Yoga is the journey of the Self, through the Self, to the Self

– The Bhagavad Gita -

Most people associate yoga with stretching, relaxing and gentle movement. Some think of it as an eastern spiritual practice working with energy chakras through mantras and meditation. The truth is yoga is yoga can be none or all of above, and yoga can be what you want it to be.

The aim of yoga is to create synergy and harmony between your mind, body and spirit. It’s a process of returning to your real essence where you practice how to remove yourself from suffering, stereotypical perceptions and ego-driven actions and objectives while you focus on just becoming present.

Yoga will certainly help you burn calories, manage your weight, balance hormones and bodily functions, but if you want to work towards overall well-being and health, yoga is the best exercise to get you there because of its holistic approach.

It is thus no wonder that Yoga is increasing in its popularity as we continue to search for bliss, peace and balance in today’s stressed, broken and confused world.

Whether you are new at yoga or ready to take your practice to the next level, we’ve included a range of yoga resources, documentaries and online yogis to help you do so with ease.

Quiet mind
"The best cure for the body is a quiet mind" - Napolean Bonaparte - Image by Faye Cornish on Unsplash
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What is Yoga?

Yoga is a Sanskrit word that means ‘to bind together’, ‘to join’ or to ‘bring union’. Yoga is about creating and harmony in us and the world as we manage and balance the mental, spiritual and physical aspects of ourselves. It is a process of self-acceptance, compassion and kindness and the yoga philosophy also believes that we should show the same treatment towards the world we move in.

Sanskrit is an ancient Indo-Aryan language and most of the classical yoga terms are still in this language.

If you’ve heard that yoga is a type of exercise, that is also true. A lot of modern yogis tend to focus their practice around the physical benefits of yoga. These include breathing exercises (pranayama), relaxation poses, stretching and building physical strength in their bodies.  Through combining a range of asanas (poses), they build congruence, endurance and mobility in their bodies.

Yoga is however much more than slow, conscientious movement with focused breathing. It has a rich history in spiritual practices and also includes aspects like meditation, mindfulness, chanting, considered consciousness and awareness.

Yoga and its associated meditation methodologies are great for creating a blissful state of mind. It is, in fact, so efficient that it actually rewires the brain to have more positive thoughts, to become more compassionate and quieten the mind chatter that might cause anxiety and stress in us.

Yoga changes the brain
Yoga can rewire your brain to think more positive thoughts - Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The Versatility and Accessibility of Yoga

Whether you want to have a toned and healthy body, relaxed mind or connect with your deeper self, yoga is all about you and the benefits you seek from the practice. Suitable for all ages, fitness levels and body types, yoga has morphed into a wide variety of styles and types and if you want to steer clear from its spiritual aspects and focus more on the physical workout, you can do so as well.

There is something for everyone in yoga.

By doing a fast vinyasa yoga, hot yoga or power yoga session you can sweat and improve your cardiovascular health, while the more restorative types of yoga can soothe your body and muscles. Here are some of the other yoga styles you can research and look into:

  • Vinyasa Yoga
  • Hatha yoga
  • Kundalini yoga
  • Yin Yoga
  • Yoga Nidra
  • Power Yoga
  • Hot Yoga
  • Bikram Yoga
  • Ashtanga Yoga

The most important part in doing yoga is to listen to your body. Good yoga instructors will help you prevent injury and guide you into moving safely in and out of poses and you can either attend group classes at the nearest yoga studio or gym, or use one of the online yoga teachers we have on Superprof to get you started.

Yoga can be hard
Yoga can be easy or tough, it can help improve your fitness or your mindfulness. You decide the style of yoga you enjoy most - Image by Dmitriy Frantsev on Unsplash

Meditation and Its Benefits

If you think meditation is reserved for Buddhist monks in a monastery, think again. More and more Hollywood stars, CEOs and everyday people are adopting yoga and meditation as a means of managing stress, improving focus and cultivating greater physical and mental health.

In today’s modern world we’re getting bombarded with stimulus, stress and technology from every corner. Our brains are constantly over-stimulated by external stimuli and we end up feeling anxious, stressed and even of touch with ourselves. Meditation is your answer if this is you and luckily it’s a skill that can be practiced.

But what is meditation?

Meditation can be seen as a mental exercise where a range of meditation techniques are used to help people train their brain in becoming more aware, achieve mental clarity and focus, while creating a state of calmness and bliss in them. Different meditation techniques and methods are usually incorporated in yoga classes, especially the more relaxing, introspective type of classes.

Start your meditation practice today with the Body Scan Meditation or one of the online resources below.

