The Branches and Benefits of Yoga

What yoga brings to your life?

Almost anyone who wants to learn yoga can do so. Discover what yoga is and what it can do for your body and mind.

The five branches of yoga

Think of yoga as a practice for your physical and mental health. It has five branches:

  1. Skill in Action
  2. Exercise
  3. Applied Breathing
  4. Mindfulness and Meditation
  5. Healthy Diet

The five benefits of yoga

The five branches contribute to the realisation of five benefits:

  1. Physical Fitness
  2. Mental Health
  3. Wellness and Wellbeing
  4. Emotional Awareness
  5. Fulfilment of Self and Purpose

Dig deeper…

The Five Branches of Yoga

Decide which of these purport to you and start there. Develop your repertoire as and when you are ready. Most people begin with exercise and mindfulness.

1) Skill in Action

This is about living life well and honestly. With kindness and respect for yourself, other people and the world about you.

2) Exercise

Yoga exercises the body through the development of postures called Asana. Yoga is physically demanding. Be mindful of that. It will make you sweat. There are the seven strands of Asana:

  1. Standing
  2. Hip openers
  3. Forward bends
  4. Backbends
  5. Twists
  6. Balances
  7. Inversions

3) Applied Breathing

There are two aspects to this:

  1. The effective use of breath whilst exercising
  2. Disciplined breathing to detoxify the body

4) Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindfulness relaxes the body and mind. It deploys breathing and visualisation which helps you concentrate on the present moment. It’s used to treat mental health problems such as anxiety, anger, depression and stress. We think everyone should set-aside time for this excellent form of conscious relaxation. We view as daily hygiene for the mind and body.

Meditation is awareness of one’s self. It’s more spiritual and reflective than mindfulness. Meditation is as much about reaching out as reaching in. It requires practice and a competent teacher to help you. Meditation corrects chemical imbalances in the brain. It develops a sense of purpose and meaning.

5) Healthy Diet

If we are what we eat, we are what we think. Quality, quantity and how we prepare food matters for health and wellbeing. Buy fresh organic produce focusing on nutrition and variety. Yoga does not mean being vegetarian. But: altering the emphasis of your diet to fruit and vegetables, less meat and better-quality portions is good for the planet and you. Also, consider the ethics of how your food is produced and animal welfare.

The Five Benefits of Yoga

To acquire these benefits you must commit to practise yoga regularly.

1) Physical Fitness

Regular yoga exercise will develop, sustain and prolong the five components of physical fitness:

  1. Cardio-respiratory endurance
  2. Muscle strength
  3. Muscle endurance
  4. Flexibility
  5. Body composition

Unique to yoga is its connectivity and integration of exercise with the breath and mind. It prevents injury, improves recovery, sharpens performance and lengthens an active life.

3) Mental Health

Your mental health is connected to your physical health. Yoga nurtures both through exercise, applied breathing, mindfulness and meditation. It facilitates a multifaceted and grounded appoach which is a clinically approved strategy for addressing mental health problems.

2) Wellness and Wellbeing

Wellness pertains to physical health whereas wellbeing refers to mental health. Yoga fosters a healthier lifestyle which reflects a positive attitude of mind and proactive stance towards the care of our mind, body and self. The interaction and connectivity of these two concepts is key to understanding how yoga works, and why.

4) Emotional Awareness

Emotional awareness determines our ability to respond appropriately to our thinking patterns and emotions. It is important for personal happiness and effectiveness in relationships of all kinds. The psychology of yoga helps to develop this awareness.

5) Fulfilment of Self and Purpose

Making the best of yourself and getting what you want out of life by having a plan coupled with pragmatism and determination. This sense of life-purpose is a driving force for meaningful change. Yoga helps to promote the psychological qualities needed to attain this.

Finding yoga within and without you

Were Einstein and Shakespeare closet yogis?

Said in jest but with a degree of insight! Philosophically, when one delves into what some of our greatest artists, writers, comedians, politicians, books, and thinkers have espoused: Gandhi, Jesus, the Buddha, the Beatles, Beethoven, the Bhagavad Gita, you discern yogic thinking in them all. Not a religion but a proven philosophy, methodology and physical practice for the good of all humanity.

Don’t keep your yoga in the studio – it’s so much more!

 A state of yoga often comes to us when we perhaps unwittingly surrender to something outside ourselves. Playing a musical instrument, a beautiful walk, reflecting upon a painting or sculpture, reading an absorbing book, listening to music. These are all ways of experiencing yoga and attaining similar benefits. We just need to stop and look around us to know it’s there.

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the ‘Universe’ — a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts, and feelings, as something separated from the rest— a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

Albert Einstein

“This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man. Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 78–82”

William Shakespeare

“I started yoga with Johnston in January 2015. Having tried various exercise classes over the years with other teachers and never attended for longer than 12 weeks, I didn’t expect this to be any different. However, I was wrong! A year later I am still attending regularly and I can honestly say that my fitness and flexibility have improved enormously. Johnston’s yoga classes are very enjoyable, even when we’re working hard!” – Jo Adams

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