Peaceful Yoga by Sarah
What should I know before class?
* Do not eat anything heavy within the hour before.
* Wear loose fitting clothing.
* Turn off cell phones.
* Bring water and a yoga mat.
* A block, strap, and  small pillow are recommended.

At the physical level, yoga and its cleansing practices have proven to be extremely effective for various disorders.

More importantly, yoga is extremely effective in:

Increasing Flexibility –
yoga has positions that act upon the various joints of the body including those joints that are never really on the ‘radar screen’ let alone exercised.

Increasing lubrication of the joints -
ligaments and tendons – likewise, the well-researched yoga positions exercise the different tendons and ligaments of the body.

Surprisingly it has been found that the body which may have been quite rigid starts experiencing a remarkable flexibility in even those parts which have not been consciously work upon. Why? It is here that the remarkable research behind yoga positions proves its mettle. Seemingly unrelated “non strenuous” yoga positions act upon certain parts of the body in an interrelated manner. When done together, they work in harmony to create a situation where flexibility is attained relatively easily.

Massaging of ALL Organs of the Body –
Yoga is perhaps the only form of activity which massages all the internal glands and organs of the body in a thorough manner, including those – such as the prostate - that hardly get externally stimulated during our entire lifetime. Yoga acts in a wholesome manner on the various body parts. This stimulation and massage of the organs in turn benefits us by keeping away disease and providing a forewarning at the first possible instance of a likely onset of disease or disorder.

Complete Detoxification –
By gently stretching muscles and joints as well as massaging the various organs, yoga ensures the optimum blood supply to various parts of the body. This helps in the flushing out of toxins from every nook and cranny as well as providing nourishment up to the last point. This leads to benefits such as delayed ageing, energy and a remarkable zest for life.

Excellent toning of the muscles
– Muscles that have become flaccid, weak or slothy are stimulated repeatedly to shed excess flab and flaccidity.

But these enormous physical benefits are just a “side effect” of this powerful practice. What yoga does is harmonize the mind with the body and this results in real quantum benefits. It is now an open secret that the will of the mind has enabled people to achieve extraordinary physical feats, which proves beyond doubt the mind and body connection.

Yoga through meditation works remarkably to achieve this harmony and helps the mind work in sync with the body. How often do we find that we are unable to perform our activities properly and in a satisfying manner because of the confusions and conflicts in our mind weigh down heavily upon us? Moreover, stress which in reality is the #1 killer affecting all parts of our physical, endocrinal and emotional systems can be corrected through the wonderful yoga practice of meditation.

In fact yoga = meditation, because both work together in achieving the common goal of unity of mind, body and spirit – a state of eternal bliss.

The meditative practices through yoga help in achieving an emotional balance through detachment. What it means is that meditation creates conditions, where you are not affected by the happenings around you. This in turn creates a remarkable calmness and a positive outlook, which also has tremendous benefits on the physical health of the body.

These are just some of the tangible benefits that can be achieved through yoga.

The American Yoga Association Defines Yoga as:

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 The classical techniques of Yoga date back more than 5,000 years. In ancient times, the desire for greater personal freedom, health and long life, and heightened self-understanding gave birth to this system of physical and mental exercise which has since spread throughout the world. The word Yoga means “to join or yoke together,” and it brings the body and mind together into one harmonious experience.

The whole system of Yoga is built on three main structures: exercise, breathing, and meditation. The exercises of Yoga are designed to put pressure on the glandular systems of the body, thereby increasing its efficiency and total health. The body is looked upon as the primary instrument that enables us to work and evolve in the world, and so a Yoga student treats it with great care and respect. Breathing techniques are based on the concept that breath is the source of life in the body. The Yoga student gently increases breath control to improve the health and function of both body and mind. These two systems of exercise and breathing then prepare the body and mind for meditation, and the student finds an easy approach to a quiet mind that allows silence and healing from everyday stress. Regular daily practice of all three parts of this structure of Yoga produce a clear, bright mind and a strong, capable body.



Types of Yoga
There are over a hundred different schools of Yoga. Some of the most well known are described below:

Hatha Yoga: The physical movements and postures, plus breathing techniques. This is what most people associate with Yoga practice.

Raja Yoga: Called the “royal road,” because it incorporates exercise and breathing practice with meditation and study, producing a well-rounded individual.

Jnana Yoga: The path of wisdom; considered the most difficult path.

Bhakti Yoga: The practice of extreme devotion in one-pointed concentration upon one’s concept of God.

Karma Yoga: All movement, all work of any kind is done with the mind centered on a personal concept of God.

Tantra Yoga: A way of showing the unseen consciousness in form through specific words, diagrams, and movements. One of the diagrams that is used to show the joining of the physical and spiritual bodies is two triangles superimposed upon one another. The downward-pointing triangle represents the physical body, or the female aspect having to do with work, action, and movement; the upward-pointing triangle represents the spiritual body of support, energy, and vastness.

Kashmir Shaivism: This Yoga system states that everything in the universe has both male and female qualities. In Kashmir Shaivism, these male and female principles form an equal partnership, so interdependent that they cannot be separated. The attraction between them produces the ultimate union of opposites, creating the immense complexity of the universe that we enjoy and celebrate. Unlike other philosophies, Kashmir Shaivism is based in emotion rather than intellect. In fact, Shaivism says that intellectual understanding by itself will never lead us to the realization of the summit of Yoga. The system's great exponents teach that the egotistical intellect blocks our ability to fully experience our individual power.



