A group of bats, hanging from the ceiling of a cave, discover a single bat STANDING upright below them on the floor of the cave. Surprised by this unusual behavior, they ask, “What’s wrong with you? What are you doing down there?” The standing bat answers, “Yoga!”
The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “Yuj” meaning to yoke, join or unite. This implies joining or integrating all aspects of the individual – body with mind and mind with soul – to achieve a happy, balanced and useful life, and spiritually, uniting the individual with the supreme.
Asana is only one of the eight “limbs” of yoga, the majority of which are more concerned with mental and spiritual well-being than physical activity. Nowadays, the words asana and yoga are often used interchangeably.
Many people think that yoga is just stretching. But while stretching is certainly involved, yoga is really about creating balance in the body through developing both strength and flexibility. This is done through the performance of poses or postures, each of which has specific physical benefits. The poses can be done quickly in succession, creating heat in the body through movement or more slowly to increase stamina and perfect the alignment of the pose. The poses are a constant, but the approach to them varies depending on the tradition in which the teacher has trained.
The amazing thing about yoga is that your practice is always evolving and changing, so it never gets boring. Although the poses themselves do not change, your relationship to them will.
There are numerous benefits when practicing yoga. Since you move in such a calm, slow and deliberate way, your whole body, and mind benefits. Some studies conducted with people doing yoga on a regular basis have found that yoga:
– Keeps your mind sharper, because it controls the level of cortisol, also known as stress hormone.
– It slows down weight gain
– It slows down the process of aging
– It helps improve sleep
Not too bad for an exercise where you do not force anything just go as far as your body and mind will let you.