The word yoga means ‘unity’ or ‘oneness’ and is derived from the Sanskrit word yuj which means ‘to join’. This unity or joining is described in spiritual terms as the union of the individual consciousness with the universal consciousness. On a more practical level, yoga is a means of balancing and harmonising the body, mind and emotions. This is done through the practice of asana, pranayama, mudra, bandha, shatkarma and meditation.
Asana, pronounced AH-sah-na, is the bodywork that is being popularised today. Prior to everything, asana is spoken of as the first part of hatha yoga. Having done asana, one attains steadiness of body and mind, freedom from disease and lightness of the limbs. In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali there is a concise definition of yogasanas: “Sthiram sukham aasanam”, meaning that position which is comfortable and steady. So, we can see that yogasanas in this context are practised to develop the practitioner’s ability to sit comfortably in one position for an extended length of time, as is necessary during meditation.
Medical science agrees that yoga therapy is successful because of the balance created in the nervous and endocrine systems which directly influences all the other systems and organs of the body. For most people… yoga is simply a means of maintaining health and well-being in an increasingly stressful society. Asanas remove the physical discomfort accumulated during a day at the office sitting in a chair, hunched over a desk. Relaxation techniques help maximise the effectiveness of ever-diminishing time off. … At a time when the world seems to be at a loss, rejecting past values without being able to establish new ones, yoga provides a means for people to find their own way of connecting with their true selves. Through this connection with their real selves it is possible for people to manifest harmony in the current age, and for compassion to emerge where hitherto there has been none. In this respect, yoga is far from simply being physical exercises, rather, it is an aid to establishing a new way of life which embraces both inner and outer realities. …this way of life is an experience which cannot be understood intellectually and will only become living knowledge through practice and experience. ~ Swami Satyananda Saraswati ~ Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha
“Aside from the wonderful physical and medically proven health benefits of yoga, this ancient science holds the ability to support, help and transform on every level of your existence.” ~ Yogi Ashokananda
Some of the key benefits of yoga:
- Improves flexibility, encouraging easy movement
- Improves strength and stamina
- Improves posture
- Improves circulation, boosts immunity
- Increases muscle tone
- Prevents cartilage and joint breakdown
- Excess weight is reduced
- Reduces stress, anxiety and depression
- Increases feelings of happiness
- Promotes focus and relaxation
- Achieves homeostasis in the body, equilibrium of the mind