By Sue Fuller
There are three key elements that form the basis for a sound yoga practice these are asanas (physical postures), pranayamas (breathing exercises) and meditation/relaxation techniques. When the elements are practiced regularly the combined benefits are immense.
Asanas will improve physical strength and flexibility and increase muscle tone helping to shape the body. Asanas also massage and stimulate the internal organs which will enhance the functions of all of the body’s systems and regulate hormone levels which will help to balance emotions. Asanas also gently warm the body and improve circulation which will assist with the natural elimination of toxins. The effects of folding, twisting and stretching the body help to release any physical tension providing benefits similar to those experienced from a deep massage.
Yoga asanas also improve our physical posture which contributes massively to overall health and well-being. Holding the body correctly helps to remove any muscular imbalances, prevents injuries, improves balance and eliminates minor aches and pains caused by incorrect weight distribution. The way we stand and sit also has a direct influence the digestive system, slouching restricts the organs and prevents them from functioning efficiently.
Yoga pranayamas are breathing exercises. Pranayama translates from Sanskrit to mean control of vital life force, prana being the vital life force and yama being the control or restraint. Prana is regarded as our main source of fuel although the breath contains oxygen prana is seen as the positive energy that is responsible for creation and healing, so the more prana we can absorb the theory is that the better we will feel. During normal breathing many of us only use a third of our lung capacity, pranayamas encourage us to breathe using the whole of the lungs which greatly increases the oxygen levels within your body. Performing pranayamas regularly will encourage the lungs to maintain their elasticity which gradually decreases as we age.
The meditation and relaxation techniques included in a complete yoga practice will reduce stress and induce a deep state of relaxation. They also enhance the ability to stay calm and think clearly during stressful situations and promote mental strength and emotional balance.
Asanas, pranayamas and relaxation/meditation techniques provide many benefits, and together they work to synchronise body and mind. Yoga practitioners become more aware of how they are feeling mentally and physically and are able to maintain equilibrium. This deep sense of balance and connection then filters into the wider world through positive deeds, actions and words which have the power to greatly influence all aspects of our lives.
It therefore begins to become evident that by just taking the first few steps along a yoga pathway many benefits can be enjoyed. These benefits can then lead to lifestyle changes and even help to manage the symptoms of minor illnesses. Very often the diet of a yoga practitioner completely transforms. Yoga practitioners become in tune with their body and surroundings and soon realise what is required by the body or mind to maintain a well-balanced, happy, healthy and calm disposition. Yoga practices and techniques soon filter further into the practitioners lives and many will say that yoga is part of their day to day routine, for example at times of need a slow deep breath can provide the time and space to allow us to think before we react. Yoga really can help to provide health, harmony balance and happiness for our life journey.
Sue Fuller is a leading yoga teacher, writer and well-being expert. She is the founder of www.yoga2hear.co.uk the online store where you can purchase her range of 40 audio yoga classes on Cd and MP3 download. Sue also owns www.wellbeingworldonline.com a one stop shop featuring high quality downloadable yoga, pilates, meditation, relaxation and sound healing classes from a worldwide collection of inspirational teachers and experts.