Yoga Story

By Jacqueline Dy Uy, The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Every year we make them. And every year we break them. Resolutions —those personal promises we make at the beginning of each year to achieve a goal, which most often than not we all fail to keep. Eat healthy, sleep early, save money, lose weight; the list goes on and on. This year, just for a change, why not make your resolutions happen? Set a personal goal for a healthier lifestyle, perhaps try something new; how about practicing yoga? Anyone?

Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word yuj, which translates as “to unite.” Though its origins remain unknown, archaeologists have discovered seals at Indus Valley Civilization sites, with figures resembling the seated and standing Hindu deities in common yoga postures. In the 19th century, Hindu monks brought yoga to the West and it has since gained popularity as a health and fitness exercise.

Apart from mastering different postures and increasing one’s flexibility and strength, yoga is a union of the mind, body and spirit. In practicing a repertoire of postures, even as basic as forward bends and stretching, to backbends and headstands, the body unites with the calmness of the mind, and refreshes the spirit. Yoga can tone the body, improve one’s immune system, and lessen stress levels with regular practice.

Yoga comes in different variations and some of the most frequently heard are Hatha, Vinyasa and Bikram. Hatha yoga is the gentlest type and recommended for beginners. In class, basic postures and breathing exercises are introduced to loosen the body, getting rid of the stiffness from the previous night’s slumber.

Vinyasa class lets you imagine a rising sun, which then follows a series of 12 poses known as sun salutation. The flow of poses is known to improve muscular flexibility, warm up the body, and tone abdominal muscles. Bikram, or hot yoga, makes you experience summer in winter months.

Practiced in a room heated up to 40 degrees, Bikram consists of a series of poses from Hatha yoga. The heat in the studio helps in deeper stretching, increasing blood circulation to every organ.

Before you get fooled by pictures of smiling, back-bending, head-standing yogis and think yoga is as easy as pie, think again. The challenge in the practice of yoga is being able to stay in the posture and hold it while breathing normally. In early stages, expect shaking legs, trembling arms, and being drenched in sweat. There are postures that may be too difficult for you, but instructors will show you easier options. As my yoga master would put it, do not force your body, focus on one thing, and see improvements day by day.