One of the non-drug therapies that women seek for menopausal relief is the ancient practice that originated from India 4000 years ago, the popular Yoga.
Numerous studies have suggested that yoga could be an alternative way to reduce menopause symptoms like hot flashes, mood change and sleep disturbances. Tons of yogis claim the benefits of yoga art and philosophy to humans. Aside from it could help us maintain a fit figure, yoga is said to be the absolute way to holistic wellness that results to equity of the physical, mental, moral and spiritual state.
What is Yoga?
In Western culture, yoga is mostly practiced for fitness and maintenance of a lean figure. From where it originated and from its roots, yoga is more of a philosophy of living that was founded by Patanjali Muni thousands of years ago. Its Sanskrit name means, “to join or union” that pertains to the unity and balance of the mind, body and soul.
Patanjali Muni described yoga as a way to evolve the body, mind and spirit through its eight limbs: Pranayama, Pratyahar, Yama, Niyama, Asana, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. Though there are different types of yoga around the world due to its continuous honing, the most commonly practiced yoga are postures (asana), breathing (pranayama), and meditation (dhyana).
The Essence of “Namaste” and “Om”
Every yogi beginner wonder about the necessity of chanting “om” and concluding each class with “Namaste”. Namaste is composed of two words Nama and te. Nama means bow (meaning I), and te means you. Thus, the Namaste word as a whole means, “I bow to you”.
The Namaste gesture is done by placing the hands at the heart chakra with eyes closed, and then bowing the head. It represents the belief that each of us has a Divine spark located at the heart chakra. And by doing the gesture is an acknowledgement of soul to soul. The gesture is also sometimes done by putting the hands together in front of the third eye, bowing the head, and then placing the hands down to the heart. Ideally, the gesture is performed at the beginning and the end of each class; but mostly, it is practiced at the end because the mind is at peace as well as the whole room. For teacher and student, doing the gesture allow the two individuals to connect in a timeless world that is free from the bonds of ego-ties. If done sincerely from the heart, doing so unites the spirit.
Chanting “Om” is commonly heard in yoga classes. From the practice of Hinduism, the mantra is said to hold a high spiritual and creative power. It could be recited by anyone and is actually pronounced as “aum”. The three syllables, a-u-m, represent the divine energy (or Shakti) and its 3 characteristics: creation, preservation and liberation. “Aum” is said to be the basic sound of the universe and chanting such is an action that symbolize our unity with all the living, the cosmos, and the nature. The vibration produced in chanting “Aum” is also a way of meditation. The sound has a physical effect in the body that slows down the nervous system, therefore calming the mind. Putting the mind into tranquility results to decreased blood pressure that consequence to the heart and overall health.
Best Benefits of Yoga
Improves Your Overall Health
It is already given; yoga is a proven way to improve one’s strength, endurance and immune system. But now we ask why, and how? The list of benefits of yoga to the body is just almost infinite. We’d like to mention some and begin with improving the muscles. Surely practicing yoga would tone your muscles, but it is good not only for its superficial effects but its consequence in health. Strengthening the muscles helps us avoid chronic diseases like arthritis and back pain. At the same time, it also increases our flexibility and releases tension to our stressed muscles. Loosening our tightening joints, specially our spine, is necessary as we age that would also consequence to a better posture and stronger bones.
Yoga is also good for the blood, as it gives more oxygen that the blood cells it need. It improves the blood circulation of the body, from the heart to all of the organs. It also thins the blood by oxygenation and provides more protein than fats. Yogis are also said to be at lesser risk to heart attacks and depression. It conditions the heart that leads to a better endurance. Doing Savasana (Corpse Pose), even just by laying on the couch lowers the blood pressure to significant drops.
Continuous practice of yoga has been proven to strengthen the immune system. Poses such like Asana and Pranayama have great effects on this field. It is because engaging in yoga brings beneficial effects in the blood and cells by providing more oxygen and improving its flow in the body that therefore results to holistic wellness.
Blows Your Blues Away
One study found that consistent yoga practice uplifts the mood and cures depression by increasing the serotonin levels (happy hormones) and lowering the cortisol levels (stress hormones). The part of the brain known as left prefrontal cortex is also heightened with yoga practices. And once this part is activated, higher levels of happiness is boosted as well as the immune system. Long-term practitioners even showed more dramatic increases in heightening the activity of that certain part of brain.
Helps Balance the Hormones
At this point we already know that hormones play a significant role in our physical and mental health. And yoga lowers the levels of cortisol hormones. Though it is a natural reaction of the body to increase the cortisol in times of stress, the high levels once it became chronic, could lead to permanent brain changes, depression, osteoporosis, and food cravings.
By lowering the cortisol, blood sugar levels also decrease. For people with diabetes, lowering the sugar in the blood makes the body more sensitive to insulin that would later encourage weight loss, lesser risks to heart attack, kidney complications, and blindness.
