Since June 21, 2015 the International Day of Yoga has been celebrated all over the planet. But why did yoga become so popular and what is yoga actually? Most people think yoga is a form of fitness, however, it is much more than that. The word yoga can be translated from Sanskrit – an ancient Indian language, as yoke, or union. It is the union of mind and body. “Yoga is an art, a science, and a philosophy. It touches the life of man at every level — physical, mental, and spiritual.” Quote from BKS Iyengar. The yoga we recognize the most started after BKS Iyengar came over from India to the United States in the 60s, to teach yoga to westerners. Originally yoga was mostly meditation with breath work. A few yoga poses came later to help a student of yoga sit easier in mediation.
How can you start practicing yoga? The simplest act is to become aware of your breath. Controlling your breath can help energize you when you are feeling tired or calm you if you are feeling stressed. Calm and steady breathing creates a quiet mind. Close your eyes (not while walking or driving) inhale and exhale. As you become aware of your breath start mentally counting while you inhale and then begin the count again, while you exhale. Try to balance your count while you inhale and you exhale. Example 4 count inhale to 4 count exhale ratio 4:4. This will help quiet your mind and reduce anxiety. When tired, increase your inhale count while shortening your exhale ratio 6:4. When trying to go to sleep shorten inhales while lengthening your exhales ratio 4:6.
Another way to practice yoga is to meditate. Usually when you attend a yoga class, there will be a short mediation at the beginning or end of class. You can also try meditation on your own. Start with 2 to 3 minutes, increase time when it becomes easier. I have a mind that is super active. To help me meditate, I’ve downloaded the free app, Headspace. The app offers short, recorded meditations that usually include breathing exercises. Other resources are YouTube, the public library, or type “meditation” into your search engine, and you will find recordings that will help you start meditating.
Finally, some in-home tips for practicing yoga poses that will help you with breath awareness, meditation, and will boost your natural defenses.
By Vivian Prapuolenis
in collaboration with Kira Fomenko.
Volunteers of the Muévete program