Yoga and Movement Therapy is based on ancient Indian texts which aim to create harmony in the mind and body through exercise, coordinated breathing and meditation. It enhances our strength, balance and flexibility. We emerge from the practise with increased awareness of our chakras, mobility within and outside with feelings of serenity.
“Yoga helped me not just with the breathing but also in my mental strength and performance in general. …I try to do it daily at least one time”
Novak Djokovic (22 Grand Slam winning tennis player)
We, modern humans, are a fortunate lot. Classical wisdom - Yoga - distilled to perfection has been passed down through centuries from the distant land of India to the whole wide world even before the advent of internet. It is one of the unique holistic care options that strengthens the anatomy tangibly while also uniting it with the mind. Yoga in a way is a gentle ‘tango’ of thought and action.
What is it?
‘Yoga’ was mentioned in theRig Vedamore than 3,000 years ago. It is derived from the Sanskrit word “yuj” which roughly translates to mean “to yoke”,“ to unite” or “to join”. Yoga strives to yoke or forge a fusion of the mind, body and soul.
The Indian philosopher Patanjali detailed the foundation of yogic thought and practise in theYoga Sutras. He identified the ‘eight limbs of yoga’ or pathways to obtain the aims of yoga. With each limb building upon the spiritual, psychological and physical steps of the other. They are:
1. Yama: the moral conventions
2. Niyama: the external self-discipline observances and internal practices
3. Asana: correct posture (initially meant for meditation, however now used in all yoga practises)
4. Pranayama: the right breathing techniques to encourage the flow of ‘prana’, i.e critical life force
5. Pratyahara: control over senses from outside distraction
6. Dharana: focusing and concentration of the mind
7. Dhyan: meditation
8. Samadhi: the blissful state of liberation from mental activity and being united with your Divine
Branches of Yoga
It is generally agreed that traditional yoga is composed of six main branches. Each offshoot typifies a different core and has its own characteristic but all try to reach the same objective of unity. They are -
Raja yoga or the royal path: revolves around meditation and strict observance of the eight limbs of yoga.
Karma yoga: is a call for action and self-service in everyday life so as to build a better future.
Bhakti yoga: tries to lay the foundation of a path to devotion, where an enabling space is created to process emotions, encourage acceptance and tolerance.
Tantra yoga: focuses on ritualistic and ceremonial aspect of the practise.
Jnana yoga: devotes itself to wisdom, the path of knowledge and intellect.
Hatha yoga: dwells on body’s vitality and movement.
The commonly practised yoga in the west has come to be typified by hatha yoga. The branch that leans on postures (asanas) and breathing exercises (pranayama) as a means of detox, relaxation, and physical wellness. As opposed to traditional yoga, where the emphasis was more on psychic immersion and spiritual growth, today’s yoga focuses on the physique, and especially on unlocking your chakras. When starting out, you might want to choose a more slow-paced yoga style so as to get into the groove of yoga before attempting its complex cousins.
Ah ha…now here’s a word you’ve heard often and wondered what it is. Chakra literally means a spinning wheel, however yoga practitioners consider chakras within us to be poles of energy, thoughts, emotions and our figure itself. Hence the manner in which we relate to our reality is defined by our chakras, through our feelings, notions and also physical reactions and effects. As long as the wheel spins and there is a free-flow of energy, you are well. But once the chakras gets clogged, blocking the energy diffusion, the outcome could be anatomical, cognitive and temperamental imbalances. Showing up as anxiety, fatigue, digestion problems, aches or pains.
Dear future yogi: don’t get intimidated by the new terminologies and concepts… they were shared with you so that you could walk into your first class feeling slightly acquainted with the practise. Your guru may or may not use these Sanskrit-based words, and if they do you will not feel overwhelmed by them.
Pre-requisites for Yoga? Naaa…Yoga requires no fancy costumes, equipment, or fitness levels. Come as you are irrespective of your bank balance, weight, height, religious affiliation, politics, etc. Everybody is welcome. Yoga is very inclusive. People of all age profiles and physical abilities can do it and excel in it in their own way.
