Yoga has ancient roots in pre-industrial
India, where it has been practiced for millennia by a relatively small
percentage of the population, perhaps less than one percent. Today
Yoga has spread far and wide in the Western world, where it is mainly
understood as a series of stretching, strengthening, and balance exercises that
leave one feeling calmer, more relaxed, and in better health. The
word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word "Yug", which translates to
yoke, union, or unification. A yoke, a device to attach oxen
together to pull a plough or cart, is sometimes used as a physical analogy of
what Yoga does in a psychological and emotional way, that is to become conscious or one's vacillating, often contradictory, sub conscious motivations, and join them together to pull in the same direction towards a more satisfying way of living.
Historically the practice of Yoga was that of deep states of meditative
concentration. Over time Yogis discovered that physical and breathing exercises
called "Hatha Yoga" not only afforded improved health longevity allowing for decades more meditative
concentration, but also prepared the body in way that made the process safer
and more effective. It is this Hatha Yoga branch that gave rise to the
physical Yoga as practiced in the West today.
So what is all the
Why have some 250
million people world wide taken up Yoga in the last few decades?
It is difficult to explain to someone who has
never experienced what Yoga can do.
personal story of the benefits of Yoga might be the best way to get the idea across.
I started practicing Yoga at 28 years old. It changed my life for the better. I was doing a Ph.D.
in Melbourne at RMIT University on Ginseng, the Chinese Herb.
I was frustrated.
I was in the first cohort of research post graduates at a tertiary
institution that was set up
not to do
research and had just amalgamated with
another larger institution.
reigned. My original two supervisors left the campus.
I was using instrumentation I had never used
before and was feeling a bit lost with the whole venture. I went to two Yoga
classes with housemates in one year.
didn't know much what to think of it, apart from a lot of stretching.
The following year I had started massaging my
tight muscles with a tennis ball and noticed that if I did this in the morning, I could concentrate
the rest of the day and I started getting
insights into just what needed to be done in my research project.
I wondered if this was a type of Yoga?
The following year I decided to go back to
that Yoga school I went to two years earlier and stick with it.
I did and I found myself feeling a sense of
ease and confidence in my life I had never known before.
My ability to concentrate, problem solve, and
make strategic decisions improved.
last I felt in control of my research project.
My sporting confidence picked up also and I started playing first grade
Rugby League in Melbourne.
My abilities seemed to increase in every way. This is why I am so enthusiastic about the benefits of practicing Yoga.
Nevertheless, after about 18 months of Yoga my enthusiasm was tempered with insidious pain and injury. I often found myself limping after class. I abandoned several of the core Iyengar standing poses even relatively basic ones such as Trikonasana (triangle pose). I knew I had to modify my practice and learn more. I explored Pilates and Chi Gung and sought yoga teachers who like me modified their practice to make it safer. Some teachers not only made the practice safer, but also more effective. I rate Simon Borg-Olivier (www.yogasynergy.com.au) highly in this regard. Simon is a Yoga teacher who has been taught by B.K.S. Iyengar and Patabi Jois, is an Australian trained physiotherapist, and is currently recieving tuition from the highly regarded martial arts teacher, Zhen Hua Yang (www.calligraphyhealth.com.au). Insight from Simon Borg-Olivier infusesYogaChiGungPilates.