Yoga: Connecting Your Body, Breath and Mind
Yoga has been around for about 5,000 years, to the best of the modern day world's knowledge. Written accounts of yoga go back about 2000 years. Yoga made its way to the United States in the late 1800s with its popularity and interest increasing since about the 1960s.
The word yoga conjures up many images and associations for different people. The word means "yoke" or "union"
in Sanskirt (an ancient Indian language), and is thought to mean the union of the mind and body. Yoga is a philosophy for some, fitness, relaxation, or meditation for others, and a combination of things for many.
The University of Maryland Medical Center defines yoga as "a philosophy and practice that connects the body, breath, and mind to energize and balance the whole person."
This mind-body therapy is considered to be complementary and alternative medicine, and is being recommended more frequently in the conventional medical world as adjunctive therapy for many different medical conditions.
What happens in the body during yoga and how it affects health is not fully understood, but there are several studies that suggest that yoga improves mood and sense of well being, counteracts stress and reduces heart rate and blood pressure.
Yoga can increase lung capacity, improve muscle relaxation, and increase overall strength and flexibility, as well as contribute positively to overall physical fitness. Research suggests that yoga can positively affect levels of certain brain or blood chemicals.
Yoga is often recommended as complementary therapy, alongside conventional medical treatment, to help with back pain, depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, among many others.
If you have certain conditions, such as balance problems, glaucoma, artificial joints, you should check with your provider to see if it is OK for you to do yoga. You may be able to if you take certain precautions, such as avoiding certain poses or stretches. No matter what your health status, start slowly and carefully. Good yoga instructors will show you alternative poses and positions and will also strongly emphasize listening to your body (being mindful)
, resting when you need it, not overdoing it, and doing "what feels right."
He or she will encourage you not to exceed your personal limits. All of this helps you to be more body aware both during yoga as well as in the rest of your life.
My own journey with yoga has improved my daily stress level, my sleep and my overall energy level and sense of well being. I feel more fit and healthy in general.
I would like to add here that I am like most busy, working parents - I find it difficult to work exercise into my life and I hop on and off of the exercise band wagon all the time.
My commitment to yoga has been wavering and irregular at best, and I still see personal benefits and gain! One of the best things about yoga is that you are constantly reminded that whatever you can do and contribute to your practice is good enough!
There are several places to try out yoga. Yoga centers are very common around the Twin Cities, and there are probably several near your location. Local YMCAs and most gyms offer yoga classes, and one can usually find a yoga class offered through the local community education class.
For more information, try mayoclinic.com, or nccam.nih.gov, your provider, or your local library.
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