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Understanding Yoga

Understanding Yoga by Marcus Antebi

Some people are not enthused about Yoga because they don’t understand the tremendous benefits that the discipline offers.

Those who discover Yoga’s benefits participate in the practices and in meditation as well. Those activities help them learn to concentrate on breathing. All three of those things—practices, meditation, and breathing—are crucial to maintaining good health. Yoga’s asana postures keep our bodies active and allow us to keep all of our body parts in motion for as long as possible throughout our lives.

The amazing Yoga postures are a mixture of many different disciplines and concepts. For that reason, when you put together a series of asana practices you actually create a robust exercise system. Subsequently, you can either practice the same system daily or add new challenges after mastering the ones that you began with. Adding new challenges will enable you to grow, become stronger, focus more intensely, and connect you with your breathing and your body. And you can actually build muscles during yoga practices if you choose to do some of the harder exercises.

For many reasons, yoga practice is brilliant. It teaches you to make the spine mobile in all directions, keeping the spine and connective tissues limber. It helps to release trapped energy and bring new blood flow to areas that need repair and recovery. And while doing twists and bends, we are also tightening or contracting muscles while learning to become more limber and relax. 

Yoga practice entails a very wide range of postures that ensure strengthening and mobility in the joints from the wrists, elbows, and shoulders down to the hips, knees, and ankles. You can also expand your rib cage and the surrounding muscles, ligaments, and tendons, and you can move your neck in its maximum orbit.

You learn to sit with a straight spine, open up your heart, lift your chest up, lift the abdominal wall, pull in the anus, and pull in the lower abdomen. These are all incredibly powerful exercises that strengthen the body. You can learn to control and pull in the three bundas (muscle locks);  if one practices meditation with these engaged they will go much deeper because of the focus on the engagement of this region.

You can decide as you progress through any system if you want to add ancient Sanskrit chanting of positive messages, if you want to pray, if you want to completely empty your mind, or if you want to focus on one important thought. If you decide to focus on a particular great ancient teaching, over time you will become enlightened and get answers to questions that have eluded you for many years.

In movements during yoga exercises, it’s necessary to stay with all the feelings and sensations in the body, including pain. There are different types of pain in our body. Some of it is directly caused by emotions and is held within us. Feelings get trapped in areas of the body and cause tension. Sometimes daily activities, improper diet, and stimulation cause us to have very narrow breathing. Concentrating on breathing during yoga (as well as other forms of exercise) will improve that situation.

You can actually consider any movement that you do in your body to be Yoga if you practice that movement with mindfulness. This entails a number of things. You must bring yourself to the moment and connect with it, concentrate on breathing, connect with your movement, and try to do that movement correctly. A great time to do this is while walking—walking is a very crucial exercise for all people and it should not be neglected.

One issue regarding mobility is stress on the body caused by sitting for long periods of time while working, as many of us have to do. Sitting immobile at great length is harmful. This can be remedied if you do strengthening exercises in seated positions. It’s also helpful to get up and move around your office regularly, change seats when you can, or change your seating positions. Some find sitting in a prayer position or a lotus position or working while standing for short periods of time to be helpful.


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