The word Yoga means “to join”. The word Yoga is used to refer collectively to a whole host of physical and mental activities and disciplines that originate in ancient India and are being successfully practiced all over the world today. Yoga, Sanskrit for ‘yoga’ or ‘union’, is a vast array of various physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual practices that unite the body, mind, and spirit. Yoga is also one of the six major orthodox spiritual schools of Hinduism. It is considered by many to be essential to our everyday existence.
The physical postures of yoga are what set it apart from many other forms of exercise and physical conditioning. While other forms focus on certain parts of the body, yoga aims at unifying the body and mind in order to achieve a state of harmony and peace. Through the use of meditation, the yogi can achieve a deeper understanding of himself or herself and his or her surroundings. In this way, meditation is used in conjunction with yoga postures to achieve the ultimate goal which is the attainment of oneness (at), or unity within oneself.
With its emphasis on meditation and its effects on the mind, many have considered it to be very effective for reducing stress. Stress, according to studies, is one of the leading causes of sickness and disability, aside from causing premature death. One of the ways through which stress can be reduced is through meditation and yoga exercises. Through the combined effects of these two, many believe that the effects of stress can be greatly reduced or even completely eliminated.
In a study done in the year 1996, a group of female university students were subjected to four different types of yoga exercises. After four weeks of doing the exercises, the participants were found to be significantly less stressed than before. There was also another study conducted where the participants were divided into two groups; one group practiced a session of breathing meditation while the other practiced yoga. The breathing meditation group did show signs of reducing their anxiety levels as compared to the control group.
Yoga and meditation go hand in hand with each other. Yoga postures train the mind to learn to control breathing exercises which calms the mind and reduces stress. In turn, meditation helps one to develop the ability to observe the present moment rather than being consumed by the past and future. Another Sanskrit word that describes yoga is “ananda” which means “to unite”. This concept is very similar to the Christian belief that Jesus Christ went on a journey to become a man like all the other men on earth.
Another positive result of yoga postures is that it can lower the stress hormone levels. Some of these hormones are cortisol and adrenaline. A study done in the year 1990 in Japan showed that yoga is very beneficial in lowering the stress hormone levels of the participants. This was done by having the participants either perform yoga or have some background music played which has been known to lower stress hormone levels. Another positive benefit of yoga is that it can prevent cancer. A study done in the year 2003 in the U.K showed that women who performed regular yoga sessions were less likely to have breast cancer than those who did not.