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Yoga. The very word elicits imageries of complex poses and impossible to follow exercises, preferred only by those who are looking for increasing strength and flexibility at the same time. At least that's what most modern yoga institutes sell it as. But if you look at ancient Indian texts, yoga is much more than just a route to physical fitness. It encompasses the totality of your being including the physical, mental, emotional as well as spiritual aspects of one’s life.

Regular practice of yoga and yoga asanas helps discipline the mind and body, creating more balanced individuals who are able to take an active part in everyday life. It reduces stress, improves focus and reduces the risk of various health conditions that occur due to improper diet and poor lifestyle choices. Sure you'll have to wake up on time or keep some time aside for your daily practice. Quite a lot to gain with such a small price.

Due to increasing awareness, the previous decade has seen a resurgence in yoga practices not just in India but all over the world. Several new methods of yoga have evolved. They have a more scientific approach and are well suited to the modern lifestyle; so even if you are a skeptic, you can relate to these procedures and reap the benefits.

  1. Benefits of Yoga
  2. Types of yoga
  3. Modernization of yoga
  4. Common Yoga Protocol
  5. Yoga tips for beginners
  6. Precautions to take for good yoga practice

Yoga provides both transient contentment and long term health benefits. Research studies indicate that regular practice of yoga is not only effective in reducing the risk of physical and mental ailments but it also helps improve the quality of life. In fact, it has been suggested to be the most cost-effective method to be used along with behavioural therapies to instill self-confidence and a feeling of self-efficiency in people.

A recent study published in the International Journal of Yoga demonstrated the positive effect of yoga asanas in increasing the CD4 count in HIV positive individuals, leading to significant improvement in immunity.

It is also beneficial in improving body posture and metabolic functions in the body.

Moreover, yoga and meditation do not have any side effects if done properly and under the guidance of an experienced professional. So, it is definitely worth a try.

Yogas or yoga asanas can be characterised into different types depending on the level of focus needed and technique of practice. Some yoga methods are more into spiritual connection while others focus on increasing the strength of body and mind. So, one needs to choose according to their individual requirements. Let us take a look at some of the traditional types of yoga:

Raja Yoga 

Raj Yoga means the 'Royal Path'. Also known as 'Ashtanga Yoga', it comprises 8 branches, gradually leading to the overall development of the individual. These eight branches are as follows:

  • Yama (self- control)
  • Niyama (self-discipline)
  • Asana (physical exercises)
  • Pranayama (breath exercises)
  • Pratyahara (controlling your senses)
  • Dharana (meditation)
  • Dhyana (concentration)
  • Samadhi (complete realisation)

(Read more: Anulom Vilom Pranayama steps and benefits)

Raja yoga helps in calming the mind and relaxing the body. It can prove to be a good option if you want to increase your concentration and clarity.

(Read more: Kapalbhati pranayama steps and benefits)

Karma Yoga
The next type of yoga is karma yoga, which focuses on a person's perspective towards life and the way he behaves with the people around him. Karma yoga works on the idea that all we have or face today is actually ascertained by our past deeds. Whenever we practice selflessness, humble our ego and try to serve others, we are actually on the path to Karma yoga.

Japa yoga

Japa is a Hindi word which means repetition. This type of yoga involves repetitive chanting and remembrance of almighty. Though it is more spiritual in nature, Japa yoga is said to increase concentration and focus.

Bhakti yoga

Bhakti yoga, as the name suggests, is actually a path of devotion. However, just like Japa yoga, it helps improve concentration, and in controlling your emotions and senses. This path leads us to self-acceptance, mental peace and universal tolerance. It also helps to find subconscious issues so they can be resolved with ease.

Gyan yoga

Gyan yoga is yet another traditional method that helps concentrate and improve mental capabilities. However, it is considered one of the most difficult ways to do yoga as it takes a lot of patience.

