mind. Fitness was not even a thought in the early traditions of yoga, but the practice’s popularity in the US has largely focused on its ability to challenge and shape the body.
Yoga is characterized by postures (asanas), breathing (pranayama) and meditation. The most common form in the US is Hatha yoga. But, there are many different styles of yoga that fall under the heading of Hatha yoga (Iyengar, Viniyoga, Ashtanga, Kundalini, Bikram, Kripalu, Integral). There are many medical conditions that benefit from yoga as evidenced by numerous clinical trials. These include asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, headaches, hypertension, mental disorders, osteoarthritis, pain, rheumatoid arthritis, and stress. Studies have also shown that those who practice yoga tend to have better nutrition habits, as they seem to have more respect and awareness of the needs of their body.
The Components of Yoga
The exercise portion of yoga that is traditionally performed at fitness centers is just a small part of the practice. There are ultimately 5 components (per Dr. Bhattacharya):
- Setting your intention
- Flexibility (exercises)
- Yoga is completed in bare feet, generally on a sticky mat.
- Yoga is not intended to be competitive or straining.
- Yogic breathing is done through the nose. It is a deep form of belly breathing in which the throat is hollowed out (Ujjayi breathing).
- Yoga classes generally end with participants placing their hands in prayer, bowing, and saying “Namaste” (nah – ma – stay), which means “the light in me (or the divine in me) honor’s the light (divine) in you.”
- Yoga postures can help specific health conditions. (See this example of yoga poses for the thyroid from YogaJournal.com)
FREE Yoga Online
Kripalu at Home Yoga Classes – http://kripalu.org/article/1205
Yin Yoga Channel – www.youtube.com/user/yinsights1
Yoga Journal Videos – www.yogajournal.com/video/
YogaMazing YouTube Channel – www.youtube.com/user/yogamazing (I love Chaz he has a great sense of humor)
Yoga Nidra Meditations – www.yoganidranetwork.org/downloads – free downloads of Yoga Nidra scripts for a relaxing, meditative form of yoga that is helpful for sleep.
Yoga Guides / Information
About.com Yoga – yoga.about.com
American Yoga Association– www.americanyogaassociation.org
Mind Body Solutions – mindbodysolutions.org – an organization aimed at bringing yoga to those with physical challenges.
Yin Yoga – www.yinyoga.com – a more relaxing style of yoga focused on deep stretching
Yoga Science Foundation – www.yrec.org
Editor’s Note: I have been practicing yoga since 2008 and have come to love using yoga videos to enhance my practice. The following are my five favorites which I have purchased for less than $10 at Amazon.com or at Target:
- Sara Invanhoe’s Yoga Body Makeover – I LOVE this set of videos. Sara instructs at a slow, encouraging pace, yet each workout really tones the entire body. There are 6 workouts (5 are just 20 minutes which is the perfect amount of time for me) on 2 discs making this a great value.
- 10 Minute Solution Yoga (with Lara Hudson) – if you are short on time, this video is a great option. There are 5 routines to choose from and a really great interactive feature that lets you build your own workout combining the different routines.
- Yoga for Everyone (Hemalayaa) – This disc offers two 20 minute workouts that are really uplifting. They also incorporate chanting making them a more authentic yoga experience beyond just exercise.
- YogaWorks – Beginners AM/PM – This is a great option if you are just learning yoga, the instruction is thorough, and it goes at a nice pace.
- YogaWorks – Body Slim – I pop in this 50 minute DVD when I really want to get toned. I find it very challenging, but totally doable, and when I finish I feel great. Again the instruction from YogaWorks is very good.
Dr Bhaswati Bhattacharya. Lecture at The Graduate Institute (April 29 & April 30, 2011). Understanding Ayurvedic Medicine Using a Biomedical Model.
Riley, D. Ehling D, Sancier K. (2004). Chapter 11: Movement and Body-Centered Therapies in Integrative Medicine. McGraw Hill Companies.
[Last Updated: 2/27/17]