What Is Yoga?


Artistic Rendering of Woman in Yoga Pose

In many people's mind, practicing yoga is just stretching. Although yoga does involve stretching, it is so much more. Wikipedia defines yoga as a group of physical, mental and spiritual practices that originated in ancient India. This Eastern practice can be the answer to managing your stress and weight, especially for those who have limited mobility or are recovering from a recent injury. Two disciplines that a yoga session focuses on are breathing (pranayama) and posture (asana).

On a "day to day" basis, breathing patterns are not something you tend to notice. It is a subconscious action. However, you do notice when you over exert and experience a shortness of breath. In addition, you often change your breathing pattern when you become stressed or anxious. Since most of us go through our day facing some amount of stress, the key to keeping calm and working through that stress is your breathing.

 

Mindful Breathing for Stress Control

Yoga teaches you that mindful breathing can bring you into the moment, rather than allowing your thoughts to race out of control. Inhale through your nose, fill your lungs and then exhale through your nose slowly. This brings you into the present and frees you from your thoughts, thus decreasing stress levels. If you suffer from anxiety, you will also be able to use this technique to focus on your body instead of your mind.

Poses in yoga are called the "asana". When most people think of yoga, they think of Hatha yoga. In Hatha yoga, you move and flow into each pose in a sequence. Another popular type of yoga is Yin. Yin differs from Hatha in that you hold your position for five minutes, a technique that is similar to static stretching. Yin works your ligaments and soft tissue rather than your muscles. If you suffer an injury, yin can be tremendously beneficial to a full recovery. Both practices require you to concentrate on keeping your inhalations and exhalations consistent. The great thing about yoga is it is for everyone and everything can be modified to fit your specific needs.

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