Popular sport, relaxing technique or spiritual pioneering?
Nowadays, everyone is talking about Yoga. The audience is neither limited in age nor in stage of life. But there are, at least among the German yoga practitioners, still more women, who open up to yoga. However, this ancient practice was originally created for men. So we can say that todays’ “women hobby” was an enlightenment practice exclusively for men, just a few decades ago.
It is about mindfulness; about encountering the own body; an encounter with your inner world. It’s about breathing; consciously breathing in … and consciously breathing out. It is about repetitions, about regularity, constancy, about the daily practice. It is much more than simply moving your body. It is based upon a philosophy that you’re experiencing with your own entity in life, in connection with your environment; an internal practice that you are welcomed to implement best possible in your daily life.
“Peace begins with each of us taking care of our bodies and minds every day.”
(Thich Nhát Hanh)
The development of Yoga has changed massively in some aspects. However, the practice still lies upon its’ core meaning. So it doesn’t really matter how the different yoga styles have been modified these days, for every single way may be a good and the right choice for you, as long as you feel aligned with it. This freedom and variety, that we can choose, from makes yoga unique and therefore also very popular.
Do you already practice on your mat? Do you already experience this exciting journey, called “Welcome to yourself”?
Or have you just heard about yoga now and then?
No matter at what point you are standing right now. With this little introduction into yoga you’ll take at least something with you for your own journey.
Enjoy reading! 🙂
~ What does Yoga mean? ~
The so-called “science of humanity” has its roots back in India. Yoga may also be defined as accordance, harmony or connection. It pretty much supports the picture of holism, meaning Yoga helps us bringing body, mind and soul in alignment.
The Bhagavad Gita is an over 2500 years old spiritual script of the Hinduism. According to its writing, Yoga is defined in the following way:
“Yoga is a wisdom of action –
Yoga is the conquest of the arbitrary impetuous mind –
Yoga is the oneness with the self.”
Yoga depicts an attitude to life, a philosophy. Nevertheless, there are no dogmatic rules or limitations to a religion. That’s what makes it so accessible to a broad audience. The variety of Yoga that we’re facing today addresses one person in its meditative aspect, the other in its physical modality.
If we’re thinking of yoga today, we probably see twisted postures in our mind’s eye. That’s because the physical aspect of the so-called “asanas” is tremendously featured nowadays, especially in western countries. Back in times during the development of yoga, it was rather the spiritual experience and the meditative aspect that was given priority. Originally, the aim of yoga was to approach enlightenment by practicing regular meditation.
By the way, non-violence (ahimsa) is the very first principle in yoga. That means harming and killing any kind of beings is strictly rejected. Thus, it is a totally vegan-friendly lifestyle.
~ Who was this notable Patanjali? ~
The original theory of Yoga was written in a verse-formed guideline, the Yoga Sutras. Probably, you’ve already heard about the term “Sanskrit” in connection with Yoga!? That’s the old Indian language of the Vedas, primarily used by Hindus.
In this context, Patanjali was an Indian sage, the “Father of Yoga”, he was the writer of the mentioned Sutras. His name (Patanjali) translated means “masterful bow.” A very sacred name, whose meaning we are also able to integrate into our daily life: for example by our good deeds or in a broader sense by worshipping God, the Devine.
The philosophical guide, the Yoga Sutras, include the well-known 8 limbs or the 8-fold path of Yoga:
- Yama: the ethical standards and the sense of integrity, as for example “ahimsa” (non-violence)
- Niyama: self-discipline and spiritual observances
- Asanas: the well-known postures practiced in Yoga
- Pranayama: breath control; it includes techniques to gain control over the respiratory process while becoming aware of the connection between the breath, the mind and the emotions;
- Pratyahara: means withdrawal and sensory transcedence, while giving the positive spirit room to diffuse and drawing our senses away from the external world;
- Dharma: concentration
- Dhyana: meditation or contemplation
- Samadhi: state of ecstasy or enlightenment; meaning to realize your higher self in completeness, to realize a profound connection to the Devine;
These theoretical steps of Yoga show quite clearly that Patanjali primarily focused on concentrating the mind. Thus, the spiritual aspect had priority in the origin of Yoga, compared to the physical practice.
~ How does Yoga effect me? ~
Way beyond performance, achievement and competitiveness, Yoga gives us time and room to arrive within ourselves. We shall turn inwards, observe our mind, sense our body mindfully and deal with it in a conscious way. Prana, also known als “life energy”, is supposed to pass through our physical system – and in fact, most people sense more energy and power right after a yoga class. Feeling more focused, more concentrated, facing up a higher mental clarity. But at the same time, we feel more calmness within, more serenity, patience and inner peace.
But not only the positive feedback from the increasing numbers of yogis and yoginis worldwide seem convincing. Also science attends to the beneficial effects of yoga and reveals clear evidence that a regular practice prevents us from certain disease. It can even be used therapeutically, for example in patients with cardio-vascular diseases, chronic pain and mental illnesses (Stahl et al., 2015; Cramer, 2017). However, not forgetting that these positive effects are directly linked to a conscious lifestyle, which you’ll gain pretty soon when practicing yoga on a regular basis.
