Picture a scenario where your phone is ringing nonstop, the child is crying, there are many household chores, the boss wants to discuss the report that you are to work on, and you are running out of time to complete your work. All these actions and activities can cause you a lot of stress and anxiety. To avoid or even deal with these, yoga classes are essential as they involve practicing the mind and body combined with stretching exercises, as well as controlled breathing and relaxation. By getting involved in yoga, one can be able to reduce stress, and, simultaneously reduce their blood pressure hence improve the functioning of their heart.
The word yoga was derived from the Sanskrit root “yuj,” which when translated into English is “to yoke” hence implying the bonding of the physical body and the spirit together (Dykema 1). Yoga is applicable as a complementary activity for the body and mind. In addition it is also used as an alternate medicine practice because it brings together the physical and mental disciplines with the objective of achieving the peace of mind and body, and also helping one to relax so as to manage stress and anxiety. Yoga comes in diverse styles and forms, and has varied intensities. Hatha yoga is usually employed in stress management since it practices slower paces and easier movements. Nevertheless, an individual can gain from the different styles of yoga and ultimately it is just about personal preferences. In general terms, most of the yoga classes are composed of different poses and breathing techniques. Poses or postures are movements that are designed to enhance the strength and flexibility of an individual, and these may range from lying down on the floor, when one is completely relaxed, to complex and difficult movements, that may compel one to stretch personal physical limits. On the other hand, breathing is important as it symbolizes vital energy, and can be employed to control the body of the person and also quiet the mind. From a sporting perspective, the study of yoga encompassing its benefits, poses, types, and history are essential in comprehending the yoga activity.
Yoga, as it is perceived, is not simply limited to mastering postures and enhancing one’s flexibility and strength. From the onset of traditions, yoga has always been perceived as actions that facilitate the profound transformation to an individual through overcoming of the ego (Feuerstein 3). As a matter of fact, the history of Hinduism, Buddhism, and the Jainism, view the meaning of the word yoga as a spiritual discipline and it is no surprise that many people link yoga with postures and stances that form not just the physical activity of an exercise but a thorough understanding of the activity. Yoga has been practiced for centuries, and has undergone many changes over time, that have generated the different factions of its concepts.
There is no certainty with regards to the exact history of yoga, but available evidence can help to draw some conclusions. Among such conclusions include the facts that the yoga activities began in the East (India) during the ancient shamanism. Yoga artifacts were found around 3000 BC, the oldest being the evidence of the text Rig-Veda, which is a composition of hymns that included prayers, divine harmony, as well as greater being (Call 10). From the history of yoga, the main aim of the shamanism was to heal the members of the society and also act as religious mediators. Originally, the activities of yoga were focused on the application and comprehension of the world, but later, this changed to a more personal aspect, giving rise to the ultimate goal of yoga, which became self-enlightenment.
Invented by Swami Sivananda, the contemporary yoga is composed of five basic principles, namely proper relaxation, proper exercises, proper breathing, proper diet and positive thinking including meditation (Devānanda 12). The classification of the history of yoga presupposes the following categories: verdict yoga, pre-classical yoga, the classical yoga and the post-classical yoga. Apart from the physical benefits, yoga can enable an individual in to manage stress, which is a common condition that is known to affect the optimal functioning of the body and the mind. In stress management, yoga can be a good source of obtaining the skills necessary to cope with stress and anxiety, and even help one to develop a more positive outlook in life. Of importance is the fact that meditation and correct breathing assist an individual in improving their spiritual wellbeing as well as mental status. Moreover, regular yoga practices ensure the calming of the mind, and heighten the bodily awareness, as well as achieving relaxation of the mind. This is therefore useful in assisting an individual, for instance, to detect body problems very early.
One benefit worth noting concerning the yoga is that it can be used and applied to anybody and at any age and this is because yoga has been modified to suit the beginners and those who are already experienced. This, thus, makes yoga attract many groups of people.
In the sporting field, yoga can benefit the athletes as well as non-athletes because it refreshes the body and mind. In the United States, yoga has increasingly gained popularity because it delivers with it the many benefits. Yoga is regarded as a healing system of theory and practice, and hence, it creates strength, awareness, and harmony to both the body and the mind. It is believed that yoga is made up of different practices in breathing, meditation, and postures, which stretch and flex varied muscle groups in the body and brain. With yoga, one can easily maintain a strong and capable body and any person who practices yoga on a regular basis will experience many physical, mental, and spiritual benefits. These relaxation techniques can help ease chronic pain like the lower back pains and headaches and practicing yoga has also been linked to lower blood pressure and arresting insomnia.