Those of you with medical conditions or under chemotherapy may be invited to do classes adapted to your needs. Usually the specific poses or breathing rhythms are modified so that you can enjoy yoga safely. There is no one-size-fits-all idea to yoga. Rather it is malleable and adjustable to suit each and every one of our individual needs and aims.
Space? Ancient yogis practiced yoga in the nature to connect more deeply with one’s environment. That being not always feasible in daily life, nevertheless yoga does not require an elaborate setting like a gym, studio space etc. In fact it can be easily adapted to an online class too.
Footwear? Neither does one need any special footwear for yoga as it is usually done bare feet. Socks are not advisable as they are slippery and you may unwittingly hurt yourself. Should you really wish to wear socks, look for sporty socks that have soles with a strong rubber grip.
Equipment? The only ‘equipment’ you’d need is a yoga mat. It is not compulsory to own one as many yoga centres offer mats, though you might want to have one of your own for hygienic and other reasons. Some of you might have or develop an affinity towards a certain material or thickness of mat. Best is to opt for a mat with maximum non-slip adhesion, thereby allowing to change poses without the fear of slipping. The upkeep of your mats won’t require much apart from cleaning it regularly with antibacterial wipes. Your teacher may make use of props like straps, chairs, walls to help you obtain maximum benefits from a series of exercises. Even so it is not common nor mandatory.
Clothes? Worry not, no special clothing is necessary for pursuing yoga. Any workout comfortable clothes is fine. They need not be figure hugging. Yet extra loose-fitting garments could get in your way of doing asanas(postures) or transitioning from one pose to another.
Without much ado…you’ll slowly get acquainted with the building blocks of yoga - a series of movements with accompanying breaths and/or meditative practise. As you would learn to do a particular posture (asana), you shall be encouraged to concentrate on your breath and the motion within you. This would be the foundation of your mind-body connect. The repetition of the same principle with other asanas will strengthen the established cerebral-corporeal linkup.
With every subsequent class you’ll be able to scan your entire body with more ease. Thus discovering yoga and your body simultaneously. You’ll pick up subtle and less subtle disparities between different parts of you. For example you manage stretching your right side more than your left, or that your equilibrium is better on your left rather than the right or recognise poses that decrease the tension around your shoulders.
After the first few conscious efforts, you’ll assimilate another key aspect of yoga - the synchronised breathing accompanying each action. It’ll permit you to maintain your awareness on yourself while exercising and at the same time induce relaxation in the nervous system and detox the mind.
As you train your attention on how you hold out your limbs, keep your torso straight, bend your arms, etc. you start to notice your postures not only during the yoga sessions but also throughout your day. This consciousness might make you more aware of your poise while walking or sitting.
Out of this emerges a tacit, perhaps yet under appreciated acknowledgement that your inner circuitous motion is a normal and expected part of life and that this continuous activity exists in you, like your heart beating in a regular rhythm or your respiration cycle. With yoga & movement therapy you make an intellectual connection with these in-house natural circulation and understand how you can contribute to its well-being. An inward journey into your contours to cherish and nurture your energy chakras. Thereby uplifting your mood, ameliorating your sleep, reducing your anxiety and depression.
Congruously you come to own the ‘movements’ that you do. Your sentiments of being physically frigid and inflexible begin to feel a bit passé as you imbibe yoga and movement therapy’s plasticity like osmosis. The restorative side of it improves your overall stance, balance, fortifies your muscle mass and joints. It also infuses you with dynamism and bodily strength. And so, convincing you of both engaging more with yoga and incorporating extra action in your everyday.
Akin to meditation’s mental benefits, yoga’s focus on regulated breathing calms you and makes you more mindful of your flesh and bones. It stimulates sentiments of gratefulness of the shrine of your chakras, your inmost world and your relationship to your environment.