What is yoga?
It is the oldest physical discipline in existence. The exact origins of yoga are unknown, but it is thought to be at least five thousand years old. The earliest evidence of yoga can be traced back to about 3000 B.C. The original purpose of the postures and breathing exercises was to bring stability and relaxation so practitioners could prepare for the rigors of meditation, sitting still and alert for long periods of time.
The word yoga has its roots in the Sanskrit language and means to merge, join or unite. Yoga is a form of exercise based on the belief that the body and breath are intimately connected with the mind. By controlling the breath and holding the body in steady poses, yoga creates harmony. Yoga is a means of balancing and harmonizing the body, mind and emotions and is a tool that allows us to withdraw from the chaos of the world and find a quiet space within.
Is Yoga a Religion?
Yoga does not meet the traditional definitions of a religion. Rather than broadcasting a philosophy or doctrine of its own, yoga is a physical and psychological discipline that combines the learning and meditation.
Because of its roots in Eastern religion and mythology, yoga has often been associated with the Hindu religion. While both Hinduism and yoga have their roots in India, yoga is an independent tradition. Its separate physical and psychological processes have no connection with religious beliefs. Additionally, dedicated yoga practice has been found to enhance the religious practice or beliefs of practitioners, whatever their current beliefs, “ like fasting , praying moves , standing and kneeling , in both Christianity and Islam “.
While yoga is not a religion, there are, however, a set of ethics associated with it which complements the practice of yoga. This set of yoga ethic principles include five rules which are: non-violence; truthfulness; non-stealing; chastity; and non-greed. Also there are five restrictions which are: purity; contentment; self-discipline; self-study; and centering on the Divine.
Health Benefits of Yoga:
Yoga has both preventative and therapeutic benefits. It has been shown to offer both physical and mental benefits to the body and the mind. The many physical benefits of yoga are: it improves flexibility and muscle joint mobility; strengthens, tones, and builds muscles; corrects posture; strengthens the spine; eases back pain; improves muscular-skeletal conditions such as bad knees, tight shoulders and neck, swayback and scoliosis; increases stamina; creates balance and grace; stimulates the glands of the endocrine system; improves digestion and elimination; increases circulation; improves heart conditions; improves breathing disorders; boosts immune response; decreases cholesterol and blood sugar levels; and encourages weight loss.
The mental benefits include: it increases body awareness; relieves chronic stress patterns in the body; refreshes the body by relieving muscle strain; relaxes the mind and body; centers attention; sharpens concentration; and frees the spirit.
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