Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Understanding Yoga Fitness

If you are brand new to practicing yoga you will probably find that understanding its historical background will give you a good context around yoga fitness and why you are doing it. By understanding that yoga is not just physical activity but also a full lifestyle approach you'll come to appreciate its complete health benefits.

No one really knows who first developed yoga except for the fact that it seemed to have originated somewhere in the Indus Valley regions of Northern India. References to yoga first appeared in both archaeological and written references about 3000 to 5000 years ago. The first compilation of yoga practices seems to have appeared about 2200 years ago with the publication of a book called the 'Yoga Sutras' by the author Patanjali.

The Yoga Sutras are a compilation of 196 yoga principles and philosophy that are meant to be memorized and incorporated into one's lifestyle. These principles have become to be known as the foundation of Raja Yoga with a primary focus on the mind taming the body and enhancing the spirit.

The Raja Yoga discipline as described in the sutras is divided into eight steps - otherwise known as the eight 'limbs'. Each step focuses on aspects around lifestyle, purity, body, breathing and meditation. Here is a high level description of each:

1. Yama - abstentions for living virtuously such as truth, non-violence and continence
2. Niyama - observances and disciplines for mind and body
3. Asana - bodily postures for meditation
4. Pranayama - regulated breath and control of the life force
5. Pratyahara - sensory withdrawal of the mind from the physical world
6. Dharana - meditative concentration on an object - knowing you are meditating
7. Dhyana - meditation with no consciousness of the act of meditation
8. Samadhi - enlightenment

As you probably noticed modern yoga, as it is typically practiced today, is heavily influenced by steps three and four - the Asana and Pranayama limbs. Most modern yoga fitness programs are related to the practices of Raja Yoga in the form of Hatha Yoga which is a system focused on physical purification to assist the later meditative effects of steps five through nine. Hatha Yoga is comprised of a large number of bodily postures designed to develop balance, poise and strength.

Today, the mainstream instruction of yoga includes many body positions and breathing exercises that have been found to be extremely beneficial to personal well being, fitness and health. Practiced over time yoga can become a path to improving anyone's lifestyle. By combining this practice with the additional Raja 'limbs', yoga can lead you an enlightened life change.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Yoga and Agelessness

If you've ever seen anyone in their 60's, 70's or 80's who are avid practitioners of yoga you understand the amazing youthful benefits it can provide.

Susan Barclay, a hypnotherapist and exercise instructor, is the producer of "Light Moves" - an exercise video, released in 2005, that uses stretching, balancing and strengthening exercises to strengthen your mind, body, and spirit. She has been involved with the practice and teaching of yoga fitness for years, and says that the concept of agelessness comes from some of the principles of yoga.

The goal of "Light Moves" is to improve flexibility in the mind, body and spirit.
"The secret of Light Moves' power lies in the combination of carefully choreographed moves, specially designed music, and positive statements (called Reflections) that use the transformative energy of your own inner resources."

Barclay says that learning agelessness is learning to stay healthy in body, mind and spirit to live life as fully as possible each moment. Agelessness involves listening to the inner self and being only as old as a person feels, not letting society determine how a person is supposed to act or feel based on a number.

"The Instructional Segments lead you through yoga- and Pilates-style stretches,
balance moves and strengthening exercises. As in Tai-Chi, the moves flow
into one another like a sensuous dance. And once you can do the moves
comfortably, the Performance Segment alone will guide your workout. There,
you'll hear the Reflections voiced softly but clearly in the background.
Since your conscious mind is focused on movement, the Reflections are
mostly heard at an unconscious level. This increases your power to use the
positive statements to bring about the changes you want to see and feel in

You can check out Light Moves here!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Yoga Postures - The Warrior

I just happened to be browsing - Life Videopedia today and came across Orly Burstein's videos on some basic yoga positions. She is a yoga instructor from Florida with seven years of experience. Her online yoga fitness videos seem very practical and useful.

I had never seen before - which seems like a very interesting idea. Here is a quote from their site:

"The idea behind 5min is very simple: any solution can be visually explained in no more than 5 minutes. Our goal is to create the first communal Life Videopedia allowing users from all over the globe to contribute their knowledge by sharing visual guides in areas such as arts, business, fashion, sports, health, tech, food, and much more."

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Yoga Meditation Visualized - Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati

I found this interesting yoga video overview of the inner goal of Yoga on Google videos. As you can see, yoga fitness is not just physical but includes the mind.

The goal of Yoga is Yoga itself, union itself, of the little self and the True Self, a process of awakening to the preexisting union that ... all » is called Yoga. Yoga has to do with the realization through direct experience of the center of consciousness, the preexisting union between Atman and Brahman, Jivatman and Paramatman, and Shiva and Shakti, or the realization of Purusha standing alone as separate from Prakriti.

Yoga, Sankhya, Vedanta, and Tantra view the human as manifesting outward step-by-step, whereby the subtler consciousness projects evermore outward, and then gradually forgets those subtler levels. Genesis also explains this outward movement when seen through the eye of the Yogi or mystic.

Yoga is complete unto itself. In Yoga, each level of our being is trained independently, while also being trained to flow together. The systematic processes deal one-by-one with our actions in the world, senses, body, breath, and both the conscious and unconscious aspects of mind.

Yoga or "Union" is attained by first training, balancing, and purifying each of the aspects of our being individually, and then systematically receding attention inward through those levels, expanding so as to experience the state of Union, Yoga, Samadhi, or Turiya.

Whether you call it Grace, God, Guru, Shaktipat, or some other name, the greatest help of all finally comes from within to remove the final barrier of ignorance (Avidya). This final stage is a process that has been called piercing the pearl of wisdom (Bindu). A Yogi does not debate whether the Realization is called Yoga, Self, Atman, Soul, or God, etc., but rather, lives "in" the world while not being "of" the world.

The Realized Yogi lives like a lotus flower. The lotus is both "in" the world, yet not "of" the world. It grows in the soil and water of the world, yet rises above it at the same time. It goes outward (Adhyasa), but is not blinded by Ignorance (Avidya) of its true nature.

Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati


Yoga Fitness

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