Yoga is known to have existed for over 6000 years. It is a practice that is passed down from teacher to student. The word Yoga originates from the Sanskrit word Yuj, or union, which refers to the union of physical, emotional and spiritual experience. The basic principle underlying the practice of yoga is “a self fulfilled person is a healthy person, free from disease caused by stress and unhealthy living habits.”
Breath is as important to Yoga and meditation as it is to life. When one is tense, the breath is shallow, not full. The flow of energy is cut off, which only perpetuates the tension. Simply concentrating on breathing alleviates stress and clears the mind. We always take a deep breath before embarking on a difficult task. Breath is one’s home in meditation. As we use the breath and learn to become steady and at ease in yoga postures, we take this practice “off the yoga mat” into our daily life. Situations previously interpreted as stressful no longer trigger a “danger” (fight or flight) response and we are able to react in a calm and controlled manner.
Types of Yoga
At Afya we offer several different hatha yoga classes including:
Benefits of Yoga
There are numerous health benefits to be experienced from a yoga practice. The physical aspects of the Hatha yoga postures, stretch and strengthen the muscles of the body, lubricate the joints, and brings conscious awareness of the student’s postural habits.
A regular yoga practice can improve ones overall health by positively affecting the Immune System. The body’s Immune System does not use a pump in the way that the heart works to move blood through the circulatory system. Instead, muscle contraction, gravity and massage help to circulate lymph through the vessels. A similar contraction or engaging of muscles occurs as you journey through each Yoga practice. Inversions are also particularly helpful in aiding the flow of lymph back through the valves towards the upper body.
Postures such as the Wind Relieving or Pavana Muktasana postures act on the digestive system, massaging the movement of food through the intestines. Spinal twists massage the vertebral discs and spinal muscles. This brings a sense of relaxation and renewal to the body. Twists work similarly to the way in which a sponge does. That is, twists squeeze the affected organs, thus releasing any build-up of toxins. As the rotation is released, a “soaking” effect occurs, and the organs quickly take in fresh nutrients.
The use of pranayama or breath techniques, relaxation and meditation reduce stress and may increase levels of DHEA, which is a hormone that enhances immune function, improves sleep patterns and increases life span.
Meditation, sitting or lying in restful alertness, has also been shown to reduce an individual’s stress level, and a regular practice helps to improve blood pressure, mental focus as well as vision and hearing.