Take time to relax and enjoy these Tidbits facts about yoga, one of the oldest physical disciplines in the world, originating in India over 5,000 years ago.
• The word “yoga” has its origins in the Sanskrit word meaning “to yoke” or “to unite,” reflecting the goal of yoga to bind the breath, the body, and the mind.
• Yoga wasn’t introduced to the U.S. until the 18th century, and it was only for men. Women were not allowed to participate until 1937. The first official studio opened in Hollywood, California, in 1947. Today, 36 million Americans regularly practice yoga, spending $16 billion on classes and equipment each year. 72% of yoga practitioners are women. Men are known as “yogis,”, while females are referred to as “yoginis.”
• The original yoga practitioners used woven grass or animal skins for mats. In 1982, yoga teacher Angela Farmer invented the first modern yoga mat, composed of carpet underlayment.
• There are 84 basic yoga postures, or Asanas as they are called, with the most widely-recognized poses the downward-facing dog and the lotus. All are designed to improve strength, flexibility, balance, posture, and endurance. Yoga also adds breathing techniques, called pranayama, to calm the mind and reduce stress, as well as yamas and niyamas, which are guidelines for ethical and moral behavior toward self and others.
• The headstand is considered the most dangerous yoga pose.
• There are several different styles of yoga, including Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, and Kundalini, which vary according to posture sequences and level of intensity and strength. Yogasana is for the advanced practitioner, and is a fast-paced, vigorous practice. Bikram yoga is commonly known as hot yoga and is practiced in a room heated to 105 degrees F (41 C) with 40% humidity, and is designed to promote flexibility and detoxification.
• Yin yoga focuses on the connective tissues of the body, improving flexibility and relaxation. A more recent type, aerial yoga, involves performing poses while suspended in the air using a hammock or silk ropes. The unusual SUP yoga has practitioners performing poses on a stand-up paddleboard while floating on water.
• There are numerous health benefits of yoga, including a boost in the circulation of immune system cells caused by molecular changes. Research indicates that yoga classes twice a week can reduce depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder. Yoga is beneficial in the management of diabetes, with studies finding that blood glucose levels drop by 10% in people who practiced yoga for ten consecutive days. It’s been shown to improve cardiovascular health, back pain, and other chronic pain. The Alzheimer’s Research Foundation has found that yoga and meditation can delay impairments in cognitive functions.
• Know your yoga terms! Yoga’s hand gestures are known as mudras. The body’s energy centers are referred to as the chakras, running from the base of the spine to just above the top of the head. Yoga’s principles include Saucha (cleanliness), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (self-discipline), and Svadhyaya (self-reflection). Surya Namaskar is a sequence of poses done to warm the body, while Savasana is the resting pose used at the end of the session. You will often hear the yoga teacher say “Namaste” at the closing of the class, a word that translates to “I bow to you.”