The Yoga Factor Part I: Stretch to Center Body and Mind

The practice of yoga originated in India 1,000 years ago and has been adopted throughout the world as a means of quieting the mind while stretching the body.  Even some doctors in western cultures prescribe yoga to their patients as a way to get a handle on headaches and other physical complaints.  Yoga can help lessen stress and the multitude of symptoms that come with it.

The physical benefits of yoga include better balance, improved circulation, better breathing process, and improved muscle strength and flexibility.  Students of yoga often experience a lowering of blood pressure and improved levels of energy.

Focus on the Pose

When muscle tension is released during the myriad of stances and stretches, the mind is freed of tension and stress.  Yoga is akin to meditation, with purposeful physical motions added.  In both meditation and yoga, you free the mind from thought and learn to exist in the moment. Worries about the past and apprehension about the future fall away. By concentrating on forming each pose, your mind fully connects with the movement of your body.  You will reach a new level of body awareness as you continue studying yoga.

There are yoga exercises for nearly everyone regardless of how flexible or toned.  Yoga knows no age limit, and it can also help sculpt your body as you become more comfortable with the exercises.

Easy Yoga

Beginners wanting to take advantage of yoga’s body toning and stress reducing benefits may want to start with what’s known as easy yoga.  There are more than 80 poses in yoga, but you don’t need to master that many to start seeing results.  A good web site for easy yoga, called Yoga for Beginners*** -- a Practical Guide, walks you through a few standing, sitting and prone positions.  When you click on the name of a pose, it takes you to a picture so you can see how to do the exercise.  You’ll also find poses specifically for relaxation and stress reduction as well as for meditation.

Yin Yoga

Yin Yoga is aimed at stretching the tissue around joints, and each pose is held for more than a few minutes.  Yin Yoga teachers and practitioners believe that stretching this tissue can release energy in the body and help prepare a person for meditation.  This type of yoga is closely aligned with Taoist philosophy, and one of the main symbols of this philosophy is the Yin-Yang sign.  Yin energy is slow and still while Yang energy is active and constantly moving. The Yin-Yang symbol shows that these opposites are inextricably related to one another because both are necessary components of the whole energy picture.

Hatha Yoga 

Hatha Yoga, the world’s most widely practiced form of yoga, centers on poses that build strength and flexibility.  At the same time practitioners work on becoming aware and attuned to their breathing.  It takes concentration to become conscious of a function that is as automatic as breathing, but this focus can improve lung capacity and provide a feeling of well-being.

In order to reach the state of calm and clear thinking that yogis claim is possible through continued practice, the objective of Hatha Yoga centers around bringing four disparate elements into harmony.  The exercises bring the senses of being, acting, thinking and willing into balance.  When a person is tense, these states of mind often work against one another. 

Kundalini Yoga

Kundalini Yoga is known for its concentration on various breathing techniques and secondarily for its poses.  Unlike the passive Yin Yoga, Kundalini Yoga is an active attempt to unlock hidden creativity and awareness so that it can grow and develop.  At the same time, Kundalini yogis practice to release energies along the six charkas said to exist along the spine.  When combined with meditation, they aim to ultimately achieve spiritual enlightenment.  This form of yoga should be practiced with a teacher who is knowledgeable about all the breathing methods and poses.  If not done properly, some of the breathing exercises can lead to dizziness or fainting.

From easy yoga steps to advanced practice with a yogi, there are poses and exercises for nearly everyone.  You can choose to learn just those easy poses that help relieve stress and tension.  Or you may enjoy taking on the more challenging practices in Hatha or Kundalini Yoga.



*** Yoga for Beginners: