Sunday, December 28, 2008


What is Yoga?

The word yoga means "union" in Sanskrit, the language of ancient India where yoga originated. We can think of the union occurring between the mind, body and spirit. What is commonly referred to as "yoga" can be more accurately described by the Sanskrit word asana, which refers to the practice of physical postures or poses.

Asana is only one of the eight "limbs" of yoga, the majority of which are more concerned with mental and spiritual well being than physical activity. In the West, however, the words asana and yoga are often used interchangeably.
Yoga Practice
Yoga teachers will often refer to "your practice," which means your individual experience with yoga as it develops over time. The amazing thing about yoga is that your practice is always evolving and changing, so it never gets boring. Although the poses themselves do not change, your relationship to them will. Anyone can start a yoga practice, even if you don't feel like you are very flexible or very strong. These things will develop over time. Another great thing about thinking about "your practice" is that it encourages the noncompetitive spirit of yoga. One of the most difficult, but ultimately most liberating things about yoga is letting go of the ego and accepting that no one is better than anyone else. Everyone is just doing their best on any given day.
Benefits of Yoga
You've probably heard that yoga is good for you. Maybe you have even tried yoga and discovered that it makes you feel better. But what are the specific health benefits can you expect to enjoy from doing yoga regularly?
Physical Benefits
Flexibility: Stretching your tight body in new ways will help it to become more flexible, bringing greater range of motion to muscles and joints. Over time, you can expect to gain flexibility in your hamstrings, back, shoulders, and hips.
Yoga Breathing Exercises - Pranayama
Yoga Breathing Exercises, which are called Pranayama in Sanskrit, may be done in association with yoga poses or just while sitting quietly. Here are some of the most common types of yoga breathing exercises and their benefits.

Yoga breathing exercises, also known as Pranayama, are an important part of a developing yoga practice. Pranayama is one of the Eight Limbs of Yoga, as defined by the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. In addition to deepening your yoga practice, learning ways to calm or invigorate the body through breathing will greatly benefit your life off the mat.
Breathing is an involuntary act; it is an essential part of life. Although we cannot control whether or not we breathe, we can control the way that we breathe. A belief that different methods of breath affect the body's health and life force is the core of Pranayama practice.
Alternate Nostril Breathing Nadi Sodhana

This breath is balancing, relaxing, and calming.
1. Sit in a comfortable crosslegged position.
2. Using your right hand, fold your pointer and middle fingers into your palm, leaving your thumb, ring finger, and pinky sticking up (Vishnu Mudra).
3. Bring your thumb to the right side of your nose and your ring finger to the left side.
4. Close off your right nostril with your thumb.
5. Inhale through your left nostril.
6. Close off your left nostril with your ring finger.
7. Open and exhale through your right nostril.
8. Inhale through your right nostril.
9. Close off your right nostril with your thumb.
10. Open and exhale through your left nostril.
11. Inhale through your left nostril.
12. Continue alternating 5 to 10 times.