On a physical level, the asanas (yoga postures) address lots of areas of our body, such as deep muscles, the cardio-vascular-system, digestion as well as our sense of equilibrium. The effect of each posture can also be regarded on an emotional, mental and personal level. As for example, a powerful warrior-pose strengthens your self-confidence and grounds you deeply.
In the beginning and at end of every yoga class, a deep relaxation is integrated, which gives you this sustainable feeling of serenity and calmness. Pranayama (a technique of breath control) ups the ante by raising or rather harmonizing your energy levels. Thus, Yoga addresses the body, the mind and the soul holistically.
As you can tell: Yoga is much more than some type of sport or the sole physical postures that you probably think of. Yoga may help you to gain more self-confidence, a better relationship with your body, your mind and your soul, it can raise your health condition and gives you the relaxation you need in this stressful world.
~ How to practice yoga? ~
Do you feel like you need some life energy (prana)? Are you yearning for a deep and really sustainable relaxation in your frantic daily life? Do you want to move a little more? Be more mindful during the day? As you can see – there are multiple reasons for giving it a try, starting with yoga and – ideally – sticking to your practice.
If you’re a beginner, I recommend you to start with a yoga class. As for me personally, the atmosphere alongside an experienced teacher and the guided sequence of deep relaxation, pranayama, asanas, maybe singing mantras and a final relaxation made a clear difference to dive intensely into the world of yoga.
The individual asanas are perceived very differently by each of us, depending on your form on the day, your openness and willingness, your sensitivity for the body and your needs. But you’ll recognize the very first positive effects very soon, that’s for sure. However, having a regular practice is definitely key to a sustainable way of improving and connecting to your whole system.
Over time, you’ll be able to develop your very unique, individual yoga practice, based upon your needs and preferences. A yoga mat is all you need – hop into something comfy and you’re ready to begin.
The sun salutation in the morning, the sivananda sequence or even a meditation for 10-20 minutes while simply observing your breath very consciously – realizing that there will arise a lot of thoughts, without following them. Whatever you feel like: your body, your mind and your soul will merge as time passes by. Eventually, you can thank yourself for taking this precious time and investing it into yourself.
~ My personal experience with Yoga ~
One of the most beautiful things I recently recognized after years of practicing yoga is the “arrival” at my own home; to settle within myself; to see or even sense my body as the physical home of my soul; meaning that it doesn’t matter at what place in the world I am or how hard a life situation may seem at a certain point of time – my yoga mat always gives me an unique atmosphere to arrive at my most familiar and intimate home, my body. That’s one of the most amazing gifts that I was able to learn through practicing yoga. Especially at the yoga retreat in Thailand in Jan 2017, I sensed and appreciated this experience so intensely …
As the ground of a ocean gets clearly visible
when the waves subside on its surface,
this is how the true self can be noticed
when the appearances of the mind subside.
(Swami Sivananda Saraswati)
On a physical level I could improve my flexibility and was taught to treat my body in a mindful way. This conscious behavior automatically transferred to my whole life, for example in relationships and the environment. After a yoga class with relaxation, asanas and pranayama, I feel recharged with fresh energy, I feel calm and peaceful within myself, self-confident, joyful as well as grateful for life. Thus, I simply feel like sharing this state of high energy with the whole world.
Yoga is a daily ritual, a form of caring for my body, mind and soul in order to bring these three parts of myself into alignment:
Following the body’s needs, calming down the mind and giving the soul permission to speak out.
Yoga is the best way to be able to arrive at my very personal and unique home. I’m just so honorably grateful for this gift and want to spread it throughout the world, to the best of my belief!
~ Conclusion: Yoga is more than a contemporary “hobby” ~
As soon as you touch the field of yoga, you won’t let it off so quickly again. That’s because the ancient Indian philosophy and physical practice definitely differs from conventional types of sports and training. At the same time, it also addresses people with a more meditative and spiritual sense. It’s openness to all different kinds of ideologies, religions and various practices makes it so unique, likable and gives us a freedom of choice.
In my personal view, the absolute uniqueness of Yoga lies in it’s holistic approach to human beings:
- your body is demanded in different intensities,
- your mind gets calmed down by focusing on your body and especially on your breath,
- and at the same time you’re intensifying the connection to your inner voice, your soul.
Therefore, each of us can profit in a very individual way from yoga. If you’re an athlete, manager, house-wife and mother, father, office clerk, student or retired person, if you’re healthy or suffering from a disease, if you’re small or big, young or old – EVERYONE can practice yoga.
Maybe your interest aroused a little more, but you’ve never had experienced yoga before? Then I recommend you a.) to visit a trial lesson in a studio close to your home and b.) to continue reading my articles. 🙂
Have a wonderful day, far away from stress and worries. But if life overcomes you one time or another: you’ll find your very familiar personal home on the mat – I promise!
Lots of love, spread your love & Namasté,
Cramer H. Wo und wie wirkt Yoga? – Eine wissenschaftliche Bestandsaufnahme. DMW-Deutsche Medizinische Wochenschrift (2017). Vol. 142 (25): 1925–1929.
Stahl J.E., Doset M.L., LaJoie S., Dendinger J.W., Mehta D.H., Goldman R., Fricchione G.L., Benson H. Relaxation Response and Resiliency Training and Its Effect on Healthcare Resource Utilization. PLOS ONE (2015): 1-14.