What do you know about Yoga? Are you an experienced Yogi or did you just attend your first class? Have you been practicing for years or are you just starting to think about it? No matter your experience level, it is good to know a thing or two (or five!) about it.
1. A Brief History
The first writings of yoga appeared around 5,000 years ago in an ancient text called the Rig Veda. Some researchers believe that yoga was being practiced long before these writings, bringing the true age to around 10,000 years old. Although, that particular theory is hard to prove because the very early teachings were written on palm leaves that were damaged easily. Yoga was developed by the Indus-Sarasvati peoples in Northern India and has been constantly refined and developed into what we practice today. It is believed that it was being practiced in America as early as the 1800’s. It became more popular in the 1900’s as a few yoga pioneers introduced the teachings to the western world. However, in the 1950’s, a man named Richard Hittleman came to New York from India and began teaching a nonreligious form to mainstream America. He focused mainly on the physical benefits and hoped that his students would come to value the spiritual side on their own. The popularity has since grown across the U.S. and it is no wonder that as an industry it is currently bringing in 16 billion dollars a year.
2.Different Types of Yoga
If you are like me, you probably thought yoga was just yoga. Pretty straight-forward movements to help you work on flexibility and meditation. The more I learned, and of course the more I practiced, the more I found there are different types of yoga and each one is different and has different benefits. So, should you try Hatha, Vinyasa, or Bikram? Or maybe a different kind altogether?
Well, let’s break down the various forms. Hatha is for great for beginners because of its slower pace. Vinyasa is all about making the movements flow at a quick pace. It can get your heart rate going and keeps your body moving continuously. Bikram is done in a room with an increased temperature, about 105 degrees Fahrenheit. It has a predictable sequence of 26 poses so it is great for beginners who like to sweat. There are many other types of yoga. Check them out to find the one that is right for you. Or, mix them up and take advantage of all the wonderful benefits of each kind.
3. Great for Every Age, at Every Stage
Whether you want to use yoga to increase your flexibility, maintain or boost weight loss, or to help find your center and get rid of tension and stress, it is an appropriate exercise. You can even teach your kids a few poses to help them deal with big emotions and become mindful. Use it prenatally to keep your body moving and help prepare for labor and birth. Yoga is great for getting back in shape post baby, too! Many people use yoga as a low-intensity exercise as they get older because it keeps them moving and isn’t stressful on their joints. Anyone, anywhere can do it! Start at your own pace and level, and watch how your body transforms in just a few short weeks.
4. Let’s Get Physical
I’ve been talking about all of these benefits, and now it is time to look at a few of them up close. Although the studies on the many benefits of yoga are fairly new, the evidence is clearly there for those who practice. It not only improves flexibility but it can also help with balance. It can improve muscle strength and tone. Practicing yoga has also been said to improve cardiovascular health. Again, the kind of yoga you do will do different things for your body so don’t be afraid to switch it up.
5. Experience the Mental and Spiritual Side
Some types of yoga will focus more on the relaxation and meditation side of things. You will become more aware of your inner self and be less critical of your body image. Your outlook will change on a lot of things as you de-stress and rid yourself of anxiety with certain yoga poses. According to the American Psychological Association, Hatha yoga has been shown to help patients with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It can help reduce the symptoms when normal mental or pharmacological treatments don’t work. Practicing yoga can help you train your mind to be present and focused. It can also help you find your inner voice and connect with yourself on many levels.
Are you ready to jump in and try a few poses?