Yoga: A Look at the Foundations of this Ancient Practice

yoga in Akumal
By Dani Brown

In the past few years, the popularity of the age-old practice of Yoga has grown by leaps and bounds in the western world. And, like many “exercise fads” that sweep through gyms and studios, the ensuing bombardment of various styles, classes, ideas, and over all commercialism may have clouded the approachability of yoga for many. However, a look past the hype to the 5,000 year-old foundation for personal development and wellbeing may help shed light on the practice of Yoga.

The word Yoga comes from the ancient Sanskrit root word yug, which means, "to unify.” One who practices Yoga is one who consciously unifies body, mind, and spirit so that they may work together. An easy way to visualize this concept is to view the physical body as a boat, the mind as the sea, and the spirit as the course of the voyage. When the mind is still, the sea is calm, and wind fills the sails of growth and progress. When the mind is hectic with thoughts, memories and emotions, the sea is turbulent, and the boat is pounded by waves while struggling to keep its direction.

What many of us do not realize is that the mind and body are in a state of constant interaction. This means, how you feel physically determines how you feel mentally and how you feel mentally determines how you feel physically. Since the physical body is the easiest to recognize and work with, a common approach to Yoga begins with the asanas, or the Yoga postures. These are the poses that come to mind when one pictures a Yoga class.

Physically, the asanas work each part of the body to release and lengthen muscles, increase fluidity in the joints, promote flexibility of the entire skeletal system, and improve alignment and posture. They benefit the internal organs, glands, and nerves as well.

Mentally, a profound concentration is utilized in achieving each posture, helping reduce the waves of external thoughts, thereby calming the mind. Also, a focus is placed on deep, controlled breathing, which enhances the flow of oxygen to the brain and body, thus era