The Lotus Flower
The Lotus flower is quite prominent in yoga and symbolises purity, regeneration, enlightenment and birth - Image by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

Yoga Resources

Like any other hobby, sport or interest, the more you understand how it works, why it’s being done a certain way and how to do it correctly, the more you’ll be able to lean into it and enjoy it. There are so many resources available that can help you become a better yogi and we’ve listed some to get you started.

Books

We know books are old school, but it’s great to keep them and refer back to its wisdom the more you get into yoga. If you are not a reader we hope you can find an audiobook version.

  • The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – The practice of non-attachment has been part of yoga philosophy since its origins. Known as one of the first scriptures to capture yoga philosophy, this book is a must for any yogi or yoga teacher with an interest in understanding the roots of yoga.
  • Light on Yoga: B.K.S Iyengar – Describing over 200 yoga postures with some great illustrations, this book from 1966 is a classic from one of the fathers of modern yoga.
  • Science of Yoga (Ann Swanson) – If you are focused on doing it scientifically correct, and not into much mambo jumbo, this book is a practical yoga guide that dives into the anatomy and physiology of almost every pose you’ll encounter.
  • Yoga and the Quest for the True Self – This fantastic philosophical book by Stephen Cope delves into the ancient promise of yoga as ‘the way of the fully alive human being’ and shows us how to encounter it deeply instead of wanting to dissolve it or change it.
  • Meditation and Mantras - Swami Vishnu Devananda provides a simple and straight forward approach on how you can combine mantras and meditation to unlock spiritual wellbeing and focus.

Yoga Documentaries and Films

  • I am Maris is a film of compassion that takes you on the journey of Maris Degener as she discovers the healing powers of yoga. She manages to work through mental health challenges and find her won place in the world as she ultimately arrives at a place of acceptance. This is perfect for anyone who is new at yoga or have self-esteem issues and you can find it on Netflix.
  • Awake: The Life of Yogananda – Paramahansa Yogananda brought yoga and meditation to the west in 1920 and this film is an emotional and spiritually touching biography of his story on the path towards enlightenment. If you are more interested in meditation and consider yourself a ‘seeker’ then the movie is a must.
  • Yoga Unveiled is a DVD set that will take you through 500 years of knowledge, wisdom and evolution of this ancient practice. It’s great if you have a general interest in yoga, want to learn of the yoga masters or seek a comprehensive overview of yoga.
  • In pursuit of Silence is a 2015 film that helps us look at our relationship with noise and sound and how the act of becoming silent or silent reflection can set us up for a healthier and calmer life. If you are interested in meditation resources, this movie is a must.
  • Heal is a documentary film that takes on us a scientific and spiritual journey to understand how our thoughts, beliefs and emotions drive and impact our healing process. Science explains that we don’t have to be victims of our genetics and if you are looking for long-lasting life and a scientific explanation on miracles, this film will provide you with a fresh new perspective on healing.
  • Iyengar: The Man, Yoga and the Student’s Journey. World renowned yogi B.K.S Iyengar still demonstrates at the age of 90 how yoga allows us to move with flexibility and ease. This feature documentary is about his life, struggle and his path to establishing and teaching Iyengar yoga.
  • Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator, is a more recent, non-nonsense look at the rise and fall of Bikram Choudhury. Unfortunately, this provides a less favourable look at how yoga can be misused and misrepresented to take advantage of people. We have included it into the list due to its good ratings and it’s an important reminder that honouring and being true to yourself should always come first.
Yoga documentries
More and more documentaries and films are released to explain the benefits and impact yoga and meditation has on people's lives - Image by Glenn Carstens-peters on Unsplash

Yoga and Meditation Resources Online

You can also browse online to find a range of exciting teachers, yoga classes, guided meditations and tips to help you with your practice. So whether you need to correct your downwards facing dog, upward facing dog or take on a program to help you master your handstand, the new online yoga courses and guidance is in no shortage.

YouTube is an excellent resource for guided meditations and sample classes by some of the world’s most renowned speakers like Dylan Werner, Yoga with Adriene, Tara Stiles and Kino Yoga. Find the teacher you love and subscribe to their YouTube channels.

Yoga at its heart
The essence of yoga is unity, compassion, acceptance, balance and love. We wish all these things unto you - Image by Cameron Cress on Unsplash

Most yoga teachers now also release programs where you can subscribe to a ‘Yoga for Beginners’ program, yoga for back pain, yoga for anxiety and stress, yoga for runners and many more.

Last, and certainly our favourite online resource, is the help of an expert Superprof yoga tutor.  You can benefit from their expert instruction and knowledge while you practice at home. An online yoga teacher can also help you explore different styles in a safe, healthy and fun way, so what are you waiting for?

We hope this yoga journey will help you discover your true beauty as you learn to accept, love and nurture your own body.

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Mauritz

Writer and qualified yoga instructor, who is passionate about health and well-being.