Yoga began nearly 6,000 years ago in India as part of the Hindu healing science known as Ayurveda. Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word meaning "union".
It is a traditional practice that uses the body, breath, and the mind to energize and balance the flow of energy within the whole person. This mind-body therapy involves physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation to improve overall well-being.
Today, approximately six million Americans practice yoga regularly, lending credibility to the exercise in modern society.
Yoga is often part of disease prevention and management programs in hospitals, such as stress-reduction courses for people with high blood pressures, elevated cholesterol and heart disease.
Scientists don't know exactly how yoga produces its health-benefiting effects. Some say it works like mind-body therapies to reduce stress, while others believe that yoga promotes the release of the hormone called endorphins (endorphins are natural painkillers and mood elevators) from the brain. Furthermore, studies have suggested that yoga may be particularly effective at reducing the risk of heart disease.
It thus makes sense for us to understand Yoga. Below is a quick summary of what Yoga is: breathing, postures, and meditation.
(1) Breathing - Regular practice of yoga breathing techniques increases blood circulation and reduces oxygen consumption, brings more oxygen to the brain, and improves the efficiency of oxygen uptake in the body. Deep breathing also causes the lung tissue and surrounding muscles to become more elastic and flexible, leading to increased lung capacity, and short breathiness goes away over time. Besides, getting ample air into our lungs helps us to feel alert and focused. Meanwhile, proper breathing expels carbon dioxide from our body and reduces waste build up in the blood, which in turn reduces undesirable chemical reactions on cholesterol molecules.
(2) Posture - Yoga workout enhances the strength and flexibility of our body. Yoga postures are designed to massage the internal organs, improve circulation, stimulate hormone function, improve digestion, and other body processes. Stretching the body muscles improves blood circulation to the heart and reduces the risk of cholesterol build up in the arteries, thereby lowering the risk of coronary heart disease.
(3) Meditation - Stilling of the mind, promotes physical and emotional relaxation. Most people have misconceptions about meditation, thinking it is a complicated art and needs proper supervision. The truth is meditation is simple and safe. Find a quiet room where you could be alone, then sit upright, maintain a comfortable posture, close your eyes, and you must (this is probably the toughest to do) clear your minds of all thoughts and events that happened during the day.
If any thoughts creep up, imagine putting them in a balloon and let it float up up and away into the sky. Do this simple exercise for 10 minutes daily and you would be joining the many folks who have alleviated their high blood pressure, chronic pain, anxiety and cholesterol conditions.
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