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What is Yoga?
Yoga is an ancient practice that is over 5000 years old. Yoga involves movement, stretching, posture and breathing to achieve overall wellbeing. A broad range of yoga classes exist which can focus on different aspects of yoga including fitness, strength, flexibility, meditation, relaxation and rehabilitation.
Most yoga styles originate from Hatha yoga, a yoga style focusing on the body and breath with a view to developing control of the body using poses (or "asnas"). All styles of yoga aim to create a harmony and balance of the body, mind and spirit, though yoga styles may differ on how they appraoch this. Some styles emphasise the poses, while others focus on breathwork, alignment or flow of movement.
How Does Yoga Work?
There are many, many different styles of yoga (one to suit everyone!). Some of the common styles are the following:
- Ashtanga. This is a "workout" style of yoga which uses a series of poses performed sequentially. The poses move quickly providing an aerobic workout.
- Iyengar. A great style for the fitness conscious and one of the more prevalent forms of yoga. This style of yoga is very precise, with much attention paid to getting the form and alignment of the poses correct.
- Kundalini. According to Hindu philosophy, Kundalini is a concentrated form of prana or life force lying dormant in the body. This is a more meditative form of yoga aimed at awakening this energy. It generally uses a mix of chanting, breathing and poses.
- Viniyoga. A gentler form of yoga with an emphasis on healing and sometimes involving meditation and reflection. The beathing and spinal movement is carefully integrated and poses used to accommodate the health of the person practicing the yoga.
- Bikram. Bikram yoga takes its name from Bikram Choudhury who developed this style. Bikram yoga is performed in a heated room and involves students performing 26 poses designed to cleanse the body and enhance strength and balance.
How Can Yoga Help Back Pain?
Yoga teachers work to address back pain by teaching balance, flexibility, strengthening muscles and promoting body awareness. By gradually building the complexity of movements, yoga practitioners advocate that yoga can teach the body how to distribute its weight effectively and maintain balance and posture naturally.
For the yoga practitioner, a combination of different yoga poses builds strength, supports alignment of the spine and releases muscle tension, allowing the body to heal. Many poses can be modified to address specific back conditions or to provide a deeper stretch.