History and Benefits of Yoga
Yoga is a system of physical, mental and spiritual development which originated in India at least 3,000 years ago. It may well be the most ancient science known to man. Seals depicting human figures in various yoga postures have been unearthed in the Indus Vally, where the findings date back more than 5,000 years. No-one knows how old yoga was at that time. Yoga basically has no history - it’s as old as man himself. It’s believed to come from a high civilisation when man had a deeper understanding of what we are - not just energy, but consciousness. It came from an attempt to find out what we are.
Yoga means literally 'yoke', to yoke together, the union of body and mind, the little self and the greater Self. Yoga is not a religion or creed; it will in no way infringe on any religious beliefs and can be practised by anyone of any age and ability (or disability) and by both men and women. Although the practice of yoga is widespread, there is still a degree of misunderstanding about it.
People think it involves, on the one extreme, contortionist gymnastics and on the other, a key to instant relaxation and meditation. It is neither of these; it is a systematic way for harmonious living and self improvement, based on the principle that the person is a complex entity of physical, mental and spiritual attitudes. One of the principal lessons of yoga is that happiness cannot be bought with a quick fix (eg. with alcohol, drug or sex) but is the mature fruit of a life dedicated to higher values and ideals.
Hatha yoga refers to the physical postures (asanas) which cover an enormous range of body movement and has an impact on the whole personality. It is a safe, regenerative form of exercise which builds a firm foundation for health. Practice leads to poise, self-confidence, awareness of one’s capabilities and increased concentration. It is a way of becoming more aware of our energy body through movement & breath.
Each posture is designed to have a specific beneficial effect upon the functioning of the body. Sometimes it will be simply to regain or maintain the suppleness of muscle or joints or it may be concerned with enriching the blood supply to certain glands to enable them to secrete more healthily, or a posture may, combined with breathing techniques, massage internal organs.
Old age and sickness settle first in the joints and in the spinal discs. Medical studies have revealed that these spinal discs often begin to show signs of degeneration as early as thirty years of age. Yoga postures make the joints flexible, they stretch and irrigate the spinal vertebrae, keeping them youthful even into old age. Our wellbeing is enhanced by a healthy spine and even a small amount of regular practice can significantly improve one’s general health.