Yoga is defined as collection of mental, spiritual and physical disciplines or practices and it originated in ancient India. There are various types of yoga schools, goals and practices in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Among the different types of yoga the most well-known ones are the Hatha Yoga and the Raja Yoga.
However, there is no written record about the inventor of yoga. Long before any written account of yoga came into existence, yoga practitioners used to practice these physical exercises. Over the years these practices were passed down to their students by the Yogis, and many schools of yoga were developed as this discipline widened globally and gained popularity.
Many ancient Indian religious texts written in Sanskrit, which is the Indo-European language of the Vedas, contains the records of the various techniques of yoga. The “Yoga Sutra” which is a 2000 year old treatise on yogic philosophy, given by the Indian sage Patanjali is a type of guidebook that provides the techniques on how to achieve mastery over the mind and emotions and advice on spiritual growth, providing the framework upon which all the yoga that is practised today is based. The Yoga Sutra is the earliest written record of yoga and one of the oldest texts in existence.
This type of exercise increases the body’s balance and core strength where various postures go hand in hand with deep breathing. The combination of these lowers blood pressure, improves heart health, increases respiratory rates and controls body’s level of cortisol, a hormone which is produced to combat stress.
These postures which have now become an integral part of health and fitness in many yoga centres all over the word, were not originally a dominant component of yoga traditions in India. Some of the common practices of yoga include Pranayama, Dharana and Nada.
The best time to do yoga is in the morning about an hour before having breakfast. After waking up in the morning, emptying the bowels followed by taking a shower, yoga practices can be done to begin the day. The other most suitable time to practice yoga is early evening just before sunset. It is however much better to do such practices at a time that suits a person’s daily schedule, rather than missing it out by being too routined or idealistic.
It should be remembered that integral yoga is always a balanced practice. For best results, one must mix and match the required elements of practice, whenever possible, which helps to improve and enhance a person’s spiritual growth and awareness.
Yoga Positions may be practiced at any time of the day except within two to three hours of taking meals. One can do such postures whenever the body feels tired, tensed, stiff or hyped up. However, practice of too many stimulating postures just before going to bed should be avoided. It is best to practice Asanas first during a person’s yoga routine, followed Pranayama (or breathing excerise and then meditation.
The practice of Pranayama can be done at any time of the day except within two to three hours of eating. It can be done when stressed or tired or when the space does not allow room for postures. It is best to practice Pranayama directly after practicing yoga. This practice of Pranayama is very much necessary for a successful and complete process of meditation.
Meditation can be practiced at any time of the day when a person feels comfortable and relaxed. For best results meditation should be avoided within two to three hours of having meals, while feeling sleepy, or when mentally “hyped-up”.
Yoga can be done practically by everyone, regardless of their gender, age or physical limitations. It is a deep personal practice and is basically based on the concept of “being in the present moment”. It can be done without judgement of any kind and even without competition. Every pose can be modified to suit one’s specific needs, injuries or ailments. Practicing of yoga helps to gain more strength, balance and flexibility as well as helps in improving concentration and focus. Moreover, it enables a person to sleep at night and feel fresh and energetic throughout the day.
There are no restrictions as such when it comes about practicing yoga. A person of any age, gender or physique can practice yoga. However, a person can temporarily avoid yoga if some conditions arise that hinders them from doing so. These conditions may include asthma, eye surgery, back injury, carpal tunnel syndrome, headache, diarrhoea, heart problems, knee injury, menstruation, insomnia, low or high blood pressure, neck injury, pregnancy or shoulder injury.
Though the benefits of yoga are many, it also has a few disadvantages. Serious side effects of yoga are generally rare Some of the common side effects of yoga include musculoskeletal injury, complication with glaucoma, abnormal increase in blood pressure due to forceful breathing, back injury, muscle strain and others.
An over stretch may happen to occur if a person ignores body’s warning signs and try to go beyond their limitations. Stretching should be done upto the limit one is comfortable with or might feel a mild pull.
Practicing certain yoga positions such as inversions, including Headstand and Shoulderstand, increases the ocular pressure and can cause complications among people with eye conditions such as glaucoma.
Practicing too aggressively and not being mindful as one move into postures can lead to injury. Hence, it is advisable to practice under the guidance of a trained teacher.
Probably the first thing a person feels like doing after a yoga class is that, drinking a lot of water. However, drinking water just immediately after a yoga class should be avoided. Just after a yoga class, it is advisable to take rest at least for 10 minutes in Savasana (with relaxed and normal breathing). It is always recommended that after practising yoga, a person should drink water at least after 15 minutes and eat at least half an hour after the practice of yoga session ends.
One can even have some naturally hydrating drink like fruit juice or coconut water. Hydrating foods like watermelon or cucumber is also good after a yoga session.
Having protein rich food is advisable after a yoga session. This can include drinking low fat milk, eating yogurt, snacking on broiled chicken, hardboiled eggs, sliced cheese or some fruits.
People have many reasons for attending yoga classes. For some, it is at the advice of a health care provider for helping with body pain. Others may attend such classes for a relief from stress and anxiety. A short daily practice of yoga, along with reciting a few mantras helps to seek mental peace and solace.
For people who are active with sports and practice of other exercises, practicing yoga once or twice in a week is sufficient. However, those who want to master complex postures must practice them with more dedication and commitment.
The price of Yoga classes in India varies in different places. However the average price range is Rs 500 per class. It is about Rs 1200 for unlimited class of one day. On the other hand unlimited classes for a week and a month are about Rs 5000 and Rs 12000 respectively. The prices of yoga classes in metropolitan cities are usually higher than as in small towns and cities.
Yoga is a combination of physical, mental and spiritual practices. The effectiveness of yoga bears fruit when practiced daily at regular timings. Early in the morning and early in the evening are the two best timings for practicing yoga. Practicing yoga on a regular basis helps to reduce body weight, increases awareness, makes a person stress free, helps to release blocked emotions, detoxifies the body and helps to eliminate bad habits. All these benefits for yoga shows the best result when practiced regularly and under proper guidance of a well-trained teacher.
For people who have practiced yoga and did not find it enjoyable or appealing can switch to other alternative exercises of mind or body. Tai Chi, Qigong, Pilates, Dance and Martial Arts are a few practices that offer an alternative to yoga. All these practices of physical exercise focuses on balance, concentration, reducing stress and tension, improves flexibility of the body, gives a feeling of energy and integrates mind, body and spirit.