For sports persons, the different exercises assist an individual to enhance their flexibility. With the flexibility achieved during yoga practices, a sports person will increase his or her capacity to run, jog without feeling pain. At the same time, yoga has the added benefit of increasing the muscle strength and tones. This is important to any sportsperson including an athlete, a footballer or a swimmer among other people, because in sports, muscle utilization is very essential, hence physical strength is necessary to maintain speed without getting exhausted. Athletes rely on maintaining a viable respiration that does not fail them before they can complete the set target, and this is the only way that they are able to compete effectively. As such, yoga is very beneficial as it can assist a person to improve his/her breathing and also helps one to discover how to use their body energy in the correct manner and, therefore, maintain vitality. Exercises are extremely necessary for any person who would want to have a good body that functions properly. In this case, yoga is important as it can help an individual to maintain a balanced body metabolism rate. Exercise in general is essential in assisting the body to burn fats and fatty acids, and this eventually causes weight loss. Weight loss is in turn important in maintaining fitness and preventing certain diseases that are associated with being overweight.
Other physical benefits of yoga activities include the fact that it assists the heart to function properly, improves cardio and the circulatory health, which in turn leads to more optimal performance of an athlete. Yoga students are also taught how to protect themselves from injuries.
Framework for the Yoga Practice
As mentioned earlier, yoga is an art that involves articulation of the body, the mind, and the spirit altogether. The objective of the yoga practices is to help the participants to use their breath and bodies in developing an awareness of their individual connection to the creation. This means that it helps in trying to create equanimity in order for participants to live at peace and in good health as well as in harmony with the whole world. This concept originated from India and was written in the Yoga Sutras texts which describe how the inner mind functions and provide eight steps that can be used in controlling the mind’s restlessness hence enabling one to enjoy a lasting peace. Some of the steps that are considered necessary and practiced in order to bring the completeness of a person include the following:
- Yama: The morality of the universe
- Niyama: The individual observances
- Asanas: Postures of the body
- Pranayama: Breathing exercises and controlling the Prana
- Pratyahara: Control of the senses
- Dharana: Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
- Dhyana: Devotion as well as Meditation on the Divine
- Samadhi: Being in union with the Divine
The first two steps are the primary precepts of ethics and can be perceived as the universal morality and the personal observances. Yama explains how we as individuals relate with other things as well as people, while niyama expounds on the relations between human beings and their inner selves (Joshi 62).
The Yamas have five features and these are the Ahimsa, which implies the capability of an individual to be compassionate to all things (Harrington 228-230). This means that a person is not supposed to injure or be cruel to any creature or person in any way and instead, all people must uphold kindness, friendliness, and have thoughtful considerations towards other individuals and objects/things. This is, therefore, an indication of our responsibility and duties towards others. Satya is the second characteristic of Yamas, and this commands that an individual should always be committed to the truth (229). This means that one should be always truthful yet it does not necessarily mean that one should always speak the truth, but instead weigh the consequences of what he or she says. Honest communication is the basis of any constructive relationship in a society, and lies or even exaggerations can destroy this. Asteya, the other characteristic, means to being satisfied with what we possess (229). It implies if someone entrusts us with a particular thing, then we should not take advantage of the person. Brahmacharya, entails the aspect of self-control, particularly with regard to relationship that may lead to sexual activities. Aparigraha implies that one ought to only choose that which is important and avoid being greedy or taking advantage of the situation (229). In effect, one should absolutely refrain from exploiting others, and by abiding by these five features, an individual can attain the purification of the human nature, and this would subsequently result in total happiness and healthiness of the society, commonly called the Yoga Sutra.
Yamas defined the responsibility that is expected of an individual towards other people and other things. Niyamas, on the other hand, identified the personal observances that a person needs to adhere to so as to attain a sense of completeness (Iyengar 24-27).
Sausa is the first niyama, which is all about purity and cleanliness and presupposes that a person ought to keep their body and mind in a clean and purified state. Being pure helps to rid one of every disturbing emotion which could be pride, lust, and hatred among other bad emotions. Santosa is yet another niyama that addresses the elements of contentment and modesty. Santosa means that an individual ought to be happy with whatever they own as opposed to feeling unhappy because of things that they may lack. Tapas refers to utilizing our bodies and energy in a gainful manner because this helps to cleanse the body. Tapas thus helps an individual to be more keen on their posture, eating habits as well as the way they breathe. Svadhyaya is the fourth niyama, and it encompasses the elements of studying oneself. It implies that one should gain more awareness in each activity that they engage in and should even embrace the limitations they notice regarding themselves. The final niyama is the Isvarapranidhana, and it acknowledges the existence of other forces that are higher and beyond hence control the universe, and it is therefore essential for individuals to set aside a particular time on a daily basis to worship and pay respect to such supernatural beings that are not only omnipresent but also guide our lives (Iyengar 24-27).
