Providing the body and mind with a multitude of health benefits, yoga practice is an ancient art that originated over 5,000 years ago in India. Sanskrit, an Indo-European language, was used to give yoga poses and sequences their name – from Savasana, or ‘corpse’ pose, which encourages total relaxation of the body, to Chaturanga Dandasana, or four-limbed staff pose, which activates the core and resembles a plank-like posture. Whilst practising yogis exercise this art for a variety of purposes, yoga generally aims to create a harmonic connection between the body and mind, placing emphasis on the core (both physically and spiritually).
The beauty of yoga is that it can be adapted to suit everybody. There is a common, yet incorrect assumption that yoga can only be practised by those who are young and flexible; however, thanks to the wide variations available in each posture and sequence, literally anybody – no matter your age, shape or ability – can take part in this fascinating art. Yoga is loved by many due to its resounding ability to prove what the human body is truly capable of – mentally, physically and spiritually.
Yoga is strongly recommended due to the multitude of health benefits that it provides. To name just a few, this practise stretches the capacity of the body and mind to become stronger and more flexible, whilst helping to improve everyday posture. Yoga is also known for its holistic properties, which involve helping to boost your general fitness level whilst instilling a more peaceful state of mind – both on and off the yoga mat. Yoga has also been shown to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, whilst helping to boost overall circulation and support the joints. An all-round health booster, yoga also helps heighten your immunity and drains lymph.
‘Namaste’, a term you will most likely have come across, originates from yoga practise. With ‘Nama’ meaning ‘bow’, and ‘te’ meaning ‘you’, this term emphasises the connection that yoga establishes – literally meaning that you are bowing to your heart and soul. A beautiful practise, there are hundreds of moves that you can try:
- Downward Facing Dog
This pose encourages a satisfying stretch in the hamstrings, and, if done correctly, works to strengthen the core whilst stretching the upper and lower body. Resulting in an upside down ‘v’ shape, this pose involves starting in plank position and lifting your hips high in the air.
- Cat/Cow Pose
This pose incurs a very satisfying stretch in the lower back, and is perfect for those who spend a long time sitting down. Starting on all fours, lift your hips up and lower your belly for a stretch in the abdomen – before lowering the tail down and tucking in the core for a stretch across the lower and mid back. This pose is great for improving balance and reducing feelings of stress.
- Child’s Pose
Starting with your feet touching and your knees hip width apart, this pose results in the yogi stretching their arms out overhead, whilst lowering and resting their hands and forehead on the yoga mat. Working to stretch the hips, thighs and ankles, this pose helps to relax the muscles and is intensely calming.
There are endless yoga sequences, or asanas, that you can try – and you can find inspiration either online or in yoga magazines. Yoga is not only thought to significantly improve health, but also increase life expectancy – so why not give it a go?