Read these 22 Yoga Basics Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Yoga tips and hundreds of other topics.
Beginners often wonder how long it will take before postures get easier. While there's no simple answer to that question, you will notice that if you practice consistently (on a daily or weekly schedule) rather than intermittently postures gradually become less difficult. If you find you hurt after practice, try doing shorter, more frequent sessions to improve your flexibility.
Traditional yoga has eight steps, or limbs, for guidance in living a meaningful and purposeful life. They are: Yama, moral disciplines; Niyama, self disciplines; Asana, postures; Pranayama, breath control; Pratyahara, sensory withdrawal; Dharana, concentration; Dhyana, meditation; Samadhi, transcendence.
Breath is considered the source of life in the body. Therefore, breathing techniques in yoga -- learning to control one's breath -- are designed to improve the health and the function of both body and mind. These specially developed techniques -- or pranayamas -- when practiced regularly, improve brain function and increase the elimination of toxins from the system.
Yoga is a universal practice, shared in both in the east, where it originated, and the west, where it has since been adopted and developed further. Yoga begins with the mind, where health begins, as our mental choices of food, exercise, emotions, and more all affect the body. Traditional yoga in India includes a set of ethical and moral precepts, including diet, exercise, and meditative aspects. In the west, Yoga focuses primarily on postures, breathing exercises, and meditation. Now more than ever, yoga is frequently used in western medicine to treat chronic disease and eliminate stress.
One of the three main facets of practicing yoga is exercise. Since the body is seen as the main instrument that allows us to advance in life -- both physically and spiritually -- practitioners of yoga treat their bodies with much respect. The physical exercises of yoga (referred to as postures or asanas) work to improve the glandular systems of the body. This leads to improved efficacy and better general health.
There are two important aspects of any yoga practice that will help you avoid injury. First, remember to stretch gently before and during postures. Do NOT stretch too quickly or overextend yourself. Second, remember that, whenever possible, you should do pose/counterpose (for example, a backward bend followed by a forward bend). This will help stretch and balance muscles.
Between 1800 and 1500 B.C., approximately 200 Gnostic texts called the Upanishads came to being. They explained the concept of the transcendental self and its relation to the ultimate reality. The Karma doctrine is believed to have originated with the Upanishads as well. From this point, other related belief systems branched including Jainism and Buddhism. All practice the idea of transcendence and interconnectedness of all beings.
What are the differences between yoga and Pilates? Much has to do with the actual practice of each exercise. What is interesting is the similarities, however, and how the two work together. Yoga gives Pilates flexibility and stillness, while Pilates offers stability and stillness while in motion. Pilates is more about elongating the body and strengthening it, while Yoga helps to increase the flexibility capacity. Both work together to offer an integrated practice for mind and body.
Meditation is considered one of the "Eight Limbs of Yoga." The practice is a step toward "Samadhi" or enlightenment. More and more evidence has shown, too, that yoga meditation has practical benefits by improving our physical and psychological well-being. It can reduce blood pressure, relieve stress, and lessen pain. Meditating also brings our mind to a level of consciousness that promotes healing or what is known as the alpha state. In this state, emotional difficulties such as anxiety, depression and general discord can be reduced or eliminated.
The Indus-Sarasvati civilization created the oldest scriptures in the world: the Vedas. The these collections of prayers and songs that speak to a higher power contain the oldest recorded yogic teachings. This is why the teachings in the Vedas are also referred to as Vedic or Pre-classical Yoga.
Ancient Yogis used the image of a vehicle to describe man's place in a harmonious life. The mind is the driver of this vehicle. The soul is man's true nature. Three energies that make that mid-body "vehicle" move are action, emotion, and intelligence. For complete centeredness, these three energies must be in balance. Yoga, therefore, combines techniques in movement for physical health as well as breathing and meditation skills that bring mental health.
Many scholars believe that Yoga originally came from shamanistic practices of the Stone Age. There are parallels in it between Modern Hinduism and Mehrgarh, a Neolithic settlement (in what is now Afghanistan). Many tenets of Hinduism appear to have their roots in this shamanistic culture of Mehrgarh. Early Yoga and archaic shamanism had much in common. Both worked to transcend the human condition in a personal way, but as a community practice. Later, yogis turned the practice toward more individual development with the understanding that the more developed an individual is, the more united he becomes with all creation.
In order to integrate the physical with the spiritual during yoga practice, meditation is employed. Usually this involves sitting or lying quietly, clearing one's mind of all thought. By doing this, stress of daily life dissolves, allowing a channel to open between our bodies, souls, and the constant connection they/we all have to everything around us in the universe. In addition, guided meditations or visualizations can be used when specific areas of the body are being healed, such as injuries or removal of addictions.
In the second century C.E., Patanjali composed a seminal text, Yoga-Sutra and defined Classical Yoga. The 195 aphorisms or sutras that comprise the Yoga Sutra, expound upon Raja-Yoga, which is the eightfold Yoga path. The Eight Limbs of Classical Yoga are: 1) Yama/Restraint, 2) Niyama/observance of purity, tolerance and study, 3) Asana/Physical Exercises, 4) Pranayama/Breath Control, 5) Pratyahara/Preparation for Meditation 6) Dharana/Concentration, 7) Dhyana/Meditation and 8) Samadhi/Enlightenment.
Derived from hundreds of yoga asanas, Joseph Pilates created a basic system of 34 exercises which help align the spine and open energy channels in our bodies. Like yoga, the exercises have three basic functions: movement toward and away from center and rotation around it. However, unlike yoga, Pilates involves constant movement, rather than holding the poses as is the case in yoga. While both yoga and Pilates movements are executed with a focus on breath and alignment, Pilates proper lacks a spiritual element. That is why several schools now offer a sort of hybrid course of Yoga Pilates.
Hatha Yoga is the branch of yoga most commonly practiced in the West. It's basically the physical form of yoga with a focus on postures, breathing and meditation.
However, there are five other branches: Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Tantra Yoga, each ascribes to a slightly different philosophy. For example, Raja Yoga is also known as classical yoga and its focal point is meditation.
Yoga originated thousands of years ago in India. This ancient practice strives to unite the body, mind, and spirit. In basic terms, yoga practice trains practitioners to reunite personal consciousness with universal consciousness. We were never really separated, yogis believe, but in this life we often forget our interconnectedness with all living beings. Practicing yoga helps us to remember that both consciously and physically. In fact, the word "yoga" means "to bring or yoke together."