The traditional methods of yoga do not really fit into the modern paradigm. So, in the 21st century, yoga techniques have been modified to suit the fast-paced lifestyle. Yoga is no longer a traditional practice, it has become a huge industry. Let us take a look at some of the modernised versions of yoga:

Power yoga

It is a variant of Ashtanga Yoga that focuses solely on physical fitness. In this technique, Ashtanga asanas are performed with a greater speed along with some additional core exercises. The repetitions or order of exercises also vary as per individual needs and sometimes power yoga is performed along with music or beats. Regular practice of power yoga leads to an increase in internal heat, stamina, focus, strength and flexibility. In addition, power yoga also helps in increasing the focus and balance of the body.

Yin Yoga

Another modern type of yoga is Yin yoga. In this type of yoga, the body is allowed to rest in a certain position, so that the mind is focussed on the asana and would be more present at the moment. Experienced practitioners can sit for up to an hour in the same position, leading to improved body circulation and better endurance. If sitting still is a problem for you, yin yoga can also be performed along with some light music.

Clinical studies demonstrate that yin yoga is effective in increasing mindfulness and relaxation when done regularly. It has also been found to be highly beneficial in treating depression and other mental issues.

Hot yoga

This a type of Hatha yoga, in which exercises are performed in hot and humid conditions. It is also known as Bikram yoga after the name of its discoverer Bikram Chaudhary. Hot yoga improves lower body strength, lower and upper body range of motion and balance in healthy adults. Moreover, in the case of older obese population, hot yoga improves glucose tolerance level.

There are many other benefits to this yoga along with a belief that one loses weight while performing it. The temperature and humidity along with intense postures are said to significantly add to its efficiency; however, there is no scientific study proving this till date.

In fact, hot yoga has been found to lead to dehydration in some cases. Hence, the consumption of water is a must with this yoga. Also, due to excessive sweating, there are more chances of injuries; so, it is recommended to follow the directions of your instructor carefully.

Yoga can be really beneficial if included as a part of the daily routine. It may help you to get rid of illness and stress but only if performed in the correct way. There are certain rules to practice yoga, if you follow them diligently, they will surely benefit you and give you the best results.

Before the practice

  • Sauca. This means cleanliness. It is an essential prerequisite of performing yoga. This means that you need to have a clean environment to perform yoga. Your body and mind also need to be clean enough to perform yoga. Empty your bladder and bowel before starting a yoga practice.
  • Apart from cleanliness, a quiet and calm environment is also required.
  • Light cotton clothes should be preferred while performing yoga asanas as they are more comfortable and facilitate body movements
  • It is recommended not to conduct yoga practices if you are ill or exhausted.
  • People with certain illnesses like high blood pressure, glaucoma, sciatica and pregnant ladies should consult an expert before performing any asanas.
  • Also, some yoga asanas should be avoided by females during menstruation.

During the practice

Yoga timing: The best time to practice yoga is 1 or 2 hours before sunrise. If practising it in the morning is not feasible for you, you can also do it in the evening. Apart from this, the following points should be taken into consideration for maintaining a regular yoga practice:

  • Pick a particular time for your yoga sessions. Gradually your body will adapt and be prepared for the workout in advance.
  • Practice yoga on a yoga mat only. Too hard or too soft surfaces are not considered good for yoga practice.
  • You can practice yoga in a park or even at home. However, you must keep in mind that the environment around you should be clean and well- ventilated.

Mental state for yoga: Yoga has the potential to improve your physical as well as a mental state. It has proved to be really effective in decreasing anxiety and stress levels and may even help reduce depression. For better results, here is how your mental state should be before you start your yoga practice:

  • Think positive and optimistic thoughts.
  • Try to disconnect yourself from the outer world and focus more on your inner self.
  • Remember, that you should not be mentally exhausted before practising yoga or else you won't be able to focus on the exercises. And even if you feel tired, try and practice relaxing positions and exercises first.
  • Try to focus your mind on the exercise that you are practising. Also, concentrate on the part of the body for which you are practising that particular exercise. It will not only help you to stay present in the moment but also it makes you aware of any physical issues in your body.
  • It is very important to maintain a breathing pattern while you exercise. Along with improving oxygen supply to your body tissues, this increases mindfulness and overall brain function.
  • And finally, stay hydrated and have patience while practising yoga. It takes some time and a lot of practice to master some of the asanas. This is not a race so don’t push yourself.

