Yoga - The original practice of mindfulness

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Posted by Shona Watt (JB Personal Training) on 21 Jun 2017

Wherever you turn at the moment, you can't escape the buzzword "mindfulness". It leaps off magazine front page headlines and dominates wellbeing features. This is a very positive and welcome development and an inevitable natural response to the relentless pace of modern life. However the reality is that far from being a passing trend, the human desire and need for mindfulness has always existed. Indeed, it has been fulfilled for millennia by the original structured form of mindfulness practice - Hatha Yoga.

What Is Yoga?

Yoga is an ancient science, art, philosophy and physical practice which aims to unite the body, mind and spirit. In the 2,500 year-old classic text Yoga-Sutra, Pantanjali defined Yoga as “chitta-vritti-nirohdah”, or the “cessation of the turnings of the mind” – in other words, the stilling of the mind and achieving absolute focus regardless of any distractions. Modern day yoga is the term used to describe yoga from the 18th century onwards, when Indian philosophes and beliefs spread to the Western World following the invasion of India by the British Empire. However, the classical schools of Yoga teaching meditation and self-study were not very compatible with busy Western lifestyles. So a form of Yoga which emphasised physical effort, known as Hatha Yoga or “forced” Yoga, became more popular in the West. Hatha Yoga became synonymous with yoga generally in the West, even though in reality it represents just a small subset of yoga practices. Physical yoga poses, known as asana, were originally intended merely as a means to the ultimate end of achieving “Samadhi”, a state of bliss achieved via meditation.

Modern day practice of Hatha yoga has evolved over the last few centuries from its origins as a branch of Tantric yoga. It emphasises the aspects of Yoga which are more acceptable to Western mindsets and busy modern lifestyles. In particular it focuses on physical asana practice. However, it also includes elements of pranayama (breathing techniques), guided relaxation and sometimes meditation. These complementary elements satisfy our growing desire for a form of relaxation and mindfulness to relieve the stress of excessively busy modern lifestyles.

Pranayama literally translates from its two component Sanskrit words, life-force (“prana”) and restrain or control (“yama”). Commonly defined as “breath control”, it is a collection of techniques designed to intentionally alter the breath to produce specific results. Such techniques

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