The History of Yoga Body & Mind
Yoga was introduced into India around 2500 BC. According to Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva created humans from clay. Later, Lord Vishnu performed the first yoga practice with human beings. After the creation of man, there were many yogis who practiced various forms of yoga such as pranayama (breathing exercises), dharana (meditation) and samadhi (spiritual trance).
During the medieval period, some yogis developed different types of yoga techniques. For example, the Greek philosopher Plato believed that meditation could cure diseases. He wrote several books on philosophy and medicine.
In ancient Greece, the word “yogic” referred to a type of philosophical system based on logic and reason rather than faith or superstition. The word “yoga” came from Sanskrit meaning “union.” The term yoga originated from the Indian concept of yajna (ritual sacrifice). A yajna was a ritual act performed to bring good fortune or to avert evil.
These rituals included fire sacrifices, water offerings, food offerings and other kinds of offerings.
During the early days of yoga, it was considered a religious activity rather than a medical treatment method. However, during the 19th century when Western physicians began studying yoga scientifically, they discovered its benefits for health and disease prevention. When diseases like tuberculosis and cholera spread across the Indian continent, physicians began studying how yoga could improve the immune system.
In 1890, Sir James Ranald Martin read a paper at the International Congress of Medicine in Paris. The paper was titled “The Influence of the Mind upon the Body” and focused on yogic practices for treating health problems. As a result of this paper, many physicians became interested in the practice of yoga.
After that, yoga reached different parts of Europe and the United States. Swami Vivekananda brought Yoga to America in the late 19th century. In New York City, he founded the Vedanta Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to Hindu philosophy. He also wrote a book about the basics of Yoga.
Swami Rama was another popular yogi who promoted yoga during that time.
The Beginning of Mind-Body Medicine
In the last few decades, a new branch of medicine has emerged called “mind-body medicine.” This type of medicine integrates the mind into the treatment of physical and psychological problems. American psychologist William James (the father of modern psychology) first used the term “mind-body” in his book titled The Principles of Psychology, which was published in 1890. He also wrote other books about conscious experiences.
The mind-body approach became popular in the early 20th century when American physicians started using hypnosis to treat patients with different types of health problems. In addition, more studies were conducted on techniques such as meditation, yoga and art therapy. The term “mind-body” was first used in the 1960s when American physician Edmund Jacobson published a book on Progressive Relaxation. This book described ways to reduce stress through muscle relaxation techniques.
In the 1960s, the United States Air Force was interested in using mind-body techniques to help reduce tension in fighter pilots. After this, many studies were done on the effects of meditation. Today, these techniques are used as stress relief and for treating mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
Mind-body practices have also been used to treat physical problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, chronic pain and others.
Mind-body medicine is currently recognized by many health-insurance companies as an effective treatment for stress and psychological problems. It’s also recognized in other countries such as the United Kingdom. In the U.K., many hospitals now have “Mindfulness Rooms” where people can meditate or practice yoga on a regular basis.
Pranayama (pran-uh-YAH-muh) is a type of breathing exercise used in yoga. It’s usually practiced after mastering the correct posture and after mastering the art of focusing your awareness (yoga nidra). There are two types of pranayamas:
Viloma: This type of breathing exercise involves interrupting the normal flow of breathing (inhalation and exhalation). With viloma, you’ll briefly block your nostrils with your fingers and then release. For example, you might block your right nostril with your right thumb for an interval and then release it. Then, you’d block the left nostril with your right ring finger for an interval and then release it.
You’d continue this blocking and releasing method.
Kechari: This type of breathing involves an unusual tongue position. Place the tip of your tongue just behind your front teeth and press it against the hard palate at the back of your mouth. Then, rapidly move your tongue forward and backward over the hard palate while you make a hissing sound. Do this exercise rhythmically.
It might help to tap your fingers on a table or some other surface.
Yoga is a mind-body practice that involves the breath. There are many types of breathing techniques used in yoga, such as:
The word “yoga” is from the Sanskrit word “yuj,” which means “to bind” or “to join.” It’s a practice that unites the body and mind to achieve inner peace and higher consciousness. By practicing yoga, you can achieve serenity and gain a better understanding of yourself.
Yoga has four main goals:
Maintaining the physical body
Maintaining psychological health
Three main traditions of yoga exist:
Hatha: This type of yoga is mainly concerned with the physical body. It involves poses and breathing exercises. Hatha yoga is best known in the West through its most popular branch, which is called Ashtanga (or Power) yoga.
Raja: Concentrating on the mind, this type of yoga is concerned with gaining mastery over your attention and the contents of your mind. It involves meditation and sometimes also includes visualization techniques.
Laya: The least-known branch of yoga in the West, laya yoga, focuses on the energy flow in the body (called “prana”). It involves breathing and sometimes also dance-like movements.
There are many types of yoga, and their focuses often overlap. For example, there’s kundalini yoga, which involves the use of meditation, breathing, and postures. But it also involves something called “kriyas.” Kriyas are spontaneous movements (such as arm movements) that are used to direct the flow of energy in your body.
Ashtanga (or Power) yoga is one of the most well-known types of exercise in the West. Created by Shri K. Pattabhi Jois, this form of yoga involves synchronizing the movements of your body with your breath to gradually increase your flexibility and cardiovascular health. It’s a difficult form of exercise, but it’s rewarding for those who are willing to master it.
