Why do Yoga?

The word Yoga means 'union' - literally, the yoking of the individual spirit to the universal consciousness. Probably the first reference to it is in ancient Hindu scriptures called the Vedas, and in a beautiful verse parable called the Bhagavad Gita (Song of God), in which the god Krishna, disguised as a charioteer, expains the principles of yoga to the great warrior Arjuna.

Most modern yoga is based on the Yoga Sutras (verses), of the sage Patanjali, who laid down the principles of Raja Yoga (the 'Royal Road'). He described an eight-fold path to spiritual enlightenment, which included the performance of asanas (poses), pranayama (breathing exercises), and the development of dharana (concentration). The poses we use today are based on another ancient text called the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, which gives instructions for purifying, strengthening and increasing the flexibility of the body, with the ultimate aim of being able to sit completely motionless for long periods of meditation.

In the West, yoga has long been recognised for its physical as well as spiritual benefits. It is the only exercise which links body, breath and mind, and combines a physicality which can be quite demanding, with periods of complete relaxation. Yoga is a cleansing practice - it teases out the knots in our muscles, the stiffness in our joints and the inflexibility of our spines, and is unique in stimulating the endocrine (glandular) system and massaging the internal organs. It is suitable for all ages, both sexes, and can be adapted to suit almost all levels of fitness. There are some poses which are contra-indicated by certain medical conditions, but there is almost always a suitable substitute.

Without making extravagant claims, the practice of yoga can combat the physical ageing of our bodies, by keeping the spine flexible, the muscles long and strong and the mind calm and alert. The Chinese have a saying that you are only as old as your spine, and in these days of sitting for long periods at a keyboard (as I am now!), don't we all owe it to ourselves to give some attention to our bodies, and to learn to revel again in the wonderful machine we inhabit?

Remember - it's never too late to start, so don't put it off - see what yoga can do for you!

Sunpower Yoga Hove  www.sunpoweryoga-hove.co.uk    dianamoore1@gmail.com