Yoga

Yoga

Yoga combines physical exercises, mental meditation, and breathing techniques to strengthen the muscles and relieve stress.

Purpose

 Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years as a life philosophy to join the individual self with what practitioners call the Divine, Universal Spirit, or Cosmic Consciousness. However, very few individuals in the United States as of 2004 practiced yoga in this way; rather, yoga is performed as part of an exercise program to increase general health, reduce stress, improve flexibility and muscle strength, and alleviate certain physical symptoms, such as chronic pain . Because yoga is a low-impact activity and can include gentle movements, it is commonly used as part of physical therapy and rehabilitation of injuries.

Clinical and psychological studies have demonstrated that performing yoga has the following benefits:

  • Physical postures strengthen and tone muscles, and when performed in rapid succession, can provide cardiovascular conditioning.
  • Meditation and deep breathing can reduce stress, thereby lowering blood pressure and inducing relaxation.
  • Mind/body awareness can influence mood and self-esteem to improve quality of life.

In addition to exercise and stress reduction, yoga is also used therapeutically to help children and adolescents with medical conditions. Yoga instructors experienced in adapting yoga postures for individuals with special needs teach yoga to children and adolescents with Down syndrome cerebral palsy , seizure disorders, spinal cord injury , multiple sclerosis, cancer ,autism , Asperger’s syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), psychiatric disorders, learning disabilities, and other disabilities to help improve physical and mental functioning. Many physicians may recommend yoga for patients with hypertension asthma , stress-related disorders, and depression. Growing interest in alternative and complementary medicine has increased the popularity of yoga in the United States and spurred research into its medical benefits. Many hospitals offer alternative or integrative medicine centers that include yoga classes.

Some yoga instructors have even pioneered yoga for infants and toddlers, practiced with one or both parents. Yoga for infants and toddlers can improve sleep , ease digestive problems, facilitate neuromuscular development, strengthen the immune system, deepen parent-child bonds, serve as an outlet for creative play and self-expression, and reduce stress and anxiety for both parents and children.

KEY TERMS

Asana —A position or stance in yoga.

Dyana —The yoga term for meditation.

Hatha yoga —A form of yoga using postures, breathing methods, and meditation.

Meditation —A practice of concentrated focus upon a sound, object, visualization, the breath, movement, or attention itself in order to increase awareness of the present moment, reduce stress, promote relaxation, and enhance personal and spiritual growth.

Pranayama —The yoga practice of breathing cirrectly and deeply.

Yogi (female, yogini) —A trained yoga expert.