What Is Yoga?
“Yoga” derives from a Sanskrit word which means “to yoke”, “to unite”, as in uniting your physical body and your spirit and mind together. Over the course of thousands of years, yoga has evolved into a wide range of styles and disciplines (Hatha, Ashtanga, Kundalini, Bikram, Iyengar are the ones you very likely have heard of). Originally, the physical practice of yoga was a means to bring focus and peace to the mind, tranquility and equanimity, in order to reach higher states of mindfulness and deep awareness.
Nowadays however, especially in the West, yoga has become a popular physical activity promoted based on its ability to make you sweat and increase your flexibility. Think Vinyasa Flow and Power yoga. Even in that regard, its power is underestimated, most men thinking of it as a “girly” activity.
Yoga is a physical and, if practiced properly, a spiritual activity suitable for ALL – women, men, children and seniors, introverts and extroverts, the successful and less successful, the healthy and less healthy, the busy and the bored. Yoga can be modified to suit all levels of physical fitness, and cater to all physical, health and spiritual needs. Yoga will energize your body in a moment, and give you the deepest physical and mental release the next. Yoga will alleviate chronic pain that you never imagined gone, and it will expand your lungs opening your eyes to the nourishment of deep breathing.
I am enlisting below the known areas in which yoga has demonstrated benefits; some of them will link to scholarly articles discussing the studies which analyzed the impact yoga had on the health and well-being of participants (I love it when floo-floo practices such as yoga – because the majority still see the practice in such a light, have a strong foundation based on scientific data and I will never hesitate to share boring academic studies with people).
- Anxiety and memory
- ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder)
- Back pain
- Cardiopulmonary disease
- Cardiovascular disease and fitness
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Chronic inflamation in cancer patients
- Childhood development
- Depression (including post-natal depression)
- Immune system
- Menopausal symptoms
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscoskeletal disease
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
- Occupational health
- PTSD symptoms
- Seizure disorders
- Strength and flexibility
For a great, comprehensive summary of benefits and how yoga brings about those benefits, head over to the Yoga Health Foundation.