The word ‘Yoga’ comes from the same root word ‘yoke’ (as in to yoke the oxen to the cart), and means ‘union’ or ‘to join’. The Sanskrit language is largely contextual with words having different meanings depending on the situation they are used in, therefore the word Yoga doesn’t have a direct translation, and the precise meaning is contested.
For me Yoga means to bring together every aspect of myself – mind, body and spirit.
The roots of Yoga are somewhat confused, with a tradition of being taught verbally rather than being transcribed in writing limiting the scope of reliable sources. It is widely thought that Yoga began as a series of poses to help sitting in meditative poses for prolonged periods. This evolved into a physically based meditation practice. There are now dozens of styles of Yoga, each with their own rules and techniques, but the aim of each can generally be described as being to bring positive change to its practitioners.
Breath is the foundation of Yoga. Your breath is the most consciously accessible autonomic function (responsible for the unconscious regulation of the body, including heart rate and digestion) – when you breathe mindfully, slowing and deepening the breath, you activate the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). This has a host of benefits, including lowering blood pressure, decreasing stress, altering the biochemistry of the blood (through increased oxygenation and resulting biochemical feedback)
During your practice your focus is held on maintaining a full and flowing breath (without holding the breath in or out) as you go through the practice, unless otherwise instructed. You will also be using your breath as a cue- allowing it to dictate when your body is feeling stressed (shortening of the breath, increased breathing rate) and when your focus is drifting (unconsciously breathing in a shallow way or holding the breath in/out). Your focus in Yoga is to move with your full breath for the length of the practice.
As with everything, Yoga becomes easier with practice. See you soon, Conrad