Stemming from India’s complex spiritual traditions, yoga has the reputation of unifying body, mind and spirit. However, today, many people choose it for non-religious reasons. It is an exercise regimen that is gentle enough for almost anyone.
The term is a derivation of a Sanskrit word that means union. In its more common usage, the term refers to the poses or asanas that are one of the means to achieving a sense of well being. The poses combine stretching with controlled breathing. There may also be meditative segments and guided imagery.
The best approach is to establish a consistent schedule of practice. Though most people think of yoga as involving extreme poses, variations are available so beginners who are not fit or flexible can still participate. All one needs is a mat, some comfortable clothing, and a teacher. Many options are available. These range from classes at community centers to events at yoga studios
It may take some experimenting to find the class that best suits one’s body because they vary in intensity. A good place to start is in Hatha classes where the poses are simpler and the pace slower.
People who suffer from asthma or PMS may find relief through yoga. Stress reduction is another problem that can be addressed through practicing the asanas. One reason is that the required breath control takes focus. The mind is forced to relinquish its attachment to other thoughts. The body becomes relaxed and positive energy returns.
Here is one asana anyone can try now as long as the back is healthy. It is called the cat pose. It increases familiarity with the body’s center and helps with coordinating movement and breathing. Begin on all fours, preferably on a padded surface so that there will be less pressure on the knees. Make sure the hands are straight down from the shoulders and the knees are straight down from the hips. Rock forward and back gently to find the place where the spine is straight and the body is balanced. Inhale. On the exhale, pull the abdominal muscles up and curve the spine. Drop the head so there is a single semi-circular line running from the base of the spine to the top of the head. Inhale and release the pose.
Though yoga requires consistent and serious effort, the rewards for perseverance are great. Not only does the body become stronger, the mind also gains strength and a sense of calm.