The Power of Yoga
Nowadays, more and more people suffer from extreme stress. Stress has become one of the main causes of many illnesses – from minor troubles such as a headache or a cold, through digestive problems to serious health conditions (physical and psychological), which may end in death. Fortunately, many people have begun to pay attention to their health and either pay attention to what they eat or go to the gym regularly, sometimes even both. Gyms offer a wide variety of classes: bodybuilding, pilates, various dance classes, and, finally, yoga classes – and yoga is what I am going to write about.
What is yoga?
Yoga is a philosophy from India that is over 5000 years old. “The word ‘yoga’ comes from Sanskrit and has various meanings, including ‘yoke’ and ‘unity’. It implies an integration of every aspect of the human being into a harmonious whole” (Weller 2007:6). That is an appropriate definition of yoga, but what does it mean for us in real life? By doing yoga exercises regularly, you will learn to listen to your own body. Does this movement hurt? Does it feel good when I stretch my legs like this? Let’s have a look at the benefits of yoga in a little more detail.
Why is yoga so good for you?
You do not have to go anywhere to do it – you can exercise at home or in an open space outdoors if you like. You can either practise alone or with your friends and family – it is quite fun to exercise with someone.
No special equipment is needed – you may use pillows or blankets it you feel like you need them. The only thing you will probably need to buy is a yoga mat.
Yoga strengthens your muscles but does not bulk them up, so if you are not interested in gaining big muscles, it is perfect for you.
It also improves one’s posture, makes the body more flexible and helps with weight loss, which boosts one’s confidence. Furthermore, yoga might help reduce high blood pressure.
Yoga has been respected and recommended by many doctors as a type of exercise appropriate for everyone regardless of age or state of health (although with some health conditions, it is better to consult your doctor first, because you might need to skip some asanas).
Finally, if you feel classical yoga is too boring for you, you may try out another type, e.g. power yoga, “yoga in the air” (yoga in a net), “hot yoga” (or Bikram yoga, practised in a room heated to 40°C), “Iyengar yoga” (with props such as blocks and stripes to get you into perfect positions) and many other versions (Ward 2013).
Ready to start?
If you are ready to start and try yoga, here are a few tips which work for me:
1) Find a place where you will feel comfortable. If you are practising at home, you can listen to your favourite music. It does not have to be meditation or yoga music – you can listen to your favourite track – the only condition is that you are able to concentrate on the session. Make sure that the room is warm or that it is a nice warm day outside (if you want to exercise outside). If you like scented candles or incense, try and burn some before your exercise. Make the room light or dark, just make sure that your surroundings are pleasant for you!
2) Do not exercise right after you have eaten – yoga may seem very easy and relaxing in pictures or videos made by professionals, but it is a type of exercise during which the body works really hard. Sometimes, your whole body hurts the day after an exercise session – however, it is completely normal, because the pain means that your body is getting stronger and healthier.
3) Exercise regularly – you do not need to do yoga daily (although you might if you want to), two or three times a week is fine – but regularity is important. You may exercise at any time of the day; the best time is probably the morning or the evening. If you exercise in the morning, you can start your day full of energy – yoga will wake you up. If you do it in the afternoon, you will relax and clear your mind of any stress and trouble from the day and go to bed without spending part of the night thinking about your problems. No long sessions are needed – 10 minutes a day delivers results as positive as a session of 30-60 minutes.
4) You can accompany your yoga session with meditation; you might choose to meditate before or after the exercise. Meditation deepens the feeling of calmness and you can think clearly about your everyday problems or forget about them for a moment. Yoga and meditation are a great way to keep you calm and balanced during more demanding periods of your life, such as the exam period. When you don’t feel stressed it is easier to study!
Do you want to start exercising but don’t know where to start? You may try the sun salutation – a short set of exercises which is suitable either for your short morning/evening session or at the beginning of a long session.
Fig. 1: http://www.langkawi-yoga.com.
1) Stand tall and put your palms together in front of your chest. Breathe regularly and deeply.
2) As you inhale, stretch your arms above your head, and bend backwards slightly.
3) While exhaling, bend forward slowly. If possible, rest your palms on the mat/ground.
4) Inhale and step back with your right foot, toes pointed forward. Do not forget to breathe.
5) Step back with your left foot so that you are in a plank position. Your body should be in a line from head to feet.
6) As you exhale, lower yourself onto your belly slowly, until your forehead touches the mat.
7) Inhale and slowly arch your back like a cobra while keeping your hips on the mat.
8) Exhale, point your toes forward, press your palms into the mat and raise your hips. Straighten your arms and relax your head. Push your heels towards the mat, but only as far as you can manage without it hurting.
9) Inhale and look up. At the same time, rock forward onto your toes. Step between your palms with your right foot (this is the same position as position 4, only with the other leg straightened).
10) Exhale and step forward with your left foot so that it meets the right one. Bend forward slowly.
11) As you inhale, come up into a standing position, then bend backward as in the third position.
12) Exhale and return to a straight standing posture with palms together in front of your chest. You may stay in this asana for a few breaths. When you are ready, enjoy your everyday life!
A few more words at the end of this article
If you want to find out more about yoga, you might consider reading some books about it, for example The Book of Yoga (Brown 2007) or Healing Yoga (Weller 2007). The former discusses yoga from a physical and spiritual point of view, the latter deals with specific asanas for healing some of the common illnesses and pains.
If you are not a fan of manuals (or books in general), you might prefer to watch a video. Here is the link to some great yoga videos by an amazing yoga instructor named Adrienne: https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene. Her videos are really fun!
Maybe you would like to start with a trainer first. In that case, you might want to check out these studios in Brno: http://www.yogabrno.cz/, http://www.yogahouse.cz/, or, for example, http://www.yogaadela.cz/.
I have practised yoga for more than five years – I started with power yoga at university and then discovered the magic of classical yoga – and not only is it a great way for me to relax, it keeps me much healthier than I used to be before I started exercising, and therefore I am happier in life. So, if this article has inspired you, I wish you a lot of fun.
Brown, Cristina. The Book of Yoga. Slovart, 2007.
Weller, Stella. Healing Yoga. C&B, 2007.
Ang, Dorothy. ‘Rising with the Sun.’
Langkawi Yoga, 27 February 2011, www.langkawi-yoga.com/blog/?p=530. Accessed 24 May 2017.
Anderson, Carver. ‘14 Styles of Yoga Explained Simply.’
MBG,20 April 2013, www.mindbodygreen.com/0-8622/14-styles-of-yoga-explained-simply.html. Accessed 24 May 2017.
Health and Fitness Travel, ‘Why is Yoga So Good for You?’
Health and Fitness Travel Blog, 25 August 2012, www.healthandfitnesstravel.com/blog/why-is-yoga-so-good-for-you. Accessed 25 May 2017.
“Asana”. dictionary.com, 2017. Accessed 28 May 2017.
 “asana” is a posture in a yoga exercise (www.dictionary.com)