Physical state for yoga:  Apart from the mental state, one should also focus on the physical requirements of yoga. Different yoga techniques demand a different physical state. Follow the yoga protocol properly for this. Along with the protocol, also remember the following points:

  • Start the yogasana with a prayer to relax your mind.
  • Do simple asanas in the beginning so your mind can focus on your breath and body.
  • Do not hold your breath unnecessarily. Note when you need to breathe with nostril and when with the mouth. You need to trust your body to learn the breathing technique properly.
  • While performing yoga, do not hold your body too tightly. Also, do not give any sudden jerks to your body, instead, try to ease your body into all the movements slowly and gently.
  • Know your capacity and do not push or overexert your body.
  • Sankalpa or meditation should be done at the end of the entire practice.

After practice

  • Take a bath 20-30 minutes after finishing your yoga practise
  • Have your food after taking a bath

If you are new to yoga and are planning to learn it, here are some points you should keep in mind.

  • Do not force your body to do certain exercises. Maintain your comfort levels.
  • Practice only those asanas which are easy for you. At all times, maintain a rhythmic breathing pattern.
  • Try to maintain a break between two asanas. Rest for a few seconds after every asana. However, you may cut short the duration once you become well trained.
  • Most yoga asanas have easy modifications for those who lack flexibility or are new to it. You can check them out to ease your body into the asana with time.
  • Instead of doing random asanas, make a series of asanas that merge into each other, for example, the Surya Namaskar series of asana. This way every previous asana would prepare your body for the next asana, making it seem easier.
  • It is usually believed that females should not practice yoga during their periods. However, there is no hard and fast rule regarding this. Talk to a yoga teacher to know the right asanas you can do during your periods as per your physical fitness and capability.
  • If you are pregnant, it is recommended that you practice yoga under the guidance of trained personnel or guru.
  • Children who are less than the age of 10 years should only practice easy asanas.
  • Maintain a balanced diet and eat healthy and nutritious food.
  • Smoking should be strictly avoided.

(Read more: Disadvantages of smoking and benefits of quitting smoking)

  • Take at least 7-8 hours of sleep. Along with nutritious food and exercise, the human body also requires proper rest. It is important that you get sound sleep and avoid staying up late at night.

(Read more: How to fall asleep)

और पढ़ें ...

References

  1. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Yoga for health
  2. Catherine Woodyard. Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life . Int J Yoga. 2011 Jul-Dec; 4(2): 49–54. PMID: 22022122
  3. Arndt Büssing et al. Effects of Yoga on Mental and Physical Health: A Short Summary of Reviews . Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012; 2012: 165410. PMID: 23008738
  4. Rosy Naoroibam et al. Effect of Integrated Yoga (IY) on psychological states and CD4 counts of HIV-1 infected patients: A randomized controlled pilot study . Int J Yoga. 2016 Jan-Jun; 9(1): 57–61. PMID: 26865772
  5. Ministry of AYUSH, Govt. of India. Types of Yoga. [Internet]
  6. Leah Cullis. Power Yoga: Strength, Sweat, and Spirit. Human Kinetics, 2019 [Internet]
  7. Kassandra Reinhardt. Yin Yoga: Stretch the mindful way. DK Books, 4th 2018 [Internet]
  8. Hylander F et al. Yin yoga and mindfulness: a five week randomized controlled study evaluating the effects of the YOMI program on stress and worry. Anxiety Stress Coping. 2017 Jul;30(4):365-378. PMID: 28286971
  9. Zoe L. Hewett et al. The Effects of Bikram Yoga on Health: Critical Review and Clinical Trial Recommendations . Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015; 2015: 428427. PMID: 26504475
  10. Casey J Mace Firebaugh, Brandon Eggleston. Hydration and Hot Yoga: Encouragement, Behaviors, and Outcomes . Int J Yoga. 2017 May-Aug; 10(2): 107–109. PMID: 28546683
  11. Hunter SD et al. Improvements in glucose tolerance with Bikram Yoga in older obese adults: a pilot study. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2013 Oct;17(4):404-7. PMID: 24138995
  12. Ministry of AYUSH, Govt. of India. Common Yoga Protocol 2017. [Internet]