History of Yoga No one knows exactly when Yoga began, but it certainly predates written history. Stone carvings depicting figures in Yoga positions have been found in archeological sites in the Indus Valley dating back 5,000 years or more. There is a common misconception that Yoga is rooted in Hinduism; on the contrary, Hinduism’s religious structures evolved much later and incorporated some of the practices of Yoga. (Other religions throughout the world have also incorporated practices and ideas related to Yoga.)

The tradition of Yoga has always been passed on individually from teacher to student through oral teaching and practical demonstration. The formal techniques that are now known as Yoga are, therefore, based on the collective experiences of many individuals over many thousands of years. The particular manner in which the techniques are taught and practiced today depends on the approach passed down in the line of teachers supporting the individual practitioner.

One of the earliest texts having to do with Yoga was compiled by a scholar named Patanjali, who set down the most prevalent Yoga theories and practices of his time in a book he called Yoga Sutras (“Yoga Aphorisms”) as early as the 1st or 2nd century B.C. or as late as the 5th century A.D. (exact dates are unknown). The system that he wrote about is known as “Ashtanga Yoga,” or the eight limbs of Yoga, and this is what is generally referred to today as Classical Yoga. Most current adherents practice some variation of Patanjali’s system.

The eight steps of Classical Yoga are 1) yama, meaning “restraint” — refraining from violence, lying, stealing, casual sex, and hoarding; 2) niyama, meaning “observance” — purity, contentment, tolerance, study, and remembrance; 3) asana, physical exercises; 4) pranayama, breathing techniques; 5) pratyahara, preparation for meditation, described as “withdrawal of the mind from the senses”; 6) dharana, concentration, being able to hold the mind on one object for a specified time; 7) dhyana, meditation, the ability to focus on one thing (or nothing) indefinitely; 8) samadhi, absorption, or realization of the essential nature of the self. Modern Western Yoga classes generally focus on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th steps.

Yoga probably arrived in the United States in the late 1800s, but it did not become widely known until the 1960s, as part of the youth culture’s growing interest in anything Eastern. As more became known about the beneficial effects of Yoga, it gained acceptance and respect as a valuable method for helping in the management of stress and improving health and well-being. Many physicians now recommend Yoga practice to patients at risk for heart disease, as well as those with back pain, arthritis, depression, and other chronic conditions.



Yoga and Religion Yoga is not a religion. It has no creed or fixed set of beliefs, nor is there a prescribed godlike figure to be worshipped in a particular manner. Religions for the most part seem to be based upon the belief in and worship of things (God or godlike figures) that exist outside oneself. The core of Yoga’s philosophy is that everything is supplied from within the individual. Thus, there is no dependence on an external figure, either in the sense of a person or god figure, or a religious organization.

The common belief that Yoga derives from Hinduism is a misconception. Yoga actually predates Hinduism by many centuries. Ancient seals unearthed in the Indus Valley provide clear evidence of widespread Yoga practice earlier than 3,000 B.C.E. The techniques of Yoga have been adopted by Hinduism as well as by other world religions. Yoga is a system of techniques that can be used for a number of goals, from simply managing stress better, learning to relax, and increasing limberness all the way to becoming more self-aware and acquiring the deepest knowledge of one’s own self.

The practice of Yoga will not interfere with any religion. Many American Yoga Association students who have practiced Yoga intensively for many years continue to follow the religious traditions they have grown up in or adopted without conflict.




Who Can Practice Yoga?
Yoga is suitable for most adults of any age or physical condition. Because of the nonstrenuous nature of our approach to exercise, even those with physical limitations can find a beneficial routine of Yoga. There are special techniques for those with physical limitations due to age, illness, injury, substance abuse recovery, obesity, or inactivity.

We do not recommend most Yoga exercises for women during menstruation, for pregnant women, or for nursing mothers. Regular practice of breathing and meditation, however, is encouraged. Our beginning books offer more suggestions.

Yoga During Pregnancy: A Special Note On March 31, 2002, The New York Times Magazine printed a photograph showing a 9-months-pregnant woman in a shoulder stand. We believe it is our duty to point out that it is extremely dangerous for pregnant women to do any inverted poses because of the possibility of air embolism. In fact, we strongly discourage pregnant women from performing most Yoga poses during pregnancy. We do recommend that pregnant women learn and practice simple daily breathing and meditation techniques, which can help result in an easier delivery and a healthy baby and mother.

Our beginning book, The American Yoga Association Beginner's Manual, offers sections with additional suggestions for Yoga during pregnancy and beyond.

Yoga and Children

Yoga exercises are not recommended for children under 16 because their bodies’ nervous and glandular systems are still growing, and the effect of Yoga exercises on these systems may interfere with natural growth. Two of my great teachers, Rama and Lakshmanjoo, advised me of the dangers that Yoga asans may pose for young children. Children may safely practice meditation and simple breathing exercises as long as the breath is never held. These techniques can greatly help children learn to relax, concentrate, and reduce impulsiveness. Children trained in these techniques are better able to manage emotional upsets and cope with stressful events.

There is no doubt that Yoga postures (asans) and breathing techniques affect the physical body. People these days commonly accept the fact that such therapies as acupressure, neuromuscular massage, and reflexology can have systemic effects due to pressure applied to certain areas of the body. The physical basis for the effects of Yoga asans may be related. The asans and breathing techniques provide a deep massage and strong compression of the parts of the body where endocrine glands are located. Many Yoga stretches seem to target the nerves in the legs, arms, neck, and spine.

In sum, our position is that growth is in large measure controlled by the glandular system. It is a vastly complicated process, and the powerful physical and mental effects of Yoga asans may interfere with natural growth.