Yoga – The Complete Way to Take Care of Yourself
Several gurus and yogis have defined Yoga over the centuries as the art and science of connecting one's body with their mind, which is done to augment their mental, physical, and emotional well-being. It encompasses various body movements, known as "asanas", breathing exercises, and meditation which you can do regularly to take care of yourself.
Origins of Yoga
Before you begin with any new activity or hobby, to be able to better relate to it and make it "your thing", getting to know about it may have started, what are its benefits, and how it can also help you in your day-to-day life can help you adopt the activity effortlessly. If you have decided to include Yoga in your daily routine, here is a brief history of Yoga to get you started.
Yoga is one of the few time-tested practices that go back to the times of BC. The earliest mentions of Yoga were found in Rig Veda, which is the earliest and one of the four Vedas of Hindu scriptures. The earliest forms of Yoga are believed to be formulated and developed by sages (Rishis) who documented their work in over 200 scriptures.
Not only Hinduism, but Yoga also has its roots closely associated with Buddhism. Although the origins of Yoga dates back to over five thousand years, it wasn't until about 2000 years ago that Patanjali, an Indian author/philosopher who is accredited for writing several Sanskrit texts, put together Yoga Sutras. This systematically formed document contained the foundation of classical Yoga.
Then finally came modern Yoga that we practice and see today in gyms and institutes all over the world. The foundation remains the same, and the modern practice is based on centuries-old asanas and teachings mentioned in the Yoga Sutra only.
Benefits of Yoga
Yoga, the century-old practice of sages and rishis, offers tremendous benefits for the body and mind. Studies have shown that Yoga drastically lowers the risk of Type 2 diabetes. It also helps in relieving anxiety, helps with sleep issues, and increases vitality. The following section lists the benefits of practicing asana Yoga, as well as a few tips for beginners.
Yoga is a form of strenuous physical exercise which builds strength, flexibility, and stamina. It teaches body-mind integration and mental peace. While experienced practitioners discover the spiritual benefits of Yoga, beginners experience the physical benefits first.
For those who are still not convinced about practicing asanas, here are some other benefits:
- Increases Physical Well-being: A healthy body is not only beautiful and pleasing to look at but also contributes to a balanced mind. Physical exercise like Yoga builds up your muscles, strengthens your ligaments and tendons, improves mobility (especially in the neck), increases stamina, reduces stress levels, and reduces high blood pressure. This all contributes to a balanced and healthy mind, which is vital for overall wellbeing.
- Improves Posture: Simple movements like the pigeon pose help you tone your abdominal muscles and develop your inner core strength!
- Gives Peace of Mind: Yoga is a way to connect to the self and the divine. The physical and mental benefits of practicing asanas are immense, and help you feel more positive, content, happy, and relaxed.
- Helps insomnia: Yoga is a proven cure for insomnia. It helps with coping with stress and calms the mind through calming breathing exercises.
Books on Yoga to Help You Start with Your Yoga Journey
Light on Yoga: The Bible of Modern Yoga
BKS. Iyengar needs no introduction to those who have decided to take up Yoga; you may have heard of Iyengar Yoga, and if it rings any bells, yes! BKS. Iyengar is the founder of Iyengar Yoga. He has several works of Yoga literature accredited to his name, of which Light on Yoga: The Bible of Modern Yoga is perhaps one of his most extensive works that cover not only Yoga asanas in detail but will keep you inspired throughout your Yoga journey. This will be the only book you need if you're in the initial phases of developing your mind and body through Yoga.
The paperback version of the book can be purchased from Amazon for about Rs. 713.
Science of Yoga: Understand the Anatomy and Physiology to Perfect Your Practice
We all have our doubts when we're starting with something new. This book will be the guiding light for those who may be curious about the science behind various Yoga asanas. Along with teaching you about the physiology behind the key Yoga poses, it will also help you develop an injury-less practice by delving deeper into how each pose affects the movements of your joints and muscles.
This book is fairly easy to comprehend for beginners, providing full-colour illustrations on all the key asanas, with descriptions of the science behind them. As described by one of the reviewers, this book will prove to be an "asana atlas" for your Yoga practice.
You can purchase this book from Amazon for Rs. 1,399 (paperback), while the Kindle version will cost you about Rs. 630 only.
2,100 Asanas: The Complete Yoga Poses
Daniel Lacerda has very carefully compiled 2,100 asanas into this book. It's like an encyclopedia for Yoga poses, but one that is interesting to go through and will help you discover new Yoga asanas every day.
It has been divided into eight major sections, viz., standing, seated, core, quadruped, inversions, prone, supine, and backbends covering various asanas from easy to difficult levels. The benefits of each asana have also been mentioned, so you can decide for yourself the ones that suit you best. The only thing missing in this book is the step-wise guide for each pose; hence, it may be more suitable for those who have passed the beginner's phase and want to discover more challenging asanas.
The hardcover version is available for purchase on Amazon for Rs. 1,549.
Yoga for Everyone: 50 Poses for Every Type of Body
This book is for people who may be struggling a bit in the beginning. The book holds true to its name and offers poses for every type of body, including pregnant women. There are 50 poses given in the book, which have been illustrated using clear, interesting pictures.
So, if you have been having a hard time deciding which poses to start with, this book will serve you well.
