Yoga is a well-known natural therapy
in the West, where many people view it as
a form of gentle exercise that consists
of body postures and breathing techniques
with perhaps some meditation thrown in.
However, in its purest Hindi form yoga is
in fact a way of being that controls all
aspects of life. The father of yoga, Patanjali,
describes stages to enlightenment, starting
with ethical guidelines that include eating
habits and personal hygiene, progressing
through postures (asanas) and breathing
techniques (pranayama), to meditation, and
eventually withdrawal to the supreme level
of pure consciousness (akin to nirvana in
with some of the ancient Chinese therapies
yoga is said to influence the flow of prana
(qi, life energy) through nadis (meridians,
energy channels) that cross at chakras (the
body’s energy centres). A chakra can be
associated with a specific mantra such as
the most sacred manta “OM”, which represents
the original sound of the universe. The
flow of energy in the subtle or astral body
equates to electrical impulses, neurological
pathways, and nerve centres and organs when
talking about the physical body.
There are many different
types of yoga, the most commonly practised
in the west being Hatha yoga. Hatha means
“balance” and focuses on balancing mind
and body. Asanas are designed to benefit
both mind and body, and are performed slowly
coordinated with breathing. Other examples
of yoga types are Bikram (vigorous), Iyengar
(uses props), Jnana (yoga of self-knowledge),
Sivananda, and Tantra (the body is your
The easiest way of learning yoga
is to join a class, preferably given by a qualified
teacher, however once you have mastered the asanas
and pranayama it can be very therapeutic to practice
alone. A popular series of asanas is “The Salute
to the Sun”, which was traditionally practised
facing the rising and setting sun. It comprises
of 12 asanas that should flow into each other
and synchronise with correct breathing patterns.
It is an excellent way to warm up at the beginning
of a yoga routine.
Conventional medical opinion agrees
that yoga is a good exercise regime and/or relaxation
technique. Such is its acceptance that it has
been incorporated into a number of healthcare
programmes, and most doctors feel that its benefits
should be investigated further relating to medical
of conditions where Yoga can be useful are:
- Stress, fatigue, depression.
- Headaches and migraines.
- Circulatory disorders.
- Asthma and bronchitis.
- Rheumatoid arthritis.
- Digestive disorders.
- Back pain.
- Menstrual problems including PMS.
- Improving mobility and flexibility.
The following recommended books are a good
place to start:
Yoga for You by Tara Fraser
Learn Yoga DVD by Louise Sear
Your Yoga Body DVD - Instructor Vimla
The Yoga Bible: The Definitive Guide to Yoga Postures (Paperback) by Christina Brown
Yoga for Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond by Francoise Freedman
Yoga Pretzels: 50 Fun Yoga Activities for Kids and Grownups by Tara Guber
See our full range of Holistic Therapy books in the Further Exploration section.