- Yoga – Its Origin and Purpose
- Yoga and Mindfulness
- Yoga – Effects on Metabolism & Sleep cycle
- Yoga poses for weight loss
- Yoga for stress management
- Biohacking through Yoga
How To Be More Fit & Balanced With Yoga
What’s covered in this guide:
Yoga – Origin and Purpose:
Yoga has a 5,000-year history in ancient Indian philosophy, it is a set of practices prescribed for better physical and mental wellness. The fundamental purpose of yoga is to foster harmony among the body, mind, and environment, and for generations, this philosophy was passed on from the master teacher to the student, the wisdom has been preserved through seminal texts and oral tradition.
The Yoga Sutra is the earliest written record of yoga and one of the oldest texts in existence and provides the framework for all modern yoga. A 2,000-year-old treatise on yogic philosophy by the Indian sage Patanjali, the Yoga Sutra is a guidebook on how to master the mind, control the emotions, and grow spiritually. Over the next five millennia, yogis passed the discipline down to their students, and many different schools of yoga developed as the practice expanded its global reach and popularity.
Various styles of yoga combine physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation. In recent years, it has become popular as a form of physical exercise based upon poses that promote improved control of the mind and body and enhance well-being. Practitioners and followers of yogic tradition focused on practices such as expanding spiritual energy using breathing methods and mental focus. An explosion of interest in postural yoga occurred in the 1920s and 1930s, first in India and later in the West. To convey its spiritual message and guide sessions, yoga often uses the imagery of a tree with roots, a trunk, branches, blossoms, and fruits. Each “branch” of yoga represents a different focus and set of characteristics. The six branches are:Hatha yoga: This is the physical and mental branch designed to prime the body and mind.
Raja yoga: This branch involves meditation and strict adherence to a series of disciplinary steps known as the “eight limbs” of yoga.
Karma yoga: This is a path of service that aims to create a future free from negativity and selfishness.
Bhakti yoga: This aims to establish the path of devotion, a positive way to channel emotions and cultivate acceptance and tolerance.
Jnana yoga: This branch of yoga is about wisdom, the path of the scholar, and developing the intellect through study.
Tantra yoga: This is the pathway of ritual, ceremony, or consummation of a relationship.
Approaching yoga with a specific goal in mind can help you decide which branch to follow. In the West, several schools of yoga are popular and use some or all limbs of Asthangayoga described by Patanjali. The eight limbs are as follows:
Yama: rules for successful living in society
Niyama: techniques for managing and purifying self
Asaana: posture techniques for physical and mental balance (what most people think of as yoga)
Pranayama: breathing techniques for physical and mental balance
Pratihara: techniques for detaching the mind from the senses for mental balance and calm
Dharana: concentration techniques for mental balance and calm
Dhyana: meditation techniques for mental balance and calm
Samadhi: ultimate advanced meditation techniques and psychic procedures attained after regular practice for universal consciousness
The process involves the arousal of the Kundalini Shakti or serpent power, believed to be located at the base of the human spine. As one practices the various techniques, this power/latent energy rises through a series of centers or Chakras corresponding to various endocrine glands. When this power reaches the highest center, which is associated with the hypothalamus gland regulating the hormonal secretion of the endocrine system, control over the hypothalamus results. This mechanism may explain the importance of yoga as a stress management technique. Thus when all the seven limbs of Yoga are brought in, the eighth limb, Samadhi or Supreme Harmony results as a natural sequence. The practice of Yoga Asanas thus leads to this Supreme Harmony.
Practice of Yoga creates harmony in the physical, vital, mental, psychological and spiritual aspects of the human personality. Different limbs constitute the human body. Similarly, there are a number of limbs in Yoga. If a person moves one step forward, all the limbs of the body also move simultaneously. Even so, if one practices even one limb of Yoga to a high degree of perfection, all the other limbs of Yoga are bound to accompany without great effort on the part of the practitioner.
Purpose of Yoga
The original context of yoga was spiritual development practices to train the body and mind to self observe and become aware of their own nature. The purposes of yoga were to cultivate discernment, awareness, self-regulation and higher consciousness in the individual. As the split occurring between those seeking physical development versus those seeking spiritual development has widened, the lack of awareness and attention to inner experience has disconnected the practitioner from his body.
Yoga is meant to be a system of increasing awareness and decreasing diseases. It was able to enter into the American mainstream by presenting itself as a tool with many benefits, including reduced stress, increased relaxation and greater flexibility. It has continued to grow as something that cultivates aerobic capacity and builds strength.
Yoga and Mindfulness:
Mindfulness has been a part of ancient meditations and yogic practices for centuries. It is the process by which momentary engagement is developed; it is a method of discovering peace. The six senses (sight, smell, sound, taste, touch, and thought) are the means by which we experience the world where the first five are merely the methods by which the brain receives data. It is the mind, however, that evaluates and investigates each experience, giving it labels.
