What is yoga?
Yoga developed thousands of years ago in India and is actually a spiritual path aimed at bring complete harmony and balance of mind, body and spirit. The essence of yoga is in stillness. The sage Patanjali said that yoga is about quietening the thought-waves of the mind. Patanjali also devised the eight limbs of yoga - also known as astanga yoga. These include a set of moral restraints and observations and the yoga postures, which is what most people in the West think yoga is about. The eight limbs also include Pranayama or yoga breathing - these include ancient techniques, which can bring about great energy changes within the body and mind. The whole purpose of the eight limbs of yoga is to bring about stillness in order that we can meditate and eventually find union - that is our real self, beyond the ego, which becomes aligned with the whole universe.
Why Will Yoga benefit me?
In our busy consumer society most of us do not pay enough attention to how we breathe, how we relax and how we keep mobile and flexible Even if you are very tired all of this is very important to your health and well-being. For example, many people in the West hyperventilate. This is because we get in to poor breathing habits. When we are stressed, the body takes itself into the 'flight and fight mode' and we start to breathe rapidly, from our upper chest. This is fine if there is an emergency, but the after the stress has passed, the autonomic nervous system should take us back to healthy breathing - that is breathing which involves the diaphragm, so that there is a correct exchange of gasses in the body. The trouble with chronic stress is that we don't automatically do this - so we continue to breathe too fast, and from the upper chest. Stop now, take one hand to the centre of your upper chest and one to just above the navel and note how you are breathing. Is the breath fast? If you are mainly using your upper chest to breathe, then you may suffer from fatigue, stress, insomnia and aches and pains. So the first step to health is in correct breathing - something yoga will help you with.
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