Yoga was designed originally to hold poses (asanas) for extended duration in order to be able to sit in meditation for long periods of time.
This comes from the definition of yoga and shows that yoga practice originally did include meditation focus as a goal. Then we see that it is good to teach both yoga and meditation for beginners.
The Definition of Yoga
Yoga is a mind and body practice with historical origins in ancient Indian philosophy. Various styles of yoga combine physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation.
The word “yoga” is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj meaning “Union” or “to yoke or join together.” Some people take this to mean a union of mind and body.
Yoga also means “to subjugate”, with the additional meaning of “to control” and “to disciplinate”.
So since it is like a yoke then it means that we wear it, like with the disciple and the Master (Teacher). This would be seen in the use of “to control” or “to disciplinate”.
Patanjali Yoga Sutras
When beginning yoga it is always good to look at its roots. The roots of yoga go back 5000 years but the most common high authority of modern yoga is the Patanjali Yoga Sutras.
Patanjali was a distinguished yogi in ancient India and around 200-400AD, Patanjali composed the Yoga Sutras (texts), which today is considered the main high authority on yoga definition and practice.
In the Yoga Sutras Patanjali offers us Ashtanga Yoga (Eightfold or Eightlimbed Yoga) which describes the eight limbs that together constitute Raja Yoga. His “eight limbs” of yoga still inform practice today and discuss posture, breathing, meditation and correct living.
The 8 Limbs of Yoga are:
YAMA – Restraints, moral disciplines or moral vows.
NIYAMA – Positive duties or observances.
ASANA – Posture.
PRANAYAMA – Breathing techniques.
PRATYAHARA – Sense withdrawal.
DHARANA – Focused concentration.
DHYANA – Meditative absorption.
SAMADHI – Bliss or Enlightenment.
This gives the definition of yoga clearly and shows the practice as we see it commonly of exercises (asanas) and breath management (pranayama) in the regular yoga practice. It further goes to show how we take that yoga practice into focused concentration (dharana) for the purpose of dhyana meditation which has as its goal to lead to samadhi (absorption). This shows how yoga is made to lead as its goal to meditation and samadhi.
The Purpose of Yoga
As we see the original context of yoga was spiritual development practices to train the body and mind to self observe and become aware of its own nature. The purposes of yoga were to cultivate discernment, awareness, self-regulation and higher consciousness in the individual.
There are many reasons why it is good to do yoga. Yoga poses stretch your muscles and increase your range of motion. Even though yoga is not aerobic, some research finds it can be just as good as aerobic exercise for improving health. Does yoga require strength? Yes. It takes a lot of strength to hold your body in a balanced pose.
What Yoga Can Do For Your Body
Researchers have found that yoga outperformed aerobic exercise at improving balance, flexibility, strength, pain levels among seniors, menopausal symptoms, daily energy level, and social and occupation functioning, among other health parameters. Yoga does more than calm you down and make you flexible.
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Yoga Health Benefits
Practicing yoga has many potential health benefits including relieving low back pain, assisting with stress management and increasing balance and flexibility.
Other physical benefits of yoga include:
- Increased flexibility.
- Increased muscle strength and tone.
- Improved respiration, energy and vitality.
- Maintaining a balanced metabolism.
- Cardio and circulatory health.
- Improved athletic performance.
- Improved athletic performance.
- Protection from injury.
And in addition to these benefits yoga can:
- Reduce stress.
- Increase your concentration.
- Help you understand the mind and body connection.
- Gain strength and stamina.
- Improve balance and stability.
- Improve posture.
- Develop body awareness.
Yoga offers self-reflection, the practice of kindness and self-compassion, and continued growth and self-awareness. For beginners to yoga these benefits prove to be so helpful and make yoga attractive as a body-mind-spirit practice for self developement.
Which Type Of Yoga Is Best For Beginners?
When starting yoga it is good to first take some beginners classes. Beginners’ classes are for exactly what they seem to be – for learning the basics and foundations of yoga.
Also when starting yoga you must decide what you want to get from yoga? Are you looking for a vigorous workout? Or maybe just a way to relieve stress? Or are you looking for yoga to lead you to meditation?
If you want to look for a way to start connecting with yourself spiritually, we recommend beginning a meditation practice. Many studios offer free meditation sessions that also introduce yoga philosophy and chanting.
Many teachers are more than happy to give guidance and adjustments during the class. There are almost always ways to modify postures to make them suitable for you, whether you’re a beginner, injured, or are just having an “off” day.
Yoga And Meditation
People often ask if yoga is a spiritual thing? It is not a religion but can be used for the spiritual. As we say the word yoga means to join or unite, and yogis view this unison in different ways, like the unison of body, mind and spirit, or uniting all the aspects of yourself, or uniting with a higher power or spiritual force. You can believe in a God or gods, or nothing at all. It is best to believe in a Higher Power, that sustains and supports the meditation. Many meditators view this as “our Supply.”
Proper yoga is to be practiced in a sequence, with the end purpose of meditation and concentration kept in mind. First, the breathing and stretching exercises are perfected. This requires the student to take his or her exterior senses and to draw them inward.
Then, the student focuses his or her concentration on an individual item, such as a candle flame or a spot on the wall. This is done to build concentration and focus the mind, trying to be “one pointed”.
It’s not hard to do meditation. Don’t run away from it even if you think you are poor at it. It doesn’t matter if you are not an “old pro” when starting it.
Start with five or ten minutes at a time. Don’t push or force it.
Close your eyes, stay in a comfortable position and just BE. If you want you can listen to your favorite song, or sounds of nature or even the sound of your own breath. A very good way to meditate is by breath watching. This is a form of pranayama and can be used to calm the breath which can result in calming the mind.
We see here the origins of yoga and how its definitions point to the link between yoga and meditation. Beginners can learn these definitions and apply them to a proper yoga meditation practice that can be fruitful and beneficial to body-mind and spirit.
Lastly, as the meditation grows and progresses, and this may take years of steady dedication and practice, the student becomes a master and is able to fully achieve inner peace. This requires one to fully remove himself or herself from the world, and to achieve a feeling of timelessness and serenity (peace).
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