Stretching Your Way To Health And Fitness

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Yoga is an ancient Indian form of exercise that helps improve health and fitness. It is also traditionally seen as a set of spiritual or philosophical practices that lead a person to greater self-awareness and inner peace. In India and many parts of Asia, yoga is used as a means of attaining spiritual knowledge. The word yoga in the original Sanskrit language means to control, to join or to unite. As a meditative medium, yoga can help a person increase concentration and enhance the functioning of the senses through various body postures and breathing techniques. Various body postures called “asanas” stretch the limbs and torso. Stretching helps to relax muscles and increase efficiency. The deep, controlled breathing that accompanies this movement is called “Pranana.” The word pranayama comes from the root word “prana” which means breath or “life force”. As a spiritual discipline, yoga prescribes specific beliefs, thoughts, and behaviors that should be practiced daily. Another form of yoga called Raja Yoga prescribes eight main philosophical thoughts and practices, namely: 1. Yama – abstinence from lying, stealing, violence, illicit sex and materialism. 2. Niyama – Observance of contentment, purity, penance, study and surrender to God. 3. Asana – Regular practice of meditation postures. 4. Pranayama – Controlled breathing as a means of generating internal energy. 5. Pratyhara – exercise and “reversal” of the internal organs of the body. 6. Dharana – The practice of concentration by focusing on a single object. 7. Meditation – Practicing meditation. 8. Samadhi – “merging” of one’s consciousness with the object of meditation. However, in the West, yoga is very popular as a way to reduce stress and anxiety and depression. Practitioners of the art claim that yoga practice helps relieve back pain, migraine headaches, arthritis symptoms and other ailments. Certain movements and postures also help relieve allergic rhinitis and other allergy symptoms. As a form of stress management, many people find yoga very effective and easy to learn. Breathing patterns allow a person to regain a sense of relaxation while flushing out toxins from the body and sweating. The key to yoga is slow, smooth movements in close coordination with the breath. Of course, there are different levels of yoga practice. Since advanced postures require complete mastery, beginners should only follow or learn the basic movements. Some celebrities who practice yoga include Madonna, Ricky Martin, Meg Ryan and Sting. These celebrities managed to maintain a high level of fitness while sculpting their bodies into “Hollywood” shape. In a world where stress, fast-paced work and other factors adversely affect physical, mental and emotional well-being, the practice of yoga should be considered a simple, inexpensive form of physical training and therapy.

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