What Is Yoga?

Yoga, which means “union” or “harmony,” is both a philosophical system and a science whose goal is the attainment of self awareness. Although ancient, yoga is not outdated. It has value for the modern world. Yoga offers us the opportunity to deepen our self-understanding through physical movement, breathing and meditation. Today almost 16 million people in the U.S. alone practice yoga.

On a personal level, Yoga is using breath to connect to body, mind and spirit. Coming to our mat we create a space to go within. Yoga is an opportunity to quiet the mind. Yoga is a spiritual, emotional, psychological and physical experience. It is a journey that is always new.

Principles of Practicing Hatha Yoga

Consider Samasthi your true nature: calm, present, centered, balanced and clear.
Pay attention to how each pose creates the challenge of finding your true nature amidst the problem it creates – and pay attention to how you pay attention.

Cultivate Vinyasa, the conscious connection of breath to movement in your body, paying close attention to the steady, rhythmic, balanced flow of your breath.
Let your practice be primarily about your breath. Find the strained part of your breath and smooth it out. Lengthen (slow) the beginning and end of the inhale and exhale — the mid-part naturally goes more slowly. Complete each exhale. Complete each asana with completion of the exhale. Initiate movement into the next pose with the inhale.
Expand your concept of Vinyasa – just as movement into and out of poses is initiated with the breath, use the breath within each pose to refine it, tuning in to the small, subtle movements within the relative stillness of each held pose. Working within the pose, make smaller movements more often rather than large movements.
Find your roots, work from your roots, and consciously cultivate expansion and stable extension from your roots.

Cultivate balance: in your breath, between the front and back of your body, from the front of the foot to the back of the foot, between strength and relaxation, between effort and ease.
Allow yourself to be guided from within by tuning in and listening to what your body is saying. You are ultimately your own best teacher.
Allow yourself a sense of playfulness in the practice. While some moments or time periods in your practice might draw out deeply rooted feelings that result in sadness or melancholy, on balance open yourself to a growing sense of integration, bliss and fun.
Let your practice be your practice of moving into stillness and well being.

Chanting: We chant in Yoga in order to bring our voices together in community and experience the healing aspect of the vibration within our bodies. We chant the word OM (A-U-M) because it represents the sound of the Universe humming with energy. When chanting, take a deep inhale and let the sound come naturally on the exhale, letting it vibrate within you.

Namaste: Means that which is sacred in me sees, and honors, that which is sacred in you.

Simple answer: YOGA will make you more flexible but you will get so much more from regular yoga practice than being able to touch your toes.

Yoga is an inexpensive, natural tool to help you:

Strengthen Muscles
Improve Balance
Improves Immune Function
Improves Posture
Improves Lung Function
Leads to Slower and Deeper Breathing
Discourages Mouth Breathing
Increases Oxygenation of Tissues
Nourishes Intervertebral Disks
Improve Return of Venous Blood
Improves Joint Health
Increase Circulation of Lymph
Improve Function of the Feet
Improve Proprioception
Increase Control of Bodily Functions
Strengthens Bones
Condition the Cardiovascular System
Promote Weight Loss
Relax the Nervous System.
Improve the Function of the Nervous System
Improve Brain Function
Activate the Left Prefrontal Cortex
Change Neurotransmitter Levels
Lower Levels of the Stress Hormone Cortisol
Lower Blood Sugar
Lower Blood Pressure
Improve Levels of Cholesterol and Triglycerides
Thin the Blood
Improve Bowel Function
Release Unconscious Muscular Gripping
Use Imagery to Effect Change in the Body
Relieve Pain
Lower Need for Medication
Foster Healing Relationships
Improve Psychological Health
Lead to Healthier Habits
Foster Spiritual Growth
Elicit the Placebo Effect
Encourage Involvement in Your Own Healing
Be Present in Your Body

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