Yoga has uses far beyond just exercise and flexibility. It is a practice that can holistically affect the entire person and assist with achieving overall health and wellness benefits.
Yoga’s Roots and Present Uses
Yoga is actually a series of disciplines that incorporates spiritual, mental, and physical aspects. It is part of the Hindu philosophy. Yoga also has roots in Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism. The most common form, since the Middle Ages, is “Hatha yoga”, which “concentrates on health and purity of the body”. It wasn’t until the 19th century that Hindu monks introduced yoga to the West. Today, it can even be used as a complementary therapy for asthma, cancer, schizophrenia, and heart disease patients. Yoga has even been utilized to assist people with back pain, which helps reduce a dependence on medications. Research has confirmed the health benefits of yoga. As with any form of stretching or exercise, people should consult with professionals before engaging in the activities. The typical sports injuries that can be associated with yoga include “torn muscles, knee injuries, and headaches”, although there can be a risk of more serious injuries. The positions most likely to cause injury are forward and backward bends, headstand and shoulder stands, handstands, and lotus/ half lotus positions. This is also why trained yoga practitioners advocate that some exercises should not be performed by pregnant or menstruating women, or nursing mothers. Breathing exercises and meditation, however, are welcomed. The most likely time for injuries to occur is if the instructors are newly certified or the clients overestimate their ability to perform poses.1
Types of Yoga
There are several different types of yoga available. Anusara is an “accepting” form of yoga where clients “express themselves” through poses, instead of the standard positions. It is ideal for newcomers and for those seeking mood enhancement. Ashtanga is a rapid-posing form of yoga. It is meant to be used for weight loss and cardio fitness, and it involves “six established and strenuous pose sequences”. Bikram is the yoga performed in a hot and humid room. It is also useful for weight loss. Hatha is the main form of yoga performed. It is used for calming stress-reduction, and it incorporates nearly all of the other yoga types, where people work at their own pace. Iyengar uses props (harnesses, blocks, straps, incline boards, etc.) to help people achieve the necessary positions. Its nickname is “furniture yoga”. This is helpful for those learning the poses, and for those who are seeking “muscle definition”. Jivamukti is a traditionalist yoga, which is very physical, and it incorporates spiritual practices (i.e., social, political, and animal rights, non-violence, devotion to God, and meditation). Kripalu is about body acceptance and knowledge, as well as “breathwork”, “empowerment”, and “self-discovery”. Kundalini involves “invigorating poses” and constant movement. It is designed to make clients feel energetic and focused. Power yoga is an athletic form of the exercise, and poses are not done in the same sequence. It is made for calorie burning. Prenatal yoga is intended for pregnancy, with safe poses that keep the “core strong”. Restorative yoga is for relaxation, stress/injury rehabilitation, and “psychic cleansing”. Teachers should be consulted so that they are aware of clients’ injuries and which poses to avoid. Sivananda is 12 basic poses that are meant for spiritual boosting. Viniyoga is for “personalized practice” so that clients adapt poses to their needs. It is designed to reduce the risk of injuries; it’s ideal for those with back pain and sciatica. Finally, Yin (“taoist yoga”) is for quiet meditation, with passive, relaxing poses.2
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