The practice of yoga was developed by an Indian Hindu by the name of Patanjali way back in the year 300. The word itself means discipline and the whole purpose of yoga is to stretch the muscles, increase the levels of concentration and to strengthen the body in general. It is also a great way to relax and de-stress your body.

There is little wonder that such an ancient form of discipline has turned out to be so popular amongst athletes and modern day entertainers. However, yoga can be practiced by anyone as an occasional simple exercise routine or on a regular basis as a total way of life.

The people who take part in yoga are known as yogis and many of them use this form of discipline to reach a higher level of consciousness. They respect the fact that there are certain things they should not be or do such as being greedy, hurting others, lying and stealing and they adhere to things they should do like being clean, feeling content each day, having self control, and leading a studious and devoted lifestyle.

Yogis train themselves how to have physical control over their bodies by taking full and deep breaths. This is considered by them to be a life force and they count their lifespan in the amount of breaths taken and not in the years of their age.

Yoga is different from other exercises as it assists the body to become more flexible as well as improving one’s strength. Due to this, some of the yoga exercises and positions known as asanas can look a little strange. You may feel at first that you need to be some kind of contortionist to perform the exercises, but this is not case - you just need to completely relax. Yoga allows you to ease into the stretches gently and you are not required to force yourself into any position. The regularly used expression ‘no pain no gain’ simply does not apply when practicing yoga. You simply do the best you can at the time and at some point in the future you will find yourself doing more.

Balance is demanded by all yoga positions and as you are unlikely to be able to get this right when thinking about whatever it was you watched on TV last night, you need to learn how to concentrate on what you are doing. Once you have perfected this art, you will discover that you can concentrate on other things much better too.

You will find yoga exercises copy nature and many yoga poses outline the shape of creatures such as the cat, cobra, crab, dog, eagle and tortoise. For instance, in the cobra pose, you would ask yourself just what it would feel like to actually be a cobra. You lie flat on your stomach with your forehead resting on the floor and as you breathe in, slowly roll your head backwards whilst supporting your body with your hands. Keep that position and then come back down slowly, all the time moving as a snake would do.

All yoga exercises have been carefully thought out to encourage serenity and strength and every move affects a gland, a muscle or a nerve center. With yoga you can choose to perform particular exercises to get rid of certain types of back pain or leg pain experienced from jogging. You can also use yoga as preparation for a skiing trip or even to help you overcome your feelings of fear or depression.

The many asanas of yoga, how to do them and the way in which they can work for you can be found in any good yoga book. Do you remember doing handstands and cartwheels in the past? There you go - you may well have already done some yoga without even knowing it!

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