Beginners' Introduction to Yoga
What Is Yoga?
An Introduction for Beginners
Yoga is a science of life, developed over thousands of years. It promotes health and happiness by working on the mind, body and spirit. Yoga originated in India, and has spread all around the world. It is not a religion. Yoga deals with universal truths and is therefore compatible with all faiths and none.
The sanskrit word “yoga” means “union”. The ancient yogis practiced meditation to join their inner spirit with the spirit of the universe. If they achieved this unity (often after many years of practice) they became enlightened. All the yoga postures that we now do were originally devised to prepare the body so that it can sit perfectly still for long periods in meditation.
Over the years, several distinct paths of yoga emerged, although they all ultimately lead to the same destination. Hathayoga is the main form of yoga practiced in the West. Hathayoga involves asanas (the yoga postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises). Most hathayoga classes also include periods of relaxation and meditation.
Hathayoga is very practical. The asanas loosen joints and stretch muscles to improve posture and maintain strength and flexibility. The exercises improve circulation and have a wide range of therapeutic benefits. Breathing exercises boost energy, calm the mind and the nervous system and improve the efficiency of the bodily systems. Relaxation counteracts the effects of stress and allows the body to recharge. Over time, yoga will make you more supple, stronger and relaxed, and promote health and well-being.
It is important to realise that yoga is non-competitive. Everyone works at their own level and without strain. The saying “no pain, no gain” has no relevance in yoga. If there is pain, dizziness or nausea STOP and come gently out of the posture. In yoga we work smoothly with the breath and with concentration and awareness. Your teacher will give general safety advice for postures, but you must take responsibility for your own safety by listening to your body, respecting it and working within your limits. If you have any doubts about your health in relation to practicing yoga, discuss this with your teacher and consult your doctor.