You can add this book to your collection for about Rs. 1,150, by purchasing it from Amazon.
Yoga Bug: Simple Poses for Little Ones
Yoga can serve as a wonderful way to channelise your little one's energy into something productive, instead of having them roam around in the house, making and breaking everything that comes along their way. All the Yoga poses have been depicted in colourful and lively illustrations, which any child would love to go through. You can simply hand this book to your little one and ask them to imitate the poses – they get to learn Yoga in a fun way! And next time, perhaps you could even perform Yoga asanas with your little ones.
Please note that the book is meant for kids around 2-5 years, and is available for purchase on Amazon for Rs. 694.
For Further Reading: Go Beyond the Yoga Asanas
Hatha Yoga Pradipika
Hatha Yoga is a branch of Yoga, mainly concerned with the physical well-being of one's body. It's the most common Yoga used by practitioners worldwide. This book covers various asanas and their importance for the body and delves deeper into how one can awaken his chakras and achieve spiritual liberation. This version is a translation of Swami Svatmarama's original text, which has been made easier to be understood. It is not recommended for beginners, as the text can feel overwhelming if you're just starting with Yoga asanas.
It can be purchased from Amazon for Rs. 365.
Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha
Swami Satyananda Saraswati was one of the most renowned Yoga practitioners and teachers whose teachings continue to enlighten thousands. It covers the detailed and step-wise instructions on asanas and their effects on various chakras. It has been highly recommended by Yoga practitioners and teachers throughout the world and can even be used by beginners.
This book can be purchase in the paperback or Kindle version from Amazon for Rs. 274 only.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
Sri Swami Satchidananda is another Yoga practitioner and teacher who has immensely contributed to the Yoga community. In this book, he has covered and explained the writings from the 4000-year-old Yoga Sutra by Patanjali. The book covers teachings on various topics such as ethics, the importance of meditation, asanas, etc., and provides its readers with the way they must follow for a spiritual awakening. He has also offered his views and experiences, which one can use to master the mind and achieve physical, mental, and social harmony.
You can purchase the paperback version for Rs. 990 from Amazon. The Kindle version is priced at Rs. 449, and there's even an Audiobook version available for just Rs. 2 if you're an Amazon Prime member.
The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice
This book is primarily based on viniyoga, i.e., "Yoga adapted to the needs of the individual". It was written by T. K. V. Desikachar, who studied Yoga through his life with his father, Shri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (he is known as the father of Modern Yoga!). This book discusses all the major elements of Yoga - poses and counterposes, conscious breathing, meditation, and philosophy. Furthermore, it shows how a Yoga student may develop a practice per their preferences, such as health, age, occupation, and lifestyle.
The paperback version of this book can be purchased from Amazon for about Rs. 400.
Notable Mention - The Complete Book of Yoga: Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga, Jnana Yoga
Swami Vivekananda extensively covers the importance of living life by describing the four Yoga and how you can implement the same in your life. The book goes on to show that one's well-being is not just limited to his physical self, but it is the mind that holds the power to transform one's life. It is a must-read for anyone looking for life-transforming texts by wise men who experienced it themselves.
You can buy this book from Amazon for just Rs. 139.
Crucial Points to Know Before Beginning with Yoga Asanas
If you have decided to join Yoga classes or start it on your own, there are a few things you must keep in mind before beginning with your first asanas.
- Never do Yoga Right After a Meal or When You May Have a Full Stomach
The foremost thing to remember is that you mustn't do any yoga asanas after a heavy meal. As these asanas involve deep physical movements, they may make you feel nauseous. Yoga experts recommend asanas the first thing in the morning after you have freshened up and emptied your stomach. But, if you want to do it some other time of the day, then ensure you have at least 3-4 hours of gap after your last meal.
- You Don't Have to Have a Particular Fitness Level
There is no particular fitness level required for doing yoga asanas. There are various asanas that target various aspects of the body. For instance, for someone targeting weight loss,they can do Virabhadrasana – (Warrior pose) or Trikonasana (Triangle pose); similarly, those looking for Yoga poses for back pain can look into Adho mukha svanasana (Downward facing dog) or Salabhasana (Locust Pose). Thus, you need not have a particular level of fitness to start doing Yoga; it is instead about what you want to achieve with Yoga!
- The Right Clothing is Important
Yoga asanas require the free and flexible movement of your body. You may not be able to move your limbs completely if your clothing is too tight. On the other hand, something too loose may get in the way of your practice. Hence, it is important to strike the right balance and choose clothes in which you can move your body freely. Besides, initially, you can go for an inexpensive Yoga Mat which you can upgrade when you move towards more advanced asanas.
- Take it Easy in the Beginning
Yoga is a journey that will help you take better care of your body. In the beginning, yoga asanas may be challenging to do, and you may even stumble a few times. One must start with easily doable asanas during the initial few weeks to build some momentum and get their limbs habitual to stretching. Then they can move towards more challenging asanas to reap the most benefit out of practice. Patience and perseverance are going to be the key, and this journey would undoubtedly make you feel much better about your body and mind.
Allow Yourself to Relax
Yoga helps release trapped stress and makes you relax. Take time to rest in between postures if you feel the need. It is a good idea to lie down in Yoga Nidra for a few minutes after you complete your yoga asana practice, as it helps cool down the body and consolidate the energy produced through yoga asana practice.