Thursday, May 22, 2008

Modern Benefits from the Ancient Practice of Yoga

By : Paul M. Jerard Jr.

Where should one start learning about yoga? The classic yogic texts are a good start. In particular Patanjali's Yoga Sutras are a good summarization of early yogic philosophy. While these early texts can provide us with many lessons, they are not the limits of modern yoga.

In India, Nepal, and Tibet, many of the old traditions are kept alive. Many people, in these countries, have derived beliefs from the traditions, even though they aren't dedicated to the philosophy. The old system of yogis has given way to the yoga instructor.

Remember that yoga is no longer connected with any particular religion. This is why people, from different belief structures, have begun to practice. Decades ago, many religions looked upon yoga as some form of devil worship or New Age tomfoolery. Fortunately, times have changed and minds have opened up to the health and spiritual benefits of a yoga program.

Western yoga has been used primarily as a form of physical exercise. The emphasis on the ancient beliefs and rituals has been put aside. Now yoga is used as a flexibility regimen. Its breathing exercises have allowed everyone, from business people to baseball coaches, reach the highest state of relaxation. Christians, Muslims, and even atheists, have become devout followers of yoga. With the right program, a yoga certification is within anyone's grasp.

Yoga eases the pain of back problems and helps people lose weight. It increases strength and flexibility. Studies have shown a decrease in blood pressure, stress, and heart rate, in regular practitioners. Other reported benefits are decreased arthritis pain and increased bowel performance.

From Iyengar to Bikram, there are yoga styles for everyone. By providing an understanding of how the body works, this ancient art has enabled people, of all shapes and sizes, become healthier. Become a yoga instructor and join millions on the path to self-aware health.

Everyone wants to be in better shape. There are multitudes of exercise programs and fitness regimens out there. New-fangled machinery and tools are constantly showing up on television, promising instant results; but these new ideas still can't stand up to the ancient art of yoga.

The history of yoga dates back millennia. It's believed that yoga originally developed in India. The word yoga is a Sanskrit word that roughly translates to "uniting." While it is connected to many Indian religions, it's not a religion itself. Yoga is regarded as both a philosophy and a science.

The earliest discoveries of yogic positions are the Indus Valley seals. Dating to the third millennium B.C., these seals show figures in different poses. These are believed to be the precursors to the modern form of yoga. Some archaeologists suggest that these positions were performed by humans and deities in ancient beliefs.

John Marshall discovered the most famous of these seals, the Pashupati seal. He claimed that it represented a Shiva figure, though modern archaeologists dispute this. There is still debate on whether these seals represent yoga at all.

Yoga is a 5,000 year old practice, but began appearing in Sanskrit texts much later. Some of these texts, called the Upanishads, outline many principle beliefs of Hinduism including the philosophy of yoga. Later, Patanjali's Yoga Sutras united many texts to form a grand summary of early yoga. The Yoga Sutras connect these practices to the Hindu belief system.

Quieting the mind, tranquility, and being present in this life, are some of the primary goals of yoga, as prescribed by Patanjali. At the time of this writing, becoming a yoga instructor is a part of mastering this discipline. By helping others, we also achieve a tranquil state of mind.

Copyright 2008 - Paul Jerard / Aura Publications

Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, is a co-owner and the director of Yoga teacher training at: Aura Wellness Center in, Attleboro, MA. He is an author of many books on the subject of Yoga and has been a certified Master Yoga teacher since 1995.

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