The yoga practice is so widespread that it is now difficult not to find it in the training programs of every gym. And that is precisely why we often have the false perception that we are familiar with it. But… is it really like that?
Often, alas, not. For example, did you know that there is not just one but many types of yoga? And are you sure you know all the benefits of yoga practice? If the answer is no, then you've come to the right place, because in this article we have prepared a small practical guide to yoga for you. From benefits to positions, everything you need to know, to inform you and – why not – maybe entice you!
What is yoga: origin and evolution of an ancient practice
Yoga is a practice that combines exercises aimed at the physical sphere, but also at the mental and spiritual one. It was born within the Hindu religion, which uses it believing that the yoga positions allowed to develop, through their maintenance, also mental concentration and a closer relationship with the spiritual dimension, concentrating and channeling the vital energy towards a single objective.
In the western world, a specific type of yoga – hatha yoga – which is concentrated on the execution of different positions which are called Asanas, has met with considerable diffusion. It is a conception of this discipline that transcends its religious aspect to focus on the combination of physical energy and mental concentration capacity, and which has been shown to bring significant positive effects on those who practice it.
Yoga benefits: from concentration to the heart, a panacea for your health
When we talk about the benefits of yoga, the concept from which we must start is that of balance. This discipline, in fact, focuses on an all-round idea of balance: from the ability to maintain asana positions up to the correct balance of all aspects of one's life, work, nutrition, stress.
It is precisely thanks to the benefits brought by yoga exercises, if this discipline has gained so much popularity that it has spread widely in Western countries. Any examples?
- breath control ability improves lung function and helps fight anxiety attacks that are (also) linked to bad breathing;
- concentration and focus on the balance point (core) produces a state of generalized relaxation which is ideal both for combating the negative effects of stress and for counterbalancing high blood pressure and other disorders of the cardiovascular system;
- the asana positions go to work both on muscle flexibility and on the correction of postural defects and problems such as low back pain;
The different types of yoga
We have already said that there are different types of yoga, each with different purposes. This also applies to modern yoga, whose offer is often differentiated according to the most common types: kundalini, yoga nidra, vinyasa and hatha yoga. Each stream offers specific benefits, so it's worth getting to know them a little better.
- The Kundalini yoga it is based on the idea that our body has an energy center at the base of the sacrum, precisely called kundalini. It is a practice that is characterized by a greater spiritual dimension than the others, and which is aimed at identifying and releasing this source of energy to achieve a better balance and progress in one's state of consciousness. The aim is to release positive energy, and it is recommended to practice it under the guidance of an expert yogi;
- Hatha too Yoga it is based on the concept of energy, but focusing on the physical energy that the body already has available, and working on the correct balance of this. The aim is to achieve a balance between strength and concentration. As? Through the execution of the Asana positions, with an instructor who, evaluating one's own progress needs, will establish sequences and speeds;
- And speaking of speed, did you know that the Vinyasa yoga is it based on slowness? Probably not. More than a discipline, Vinyasa is a way of performing yoga positions that leads to control of one's movements and breathing. We talk about conscious movements, which allow you to move from one position to another without stopping.
- Finally, of more recent diffusion is the Yoga Nidra, more focused on the mental aspect. In this case positions and concentration are combined to reach a state of consciousness that is in an intermediate stage between wakefulness and wakefulness sleep. Some compare it to autogenic training, while others believe it is effective not only in relieving nervous stress, but even in combating trauma.
Yoga, benefits and physical results: what we can get from yoga practice
How does yoga change the physique? The short answer is: change for the better. Articulating more deeply, we can say that modern yoga practice is used for relaxation purposes, while from a physical point of view its main focus is related to posture. From this point of view, the discipline is also recommended for children and young people in the development phase.
In addition to a better posture given by the development of the muscles that allows the classic "straight back", yoga involves an activity similar to stretching and pilates, which will therefore involve muscle lengthening. The result, therefore, is not only a strengthening of one's muscles, but also a modeling of the same. Simply put, if you want to look slimmer, yoga is definitely for you.
Yoga: contraindications and risks
Speaking of contraindications, we must definitely say that yoga has none. Some have questioned the results of research on its benefits, of course, but no one has ever demonstrated the existence of negative effects of this discipline.
Instead, it is possible to take risks, as you do with any physical activity. This is especially true for beginners or for those unfortunate enough to meet improvised teachers. These are small damages related to posture, such as back pain or a bruise, usually of a non-permanent nature.
In short, the advice is to approach yoga, but to do so by paying attention to following a teacher with specific qualifications, and not to overdo it, approaching it gradually without requiring too much of your body.
And now: good training!