9 November 2009
Free the Body, Mind, and Soul Imagine feeling energy rushing through the body and instantly experiencing a surge of relaxation at the same time. Yoga is an art that brings the body and mind together into one formation. Yoga literally means “to join or yoke together”. “Yoga is an ancient method of relaxation and regarded by many as a spiritual experience” (“Yoga”). There are three main structures yoga is built upon: exercise, breathing and meditation. When you control your breath you can control anything (Roberts 1). Yoga is a form of exercise that not only strengthens muscles but also relaxes the mind and body through special techniques.
The exact history of yoga is unclear, but there are a few certain facts of how yoga came about. Yoga was first started in India about 5,000 years ago as a form of everyday living and culture ("General Yoga Information"). Around 500 B.C., Upanishads, huge works containing over 200 scriptures, taught sacrifice through action, wisdom, and self-knowledge. It was first introduced in America from the west in the late 1800’s (Burgin). Yoga was primarily centered on understanding the world, and then self-enlightenment became the main goal. Yoga poses and meditation were put into effect by Buddhist teachings. Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years, and still continues to grow throughout the years.
Recent medical studies determine that the regular practice of yoga and meditation is shown to lower levels of anxiety (Burgin). Different yoga poses help stimulate glands in the brain, and put the body into the Alpha state. “The Alpha state will help increase the creative thought process, as well as help the body heal itself”. This is usually achieved during the final resting pose in yoga, called shavasana (Heiden). “The ultimate de-stressing comes with slowing the breath to 1 to 2 breaths per minute” (Rogers). When practicing yoga breathing techniques the nervous system is naturally soothed and calmed (Burgin).
The Relaxation Response, a book written by Harvard cardiologist Herbert Benson, shows that meditation and breathing techniques can change the effects of stress on the body and causes relaxation (Dupler). Yoga causes the body to feel relaxed because it helps regulate breathing and helps release muscle tension. Meditation techniques help the body learn how to relax, and then “snap out” of it ("American Yoga Association"). Jeanmarie Paolillo, a New York yoga instructor says, “Yoga brings you to a quiet place inside yourself. It requires focus and intention--and consequently, all the distractions around you fade away” (Richmond).
Techniques from yoga are being used throughout the world for many different reasons such as, religion, healing, and exercise, but most importantly, relaxation. Physical therapists use yoga stretches to help heal patients from injury and pain. By combining yoga postures and meditation, yoga helps the body naturally heal itself (Burgin). Football players and other athletes even practice yoga to improve their game and balance. They also like using yoga techniques to reduce their risk of injury and help them relax. Yoga provides the perfect balance of work and rest. Dr. Deepthiman Gowda, a specialist in internal medicine at Columbia University in New York City, states, "Increased flexibility--which goes hand in hand with strength and balance--allows us to move with fluidity and ease. It makes being in our bodies more enjoyable” (Shah).
Yoga can be practiced anytime, anywhere. No matter what age, or how flexible, anyone can practice yoga. It can be modified to a way that benefits each person the best. Yoga has numerous physical and mental benefits that affect everyone differently. Mary Frankos, a certified yoga teacher and physical therapist says, “I am thinking about my current student who is 83 years of age. He now enjoys much freer movement in his shoulders, and is delighted by the degree of freedom he now has in his arms,