Simply put, mindfulness is meditative awareness. It is the awareness of whatever is happening ‘in the moment’. It is the awareness and non-judgemental acceptance of everything that we observe and experience. Not categorizing them as pleasant or unpleasant, good or bad, but merely being spectators. Practicing mindfulness is simple. Any activity of daily life can be practiced with mindfulness. Scientists are now noting and documenting various advantages of Mindfulness including improvements in physical and mental health and overall well being. Developing this mindfulness and consciously becoming more aware of the present moment can be achieved through the breathing techniques and various physical yoga postures that help an individual to stay in the present moment through awareness of the breath and the release of unwanted toxins and stress from the system. Mindfulness is the constant focusing and refocusing, continuously and repetitively, on the object of our awareness.
Developing mindfulness allows the fullest expression of ourselves and authentic aspects of our being that we haven’t connected with. The process can be misleading, as it is not the silencing of our thoughts that opens the door to engagement. In actuality, it is the present engagement that is the key to silencing our thoughts. By focusing intently upon the task at hand, distractive thoughts cannot populate the quiet space of our mind. Judgment ceases. And then, for the moment, one can just be. Mindfulness is not a permanent state of awareness. It is an ongoing process that deepens the richness of our experience without the obscuring thoughts of good, bad, right, and wrong to cloud our clarity.
Sleep better with Yoga:
Practicing yoga can help improve the quality of your sleep. Yoga’s relaxing poses and stretches, as well as the calming breathing exercises that accompany them, may be especially helpful if stress is what’s keeping you from falling asleep. Those with insomnia who do yoga daily for eight weeks are likely to fall asleep faster and increase the amount of time that they spend sleeping. For people with insomnia, practicing yoga daily helps them:
- fall asleep faster
- sleep longer
- return to sleep faster if they wake up during the night
Yoga Nidra, or yogic sleep as it is commonly known, is an immensely powerful meditation technique, and one of the easiest yoga practices to develop and maintain. It is a practice that can take you to the next level – a relaxed body, fluid mind, and supercharged intuition. Translated as yogic sleep, is a five-stage process that begins with a body scan to engage one’s physicality. It incorporates meditation on the breath, the balancing of emotional states, visualization, and self-healing. Setting a positive intention is another important step (which is called a Sankalpa) and this gives the participant a specific purpose to the session.
During Yoga Nidra, you must let your awareness wander through the whole body. It creates deep relaxation for health, mental peace, and higher awareness. Yoga Nidra is a practice of self mastery of the autonomic nervous system. The technique is practical and easily accessible. Relaxation exercises and pratyahara – withdrawal of the senses – are used to prepare the mind and body for Yoga Nidra by balancing the right and left hemispheres of the brain and stimulating the subtle energies of our vital force, prana. Here are three poses that are ideal for preparing your body for sleep.
Legs Up the Wall: Lie on the ground on your back and put the back of your legs up a wall (keep your legs straight), so your body is in an L-shaped pose. Relax into the position, hold it for at least 30 seconds and focus on your breathing.
Lying Butterfly: Lie on the ground on your back. Press the bottoms of your feet against each other and let your knees fall out to the sides. You can put a pillow under your knees if this feels too strenuous.
Corpse Pose: Lie on the ground on your back with legs straight, arms by sides, and palms facing up. Breathe slowly, focusing on your inhales and exhales.
If good sleep helps you lose fat and yoga helps you sleep well, it’s reasonable that yoga can help people lose fat.
Yoga for Weight Loss
Yoga, when combined with healthy eating, has proven beneficial as it helps to lose weight along with keeping your mind and body healthy. Yoga increases your mindfulness and how you relate to your body.
While yoga isn’t traditionally considered an aerobic exercise, it can be an effective tool to reduce weight, especially the more active forms of yoga. And you may find that the awareness gained through a gentle, relaxing yoga practice helps you to lose weight as well. Essentially, Yoga is equal parts strength, flexibility, balance, and endurance and some of the yoga asanas for weight loss can help burn anywhere from 180 to 600 calories per hour; there’s a large range because there are so many different types of yoga that vary from constant movement to a slower, more restorative pace.
It answers the crucial question of how to lose weight at home. While you can generally burn more calories in a Bikram or Vinyasa forms of Yoga than you would in a restorative one, the specific yoga poses that you select matter a lot, too.
