September 29, 2011

The meaning of the word yoga may be defined as yolking, union, or a bringing together of the mind, body, and soul; the bridging and forming a relationship with oneself and with ultimately how one lives in harmony with the world. The practice of yoga brings with it strength to the body, relaxation to the mind, and renewal to the spirit.

Yoga was developed in India approximately 5,000 years ago. It has been practiced as a way to achieve health and wellness for thousands of years. Some people start to do yoga for its physical benefits. others are aware of its benefits in assisting in the reduction of stress and tension. With the proper instruction, yoga may be used therapeutically to help heal problems that arise from acute or chronic injuries or genetic predisposition in the structure and function of the body.

Yoga offers a way to slow down and breathe and to be present in the moment and to bring awareness to the body. In the experience of stretching, breathing, and relaxation, the flow of life returns. For many students, yoga enables one to flow through the day as against reacting to it, and feel more present in their daily activities with less stress.


If you ask most Westerners this question, most will reply that yoga is a form of exercise. Yoga actually encompasses many aspects of life. They are postures (asanas) for the exercise to strengthen, balance, and increase the flexibility of the body from an anatomical aspect. They have benefit not only to the muscles but also to organ, structural, and hormonal systems. other practices of yoga include meditation and pranayama (breath control), the study of texts, guidelines on how to treat your body, and ways to behave toward others as well as the letting go of attachment to material possessions and suggestions for diet.


Hatha yoga is the most common type of yoga practiced in the United States. It is a physical path of yoga focusing on the use of asanas to receive benefits to the body. The different types of yoga teaching styles taught are generally related to the teacher who developed the type of posture sequence or the place in India from which the particular sequence or practice of yoga originated. There are styles of practice and adaptations to fit almost any fitness level and constitution. “Hatha” literally means sun and moon. It may be thought of as the union of opposites and refers to the powerful balancing aspects of doing asanas. A few of the hatha yoga teaching styles include Viniyoga, Ashtanga yoga, Power yoga, Iyengar yoga, Bikram or Hot yoga, Sivananda yoga, and Kundalini yoga.


Asanas are the postures of yoga. Each posture has benefits to the body. Standing postures are grounding in nature and help to build confidence as well as strength and bring focus to the mind. Most postures in which the body moves forward relax the mind and help to reduce stress. Twists encourage detoxification resetting of the internal organs. Inversions reverse the force of gravity; they help to undo the effects of the downward pull of gravity and aid in digestion as well as decreasing the effects of aging. Postures which lift the heart bring energy to the body and hope to the mind. Consult with your health care provider as to your abilities to begin a practice of yoga. Initial practice of Asanas (postures) should be performed under the supervision of a qualified yoga instructor. A qualified instructor will be able to assist you in choosing Asanas suited to your particular needs. They also will guide you in the safest and best practices for performing each Asana. It is important to keep in mind that yoga is a practice and a process rather than a goal to be achieved.


The following guidelines may prove helpful in choosing a yoga instructor:

  1. If you would not choose the person as a friend, chances are you will not enjoy him or her as an instructor.
  2. Find someone whose teaching methods complement your learning style.
  3. An instructor should work with you as an individual, addressing any issues that arise due to past injuries or particular problems surrounding flexibility or genetic predisposition.
  4. The best yoga experiences result from a willingness of the instructor and student to cocreate an environment that is conducive to learning.

See Also: Complementary and alternative health practices, Meditation, Physical therapy

Suggested Reading

  • Fraser, T. (2001). Total yoga: A step-by step guide to yoga at home for everybody. London: Thorsons.
  • Iyengar, B. K. S. (2001). Yoga: The path to holistic health. New York: Dorling Kindersley.
  • Kraftsow, G. (1999). Yoga for wellness, healing with the timeless teachings of viniyoga. New York: Penguin Putnam.

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