What is Yoga? An Introduction for Beginners
Yoga is a science of life, developed over thousands of years. It promotes health and happiness by working on the mind, body and spirit. Yoga originated in India, and has spread all around the world. It is not a religion. Yoga deals with universal truths and is therefore compatible with all faiths and none.
The Sanskrit word “yoga” means “yoke” or “union”. The ancient yogis practised meditation to join their inner spirit with the spirit of the universe. If they achieved this unity (often after many years of practice) they became enlightened. All the yoga postures that we now do were originally devised to prepare the body and to keep it healthy, to allow control of the senses aiding meditation and finally enlightenment.
Over the years, several distinct paths of yoga emerged, although they all ultimately lead to the same destination. Hatha yoga (pronounced hatta) is the main form of yoga practised in the West. Hatha yoga involves asanas (the yoga postures, pronounced ‘ahs’‘nas’ not arsana) and pranayama (breathing exercises). Most Hatha yoga classes also include periods of relaxation and meditation.
Hatha Yoga is very practical. The asanas loosen joints and stretch muscles to improve posture and maintain strength and flexibility. The exercises improve circulation and have a wide range of therapeutic benefits. Breathing exercises boost energy, calm the mind and nervous system and improve the efficiency of the bodily systems. Relaxation counteracts the effect of stress and allows the body to recharge. Over time, yoga will make you more supple, stronger and relaxed, and promote health and well-being.
It is important that you realise that yoga is non-competitive. Everyone works at their own level and without strain. The saying “no pain, no gain” has no relevance in yoga. If there is pain, dizziness or discomfort of any kind, stop and come gently out of the posture. In yoga we work smoothly with the breath, concentration and awareness.
Always remember it is your yoga.