Besides the Yama and Niyamas, Asanas is the the third structural aspect that defines the practice of physical postures (Iyengar 26). This instrument is used in the relaxation of the mind and awaken the inner importance of a being. Asana practice entails calming the mind and, thus assisting an individual during meditation.
Pranayama, in its turn, entails weighing and directing one’s breath and as such helps in controlling prana which is actually the energy within an organization hence playing a role in the restoration of health and evolution (Norberg para). As a breathing technique, this aspect is essential in aiding the flow of important forces that make the respiratory organs stronger. Pratyahara generally addresses how one can control their senses and this may actually entail detaching such senses from the external objects. Pratyahara is the main basis for the human happiness or lack of it. Where this element is found lacking, a person may exhibit mental imbalances, and this may consequentlyresult in illnesses.
Dharma helps one to comprehend how they can control their minds to concentrate on particular tasks hence maintain objectivity. Dhyana concerns the unified relationship with the divine and also addresses religious meditation. As such, this element entails the objective concentration and aims at finding out more about the facts that regard a particular matter. A person can only attain the element of Samadhi when they aspire to keep making inquiries into the real depth and character of things. In addition, this element can enable one to make discernment between the mind of the person perceiving, the means through which the individual perceives, as well as the objects in question.
The final element in the structural framework is the Samatdhi, which entails the union with the divine, that unifies the different states of the body and mind to ensure rest and calm. It is very difficult to achieve the aspect of samatdhi and, as such, one ought to practice asanas and the pranayamas when preparing for Dharma. This is because it is the characteristics that were attained from the influence of the mental activities help to create space and also calm the mind.
Types of Yoga
There are diverse types of yoga and different postures practiced involved (Devanand 18-30). The Ananda yoga is a type of yoga that emphasizes on gentle poses that are executed in a manner that helps to circulate energy into the brain, hence they prepare the body for meditation activities. The individuals that engage in the Abaca classes also focus on properly aligning the body and controlling breathing. There is also Anusora yoga which has quite challenging postures but it focuses on opening up the heart during the connection between the divine in oneself and also in others. Ashtanga yoga is a physically demanding type of yoga that entails synchronizing one’s breath in combination with progressive posture series, and this can trigger the internal heat and purifying sweat which in turn assists in the detoxification of muscles and other organs. This type of yoga helps to improve circulation, enhance stamina and flexibility, develop a strong body as well as calm the mind. Bikram yoga on the other hand, is a comprehensive exercise, which combines all the elements that are employed during fitness such as the muscular strengths, weight loss, and the cardiovascular flexibility (Bernstein 26-30). This type of yoga is usually done in heated environments in order to facilitate more flexible detoxification and also prevent injuries. Hatha yoga, on the other hand, is easier to comprehend and grasp because it is the most basic of all the yoga styles and every other style is founded on this form of yoga (Singleton 6-19). It entails the combination of the postures from asana yoga, the meditation from pranayama and kundalini with the objective of self-realization and enlightenment. Others forms of yoga are the Integral yoga, Ishta, Iyengar yoga, Jivamkuti yoga, Kali Ray Triyoga, power yoga, restorative yoga, white lotus yoga among many others.
There are varied postures that yoga uses, and some of the most common are the seated yoga poses, which are important in offering foundation and calming because they help to attain the deepest muscle opening and twisting. Standing yoga poses are essential for strength training and focus as they help in shaping the body. The arm balance yoga is necessary for strength and body awareness and enables a person to concentrate thus enhancing focus. Others include backbends that assist in opening up the spine and the chest. They also strengthen the link between an individual and their intuition. Inversions are useful in maintaining balance, concentration, and general circulation. Some postures are used for the weight loss programs and back pains while others make the spinal cord stronger.
Yoga is important in daily life of an individual because it helps to refresh the soul and maintain a healthy mind and body relationship. Different poses provide varied benefits to the body and at the same time, diverse types of yoga offer one with a different kinds of satisfaction (Claire 12). By abiding by the principles of yoga and its precepts, a sports person can be certain of excelling in his/her field. In the sporting arena, yoga principles are essential because they are based on personal commitment, concentration and the coordination of the body and mind and also offer a person the required skills and strengths to approach various challenges in life. Above all, it helps a person to release the mind, hence bringing together the physical and mental exercises for the attainment of peace, relaxation as well as the management of stress and anxiety. In conclusion, many poses and breathing styles enable an individual to attain fitness as well as nourish the body and the mind.
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