Yoga has gained worldwide recognition across the world for being a form of exercise that not only has physical benefits but also psychological ones. With its roots in India, Yoga has evolved over centuries and is now slowly gaining popularity in the west.
Today, there are many variations of the ancient wellness activity cropping up and millions of people swear by its benefits. So, in case you haven’t already jumped on the Yoga bandwagon, here is everything you need to know about the ancient Indian practice to become a fan.
The History Of Yoga
Going back to where it all began, the earliest introduction of Yoga dates back to 1500 BC in the ancient Indian text, the Rig Veda. Much later in 1200-1000 BC, the importance of having control over your breathing was also mentioned in the Atharva Veda. Over some time, Yoga was developed by Brahmins and Rishis (Indian sage), who documented it in the Upanishads. Later, in the Classical period, Patanjali’s Yoga-sutra (also known as Raja Yoga) came into light, which focused on the ‘eight-limbed path’ that consisted of various steps and stages that would lead you to enlightenment. Patanjali, who is considered the father of Yoga, still plays an important role in influencing modern Yoga styles.
Then, a few centuries later, Yoga masters left behind the idea of Yoga from the ancient scriptures and designed practices that focused on prolonging a person’s lifespan and rejuvenating the body. They soon developed Tantra Yoga, which focused purely on cleansing the body and mind that soon led us to the creation of the most popularly followed yoga style, Hatha Yoga. Then, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Yoga gurus started to travel to the West to spread their teachings about the practices. In 1983, when Swami Vivekananda went to Chicago to introduce Yoga through his lectures, it started gaining popularity almost immediately. With notable Yoga gurus in India publishing books and opening schools, Hatha Yoga started to spread around the world like wildfire. Today, Yoga has dominated the world with its practices and is loved and followed by millions, that even includes international celebrities and influencers.
Types Of Yoga
There are multiple types of Yoga practised around the world, and each focus on a specific kind of healing. If you are wondering what kind of Yoga you need to sign up for, here are the popular types of Yoga you need to know about.
The one that started it all, Hatha Yoga is the main branch of the physical Yoga practice that includes all the styles like Iyengar and Ashtanga Yoga, which focuses more on postures.
Founded by B.K.S. Iyengar, this yoga style focuses mainly on the precise and detailed movements of the Yoga practice, while controlling your breathing pattern.
Probably considered the most athletic yoga style, Vinyasa Yoga was adapted from Ashtanga Yoga and paved the way for the most popular yoga style, Power Yoga. The postures are more intense and burn the most amount of calories.
The popular yoga style that is especially loved by western countries, Hot Yoga, much like its name, is performed under hot and humid conditions, that make you uncontrollably sweat. It was first introduced to match the weather conditions in India, but soon became a great and fast way of shredding some extra inches. In most Yoga classes, they make the room temperature humid and warm to get the most out of this yoga style.
A Yoga style for the pros, Ashtanga Yoga translates to the ‘eight limb path’ in Sanskrit, and requires dedication and focus to practice. The asanas in Ashtanga are always performed in the exact same sequence in the series, unlike other Yoga styles where you have the freedom to try different asanas.
Overall Benefits Of Yoga
Yoga is known to have multiple benefits for your physical and mental health. Here are some notable benefits you can achieve from practising yoga daily.
Improves Flexibility And Posture
Having good flexibility is very important for everyone’s physical health. When you start practising Yoga, even starting off with asanas with low intensity can improve your flexibility with time. Along with that, Yoga contributes to releasing your muscles while also improving the mobility of your spine that can help you correct your posture. So, if you have that slight hunched back thanks to your tiresome work hours, you need to add Yoga to your fitness regime.
Stress has caused early burnout in all of our lives, what will the long work hours and reduced exercise. Meditation, which plays a key role in Yoga, is known to reduce tension and relieve stress in people who practice it daily. Focusing on breathing, chanting and taking sound baths can help your mind and soul feel a lot more relaxed.
Improves Mental Health
Apart from relieving stress, Yoga also plays a key role in improving our mental health, especially alleviating symptoms of depression. Breathing exercises and Yoga therapies can significantly improve your mental health as it helps your mind remain calm and free from stressful thoughts.
Often, chronic stress ends up negatively affecting our immune system, which then makes us prone to falling sick. Yoga helps in boosting our immunity and aids in cell regeneration while fighting off stress and inflammation. And with the pandemic still very much a part of our lives, it is very important to have good immunity.
