Soul Yoga: Beginner’s Guide to the Spiritual & Healing Practice of Yog

Avalaura Gaither Beharry, MSW, LGSW www.avalaura.com

INTRODUCTION

When someone mentions “yoga”, many images may be conjured up. Perhaps you get an image of flower children from the 60’s sitting in a circle with their legs in impossible positions chanting “Om” around a huge candle in a poorly lit room. Or you imagine skinny, extremely flexible pretzel people positioning their body in ways you could only imagine. Yoga is an ancient art that has been practiced for centuries. Over the years, it has grown in popularity as a way to stay fit, get in touch with one’s inner self, and keep a balance of sanity in a sometimes insane world.

While yoga did come to popularity in America in the 60’s with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who popularized Transcendental Meditation (TM), because of his association with celebrities like the Beatles, yoga practitioners have brought the ancient practice to the forefront of wellness in recent years.

Many scholars believe that yoga dates back over 5,000 years to the beginning of human civilization. Early Yoga sought to transcend the human condition. Later, Yoga evolved into a more inward experience, and Yogis focused on their individual enlightenment and salvation.

Yoga is the most diversified spiritual practice in the world. Crossing over many cultures (including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and the West), Yoga also extends over multiple languages such as Hindi, Tibetan, Bengali, Sanskrit, Tamil, Prakit, Marathi and Pali. The Yogic tradition continues to proliferate and spread its message of peace and harmony today.

There are many different places that offer yoga classes – gyms, wellness centers, even the local YMCA. But you don’t have to join a class to practice yoga. It is just as easily done in your home or even at your desk while at work. Yoga can help bring you inner peace when you are stressed out. It can even help relieve the pain of headaches, backaches, and menstrual cramps.

As studies continue to reveal yoga's many health benefits, this centuries-old Eastern philosophy is fast becoming the new fitness soul mate for workout enthusiasts. Contemporary devotees range from high-powered execs trying to have healthy hearts to image-conscious Hollywood stars striving for sleek physiques. Even prominent athletes are adding yoga to their training regime to develop balanced, injury-free muscles and spines.

Yet to applaud yoga for its physical benefits alone would only diminish what this entire system has to offer as a whole. By practicing yoga on a regular basis, you may be surprised to find that you're building much more than a strong, flexible body.

Initially, one of the main purposes of practicing yoga was to experience spiritual enlightenment. In Sanskrit (the ancient language of India), yoga translates as "yoke" or "union," describing the integration of mind and body to create a greater connection with one's own pure, essential nature.

Classes that have gained popularity in the United States usually teach one of the many types of hatha yoga, a physical discipline which focuses mainly on asanas (postures) and breath work in order to prepare the body for spiritual pursuits.

I’ll attempt to simplify the beautiful ancient practice of yoga by showing you some basic yoga positions, giving you tips on performing yoga exercises, and introducing meditation practices into your everyday life. Through yoga and meditation, you could derive a new level of enlightenment;

achieve inner peace and tranquility and enhancing the quality of your life.

Yoga is no longer a mysterious phenomenon. It is simply a way to keep you healthy and aligned. Relax and read on as we explore yoga and meditation.

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