By Gopi Rao
Around the world, many people wonder about the purpose of yoga. Yet, the practice of yoga has become more and more widespread in the last two decades. Primarily advanced as a healthy, less strenuous form of exercise, yoga’s popularity is due in large part to the fit and actively healthy life styles of those who practice it.
Because of this, some people are surprised to learn that yoga is not primarily designed as a fitness routine. Traditional forms of yoga are not geared toward aerobic activity and weight loss; in fact, yoga was originally designed to calm people down. Instead of increasing heart rates and jump-starting metabolic conditions, yoga actually slows the body down, and that includes a person’s metabolism.
Many readers might be surprised to learn that the original intention of yoga was to cultivate self-discipline and self-awareness through a physical development of spiritual principles. For example, the breathing techniques and focus on balance that a typical session emphasizes was originally thought of as a way for yogis to connect with their inner consciousness and meditative needs.
If it was initially a meditative practice, yoga worked its way into mainstream exercise routines by marketing itself as a fitness tool offering many advantages that hurried people were seeking in an exercise program – lower stress levels, advanced relaxation techniques, and greater physical flexibility. And it has been true that consistent yogis, through an increased awareness of their bodies and a steadily progressing interest in healthy living, have been able to shed excess pounds while strengthening their limbs and core.
Different yoga traditions like Bikram, a relatively new form of yoga that practices the same series of poses in a heated room, have become more popular as practitioners look for ways to increase the physical difficulty level of the typical session. At the same time, many experienced yogis still maintain that spiritual discipline and self-exploration should be emphasized during yoga poses. These practitioners adhere to a more ancient form of the modern yoga version, which tries to combine physical fitness with techniques for relaxation. Indeed, advocates for including yoga in public and private school curriculum have needed to strip yoga of its religious connotations in favor of advancing its mental and physical benefits.
Even bereft of the spiritual disciplines that yoga was originally meant to develop, yoga’s advantages include better emotional health, mental clarity, and physical fitness, which makes yoga an important part of an individual’s daily or weekly routine.
© Copyright 2012 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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