Yoga is an ancient Indian practice of movement, breathing, physical, mental and spiritual exercises. There are many types and lineages of Yoga, with many different aims and benefits.
Goals of Yoga
The aims of Yoga depend very much on the type or lineage of Yoga practiced. As it is, Yoga practices can focus on physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual well-being. It can be applied as a form of health maintenance or as a therapeutic modality for rehabilitation or to cure a variety of illnesses.
Some types of Yoga combine or emphasize several or all of the aforementioned aspects, and other types primarily focus on just one aspect, such as Yoga as Exercise modalities which principally occupy themselves with fitness and physical health.
Moreover, Yoga can be practiced as a stand-alone modality — done as just one of many other activities in one’s life — but it can also be a complete lifestyle where Yoga philosophy and directives profoundly guide one’s practical and ethical life path, including most of one’s daily activities.
Like is the case with the aims of Yoga, the health benefits depend on the type or style or lineage of Yoga one practices.
Yoga as a physical exercise can help to strengthen bones, muscles, joint mobility, and joint stability. It can stimulate the body’s circulatory and immune system, and improve one’s posture, coordination, balance, and self-confidence. As such, Yoga as Exercise can also diminish the risk of physical injuries and help to prevent illnesses i.e. maintain health.
Furthermore, sustained stretches, relaxation and breathing exercises can reduce blood pressure, stress, anxiety, and depression.
Specific Yogic poses (Yoga Asanas) can also be used for therapeutic goals in order to heal certain illnesses or discomforts, such as back pains, abdominal pains, headaches, genital discomforts or dysfunctions, neck pains, and so on.
Yoga as a mental exercise, such as carried out in meditation, mindfulness and awareness exercises, can calm the mind, stimulate concentration abilities, reduce stress and restlessness, and promote emotional balance.
When Yoga is practiced with an explicit spiritual goal, it’s thought that it can help in achieving happiness, joy in life, bliss, insight in life and living, spiritual insight, wisdom, equanimity, and Divine Union, or as it’s often stated, lead to Spiritual Enlightenment or Self-Realization.