If you are known to be someone who just cannot get a good night’s sleep, Yoga can definitely help you. Practising yoga is proven to help you sleep better. It not only improves how quickly you can fall asleep but can also help you improve your sleep quality, which will give you the deep sleep of your dreams. Nidra yoga, which translates to sleep in Sanskrit, is particularly meant to improve your sleeping habits while also helping you ease your anxiety, which might play the key role behind your disturbed sleep.
Yoga Asanas For Specific Health Problems
If you’ve ever wondered, what kind of asanas can help your long-running health problems, here is everything you need to know.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a common hormonal health problem that affects many women around the world. PCOS causes the production of androgens in women’s bodies, which causes weight gain, irregular periods, and fertility problems. While there is no definite cure for PCOS, it can be managed by making lifestyle and dietary changes.
Here are the asanas you can try if you suffer from PCOS:
- Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose)
- Chakravakasana (Cat And Cow Pose)
- Malasana (Garland Pose)
- Janu Sirsasana (Head-To-Knees Pose)
Having anxiety or panic attacks can create a lot of stress. Yoga’s physical exercises as well as meditation techniques are known to help in reducing stress and anxiety. While suffering from anxiety, does make you feel uneasy, it is important to focus on your breathing to help divert your mind.
Here are some asanas you can try if you suffer from anxiety:
- Nadhi Shodhana (Channel-Cleaning Breathing Technique)
- Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
- Padangusthasana (Big Toe Pose)
- Marjaryasana (Cat Pose)
- Uttana Shishosana (Extended Puppy Pose)
While it’s common (as the name suggests), cold and cough can tend to get quite bothersome, especially if it sticks around for a long time. Since Yoga is known to boost immunity, it tends to balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems in your body while aiding the white blood cells to fight off the virus. Yoga can boost the blood flow in your head and throat region that helps in reducing sinus and congestion.
Here are some asanas you can try if you suffer from the common cold:
- Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
- Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog Stretch)
- Ustrasana (Camel Pose)
- Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose)
- Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
If you occasionally suffer from a sore back after a long day at work, Yoga can help relieve all that tension from your body. Yoga stretches can help your muscles relax and strengthen, giving you instant relief and relaxation.
Here are some asanas you can try if you suffer from a sore back:
- Balasana (Child’s Pose)
- Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (Pigeon Pose)
- Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)
- Chakravakasana (Cat And Cow Pose)
- Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog)
Yoga Gurus And Pioneers In India
Known as the father of modern Yoga, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya was the mind behind Vinyasa and also the reason behind the revival of Hatha Yoga. He has immense knowledge of Ayurveda as well and is said to have mastered the art of having control over his heartbeat!
The person who introduced the western world to Kriya Yoga, Paramahansa Yogananda’s techniques often emphasise uniting one’s actions to the universe through kriya. He shared his ideologies and teachings through his organisation, the Yogoda Satsanga Society of India.
A student of Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, B.K.S Iyengar was known for popularising yoga internationally. In his lifetime, he has spent a large part of his childhood battling various illnesses. He was introduced to Patanjali’s Yoga and soon went on to introduce the world to Iyengar yoga.
Yoga Practitioners' Instagram Accounts That You Need To Follow
Must-Have Yoga Accessories
Yoga Blocks are essential not just for beginners but also for experts. These blocks make sure that your posture is correct while reducing any chances of injury.
Doing yoga on a non-slip mat is the only way to do it. These yoga mats will make sure that you have a good grip and won’t let you trip when you are attempting to do a balancing pose. The softness of the mat also allows you to lay on it comfortably without causing discomfort to your back.
A Yoga Wheel is great to help you get a good stretch after your workout. It also helps in improving your mobility and relaxes your back and muscles as you bend backwards on it.
If you struggle with pushing yourself while doing Yoga, this accessory might just completely change that. A Yoga Sandbag helps in adding some extra weight to your thighs during poses that need that extra stretch. It focuses on bringing your awareness to that certain part of your body and bringing relaxation to your muscles.
As a beginner, it is important to have a Yoga Strap in your kit to ensure that you don’t strain your muscles too much while learning and practising the asanas. Straps can help you achieve a wide range of motions and also help you stretch better.
Q 1: How often can we do Yoga?
A: It is important to start slow by doing physical Yoga thrice a week and then slowly increase your intensity as well as your days as you start to get more comfortable.
Q 2: Can we do it at home alone?
A: It is advised to not do Yoga without a certified instructor’s help when you are a beginner since you need to make sure that your postures are right, as attempting to do an asana with an incorrect posture can end up doing more harm than good. Once you are comfortable with the asanas and your instructor feels like you can take on without any supervision, you can practice Yoga at home.