Yoga may be intended as a way to calm the mind, but it is also the best exercise to lose weight especially with regards to those looking at weight loss yoga for beginners. Here are some yoga asanas for weight loss:
The ‘Surya Namaskar’, or the sun salutation comprises a sequence of 12 yoga postures and is a complete workout for your entire physical system, one that does not require the use of any equipment. It also aids us in breaking free from the exhaustive and dull routines of our lives. Doing the Surya Namaskar at a faster pace than usual is a good cardio exerciseand is a great weight loss exercise. Its postures help in stretching your abdominal muscles and is your solution for how to reduce belly fat by yoga. Regular practice of Sun Salutation offers a lot of interesting benefits for every part of the body and is one of the key yoga asanas to reduce belly fat. These powerful yoga poses have a great impact on the heart, liver, intestine, stomach, chest, throat, and legs. It also purifies the blood and improves blood circulation throughout the body, and ensures proper functioning of the stomach, bowels, and nerve centers.
Veerbhadrasanaliterally means ‘the warrior pose’ in Sanskrit. It can actually be performed in three sets of variations. But if you wish to burn calories, and want to use yoga to reduce belly fat and tone your muscles effectively you should aim to achieve all the three poses flawlessly. Once you have achieved them perfectly, switch from one variation to another in continuation so that your muscles remain engaged for a long time. The warrior pose strengthens the hamstrings, thighs, legs and ankles as the bodyweight is transferred on the thighs with the forward bend. It helps to stimulate abdominal organs which can help increase the stamina. Stamina built up can help to keep you going over a longer period of time.
The Triangle pose helps is a great exercise for weight loss as it improves digestion as well as reduces the fat deposited around the waist. In addition, it stimulates and improves blood circulation in the entire body. The lateral motion of this asana helps you burn more fat from the waist and build more muscles in the thighs and hamstrings. It also improves balance & concentration. Trikonasana enables you to improve balance and concentrating while aiding in the elimination of extra fats in the abdominal area.
Purvottanasana or upward plank pose is an excellent pose to strengthen your core while improving your upper body strength. This pose stretches and tones the front of your shoulders and chest, your lower back, triceps and hamstrings, and is a popular yoga asana for weight loss.
Bow Pose provides maximum stretch on the abdomen and abdominal sides. Regular practice of this asana helps to shed and burn fat in the above-said regions of the body. It also provides overall toned shaped to the entire body and is very useful for overcoming lethargy. Not only does Bow pose help massage the abdominal organs to improve digestion, but it is also an amazing way to strengthen the thigh, chest and back.
Tips for getting the most out of your Yoga practice:
Yoga is an art that connects our soul, mind, and body, and has a number of health benefits. Yoga must be perceived as a holistic package, which unlike other physical activities aims at also cleansing and rejuvenating the human body from inside-out. If you can imbibe the practice as a part of everyday routine, you can actually feel the difference – mentally, physically as well as spiritually. Here are three tips for better results with yoga:
Regular practice of yoga will help people reduce weight and improve immunity. It is also known to be helpful in maintaining good health and in the prevention of many ailments. Yoga is a continuous process – the deeper you go into your yoga practice, the more profound will be its benefits, some of which include:
- Improved flexibility
- Increased blood flow
- Improved bone health
- Sculpted body
- Increased focus and the ability to change your energy
- Reduced anxiety and improved metabolism
- The ability to become more mindful
- Enables weight loss and aids better sleep
Healthy diet and Yoga
Eating a healthy diet is as important as perfecting the various asanas in Yoga. In fact, yogis believe that diet is an extremely integral part of yoga. This not only helps in developing a mindful eating practice but also supports and nurtures your yoga regime. According to Ayurveda, there are three broad dimensions, Tama (slow, lethargic, bland), Sattva (purity, harmony), Raja (hot, spicy, fast). These three qualities are present in everything, but in different quantities and thus, making one quality dominant. When it comes to Rajasic foods, they are believed to be hot, bitter, dry, salty, or spicy. They overstimulate the mind. Tamasic foods are bland. They include meat, alcohol, tobacco, garlic, onions, fermented foods, and overripe substances. Sattvic food is considered as the purest form of diet. It is believed that Sattvic food is suitable for those who follow a yoga regime. It helps in nourishing the body and maintains a peaceful state. You stay calm and your body gets purified.
Be patient with Yoga practice
Yoga is a practice and has the remarkable ability to transform your life over time. The more you allow yourself to be present (physically and mentally) and to fully embrace your thoughts, emotions, and bodies at the moment, the more your yoga practice will transform your life. It can be hard to understand the transformative power Yoga can have on your life unless you practice patiently and regularly for a prolonged period. While many may turn to Yoga to get stronger, or they become more flexible, or to lower stress, its long-term benefits can add much more value to life. Yoga can help in opening up to viewing life from a new perspective, to living with more awareness and intention, to allowing you to fully embrace anything life may have to offer. Yoga must become a part of your daily routine to get a body that is strong, supple, flexible and healthy. Regular yoga practice, stretches and tones the body muscles and organs making them strong. Yoga is not a religion. It is a science – the science of well-being, the science of youthfulness, and the science of integrating body, mind, and soul.