Ashtanga yoga is divided into six sections, which include:
The first section (called “Primary” or “Foundation”) consists of physical postures, or “asanas.” These are designed to promote flexibility and strength.
The second section (called “Sun Salutation”) involves a series of 12 movements (including forward bends, backward bends, side bends, and rotating your torso) that you perform while holding the first position for a few deep breaths. These are meant to be energizing.
The third section (called “Standing Poses”) consists of 10 physical postures that are performed from a standing position, such as the “warrior” pose.
The fourth section (called “Seated Poses”) involves sitting or kneeling positions that are used to improve your balance, flexibility, and concentration. These include the “butterfly” and the “pyramid” poses.
The fifth section (called “Finishing”) consists of a series of mental exercises to help you learn how to relax and focus.
The sixth section (called “Meditation” or “Relaxation”) involves a guided relaxation exercise to help you learn how to calm your mind and relax your body.
Hatha yoga is one of the most well-known types of yoga. It’s the kind that most often gets practiced in America, through its most popular branch, called “Ashtanga” (or Power) yoga, created by Shri K. Pattabhi Jois in the 20th century. Ashtanga yoga involves synchronizing the movements of your body with your breath to gradually increase your flexibility and cardiovascular health.
You perform asanas, or physical postures, while holding your breath for prolonged periods to increase flexibility and strength. You do these while focusing on particular parts of your body (your hands, your feet, etc.) and coordinating the movement with your breathing.
A common misconception is that you’re supposed to hold your breath for the entire time that you’re doing an asana. In reality, you take quick breaths before and after you move into a new position, and hold the position while you inhale and exhale deeply. Holding your breath is used to increase your focus and is not meant to provide the oxygen that your body needs.
T’ai chi (also known as “taiji”) is a martial art created in China that involves moving meditation. If you’ve ever seen someone doing slow motion martial arts in a gray outfit, that’s probably T’ai chi. There are both internal and external styles of T’ai chi, the former of which involves focusing on breathing techniques and moving meditation, while the latter involves sparring and self-defense.
The practice of T’ai chi involves moving meditation and slow movements that are believed to be particularly good for the elderly. It involves a series of flowing movements that are designed to be like a dance, except it’s more about the movement than the poses you put your body in. T’ai chi doesn’t require any equipment or clothing except for something to pad your knees against the ground and a bit of space (although you can do it just fine in your living room).
Qi gong (also known as “chi kung”) is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves moving meditation and breathing techniques. It’s part of the traditional Chinese medicine that’s becoming more popular in the West for its holistic approach to health, involving things like nutrition, acupuncture, exercise, and meditation.
In addition to these techniques involving movement, they also involve a mediation portion where you focus on your breathing (therefore making them meditative practices as well). The difference between these and t’ai chi is that qi gong doesn’t involve quite as much movement (like t’ai chi, it’s sometimes referred to as “moving meditation”).
Qigong involves a series of controlled breathing techniques and movements like standing, sitting, or lying down. These are designed to be low-impact, but they’re also designed to improve your health by balancing your energy and your body’s “chi”, or life force.
Because qigong is meant to improve your health, it’s becoming more popular in the West for things like dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression.
Now that we’ve briefly gone over some of the major types of Eastern meditative practices, let’s talk about some of their similarities and differences (keeping in mind that there are many different types of each one).
As we briefly mentioned earlier, the goal of most traditional Eastern meditative practices is to achieve inner peace and harmony through a relaxed mind.
Most traditional forms of meditation involve focusing on the present moment and letting go of thoughts about the past and the future, which are both places where you have little control. This type of “living in the moment” is supposed to have various benefits that we’ll talk about shortly.
Most traditional Eastern meditation techniques also involve focusing on something and emptying your mind. In this case, it’s typically focusing on your breathing or a repetitive sound. In some cases, it can be repeating a mantra (which is a word or series of words that are meaningless that you focus on). By focusing on these things, the idea is that your mind will eventually follow suit and calm down.
By focusing on your breathing or repeating a sound or mantra, your mind is occupied and therefore you stop thinking about other things. By emptying your mind of thoughts, you are also, in theory, emptying your mind of stress (which is caused by thought) and therefore achieving inner peace.
Another aspect of traditional Eastern meditation techniques is the stretching portion that many of them involve.
Sources & references used in this article:
Insular cortex mediates increased pain tolerance in yoga practitioners by D Farhi – 2000 – Macmillan
Some reflections on the origins of MBSR, skillful means, and the trouble with maps by T Little – 2017 – Shambhala Publications
Effects of yoga versus walking on mood, anxiety, and brain GABA levels: a randomized controlled MRS study by C Villemure, M Čeko, VA Cotton, MC Bushnell – Cerebral cortex, 2014 – academic.oup.com
The physiological foundation of yoga chakra expression by P Hougham – 2006 – Sterling Publishing Company, Inc.
The feeling of being a social worker: Including yoga as an embodied practice in social work education by J Kabat-Zinn – Contemporary Buddhism, 2011 – Taylor & Francis
Top-down and bottom-up mechanisms in mind-body medicine: development of an integrative framework for psychophysiological research by CC Streeter, TH Whitfield, L Owen, T Rein… – The Journal of …, 2010 – liebertpub.com