Improves the Power of Mind and Molds the Spirit
Yoga involves intense meditations. At first, most people try yoga with the aim of having a healthier and fitter body. But that is not the goal of spirituality, rather a by-product. Through yoga we heighten our senses and awareness. We reach and surrender to peace. We let go of different kinds of pain whether emotionally or physically. Our conscious and sub-conscious mind becomes placid that later lets go of frustrations, regret, fear, anger, and stresses. With continuous practice of yoga you’ll submerge to feelings of gratitude, empathy, forgiveness, and also increases the self-esteem. It is not just a substitute of aerobic classes, rather the acceptance of its yogi philosophy that we are a part of a bigger world, a manifestation of Divine. And once we learn the deeper purpose of yoga and crumble to its principles, we will be truly free. Emancipated from our pessimistic thoughts, worries, and judgments.
Different types of Yoga
As we have mentioned, there are tons of styles of yoga that you could choose from. Though each of it results to the release of tension, tranquility of mind, relaxation and harmonization of the body, different styles fulfill different needs. Choosing where to engage could be confusing especially for beginners who don’t have a clue of its differences. And browsing among the pages of yoga classes couldn’t be any harder without backgrounds to these unfamiliar terms. So we have prepared short introductions regarding different styles of yoga for you to adequately select the one that could serve your need.
Hatha (Slow and Gentle Meditative Yoga)
This style of yoga originated in India in 15th century. It is also the same style that’s mostly taught in the West. Hatha is a good gentle and slow meditation, and covers the introduction and basics of yoga postures. It is composed of slow-paced and gentles postures, which focuses on breathing and meditation. Practicing Hatha would less likely make you sweat, but would certainly leave you less stressed, with improved breathing, and more relaxed.
Vinyasa (Fluid, Intensive Movements)
Vinyasa is the Sanskrit term for “flow”, which means this practice involves fluid, intensive movements. It emphasizes on Sun Salutations and has a purpose of building lean muscles of the core. It links the breathing to movements in able to improve flexibility and reduces the risk to heart problems, high blood pressure and diabetes. Instructors of Vinyasa choreograph movement transitions from pose to pose that most of the time accompanied with background music. No two Vinyasa classes are the same, which are perfect for those who are not a fan of routines.
Ashtanga (Power, Fast-Paced Yoga)
Ashtanga is a form of power yoga that is fast-paced, and consists of push-ups and lunges. Its purpose is to improve one’s spiritual self, while also relieving stress, improves coordination and makes you lose weight. Ashtanga practices a specific sequence of exactly same rigorous poses at the exact same order. It is physically demanding that would make you drench in sweat. Perfect for people who desire to improve strength and stamina, while also improving the spiritual side.
Iyengar (Body Alignment and Balance Yoga)
All eight limbs of yoga are covered by Iyengar style. It focuses on body alignments and uses props like straps, blocks and blankets to assist the strengthening of the body. Iyengar is more on standing poses that are held for long hours. This style is perfect for beginners who aim to learn the correct body alignments, improve balance, recover fast from injury, and heal chronic ailments like arthritis.
Bikram (Hot Sweaty Yoga)
More than 30 years ago, Bikram Choudhury developed this specific school of Yoga that’s performed in artificially heated rooms. Also called as, “hot yoga”, Bikram should be executed in rooms with a temperature between 95-100 degrees. It consists of 26 yoga poses done in the same exact sequence in every class that would make you intensely perspire like never before. The purpose of Bikram is to eliminate body toxins, and deeply stretch the muscles. It also helps to speed up the recovery from injuries and improve flexibility.
Kundalini (Philosophical, Spiritual Yoga)
Kundalini is the style of yoga that focuses more on philosophy and spiritual mold. Together with different yoga poses, Kundalini is done with deep meditations, breathing techniques, and chanting. This practice is good for those who want to engage in deeper realm of spirituality, and dive into the more in depth field of yoga philosophies.
Anusara (The light to Inner Goodness Yoga)
Anusara is the youngest practice in yoga world. John Friend, an American yogi developed it in in 1997 that’s based on a view about the human’s intrinsic goodness. Anusara classes vary based on the teacher’s own sequences but each exposes the fundamentals of Friend's Universal Principles of Alignment. Its physical practice challenges the body and mind that aims to open the heart of the students to discover their grace, and let the inner goodness persevere.
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Yoga Journal is the leading yoga authority for 40 years. Started in 1975, this marvelous brand is founded by members of the California Yoga Teachers Association. They also publish Yoga Journal Magazine that is loved by thousands of yoga enthusiasts around the globe. Their site, YogaJournal.com is also the world’s leading yoga website that provides all the yogis could ever need. From yoga videos, tips, lifestyle, people, even food and diet, could be found there!
Watch This Great Video For Yogi Beginners!