The Wonders of Yoga

  Life is all about balance. Enjoying life and reveling in its perks, while trying to keep a healthy, happy state of mind. It’s not always as easy as it seems. Luckily, there’s one thing that might help you in trying to find that balance: yoga. In this blog, Urban Nature Culture will tell you a bit about the origins of yoga, and bring you 3 yoga practices that’ll help you settle down after a long day.

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Body & Mind
There’s no point denying: yoga is HOT. The amount of yoga teachers, festivals, apps, weekend trips, courses and programs has grown tremendously throughout the years. People are becoming more and more aware, that a healthy body and state of mind leads to a happier life. If you don’t want to rock things out in the gym, or run a marathon in these cold winter days, yoga is a perfect way to keep your body fit, lean and healthy, while calming the senses and shutting off the busy, outside world for a moment. Doing yoga isn’t the easy work-out you’d think, it’s actually hard work that requires concentration, strength and lots of flexibility, but there’s many sides to yoga that will also teach you about meditation, taking it easy and only focusing on your breath. It tells you to go inwards, to focus on your core energy and mind. Maybe that’s why, in these hasty times, so many people have found their balance in yoga.

The origins of yoga
Yoga finds its origins in ancient India, linked to Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. It’s a tough guess, but sources of yoga date back to the sixth century BCE, to pre-Vedic traditions, mentioned in the Rig-Veda – the eldest of the four religious Hinduism texts known as the Veda’s. Yoga can be traced back to over 5000 years ago, which is already mind-blowing, but some researchers think that it may be even older, up to 10,000 years old. Fact is, that it was described in the Rig-Veda, in which the rituals, mantras and songs used by the Vedic priests were written. These people refined and developed yoga, and documented their work in the Upanishads, a work of over 200 scriptures. Their goal was to internalize the idea of ritual sacrifice, by teaching the sacrifice of the ego through self-knowledge, action (karma yoga) and wisdom (jnana yoga). Yoga was, and will for lots of people always be, linked to religion – Hinduism and its beliefs. 

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The development of yoga
Yoga continued to develop, change and evolve. It became a mixture of ideas, beliefs and techniques, that didn’t always add up. The first presentation of yoga as we know it, was defined by Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutras, written in the second century. It describes the path of Raja Yoga, nowadays referred to as ‘classical yoga’. Patanjali divided the practice of yoga into a path of 8, with steps and stages that would finally lead to enlightenment – known as Samadhi. Today, we know this as the father of yoga, with the sutras still influencing today’s yoga moves. Fast forward a few centuries and yoga masters created a system of practices meant to refresh the body and prolong life – now known as Tantra yoga – with techniques to cleans the body and mind, eventually developing itself into Hatha Yoga: what we, in the West, know as the yoga we practice today.

Yoga goes West
With the worldwide infrastructure improving, travelling became more and more popular, also amongst yoga masters. And so, they began to travel to the West in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Yoga began to draw attention. At the 1893 Parliament of Religions in Chicago, a yoga master named Swami Vivekananda gave a lecture on yoga, wowing the crowd. 3 decades later, Hatha yoga practices opened up in India and well-known masters like Krishnamacharya and Swami Vivekananda began growing more popular, both in and outside India. Vivekananda wrote no less than 200 books on yoga and opened numerous yoga centers around the world. And the word of this magical thing called ‘yoga’ would spread like a fire.

With its roots in Indian traditions and beliefs, yoga is much more than a physical exercise, having a meditative and spiritual core. Which is exactly why we love it so much. To get you started and explore yoga a bit, we’ve decided to bring you three yoga poses to calm you down after a busy day at work. Enjoy and namaste!

1. Sukhasana
Calms your mind, strengthens your back and stretches knees and ankles.

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It may seems like an easy pose, but mind you – it isn’t! For support, fold a thick blanket or cushion and sit close to one edge. Stretch your legs out in front of you (staff pose), then cross your shins, widen your knees, and slip each foot beneath the opposite knee. Bend your knees and fold the legs in towards your torso. Now, here comes the hard part. Relax the feet so the outer edges rest comfortably on the floor and the inner arches settle just below the opposite shin. There should be a gap between your feet and the pelvis. Your knees should be lower than your hips. Lengthen your tail bone towards the floor, firm your shoulder blades against your back without over-arching your lower back, and poke your lower front ribs forwards. Bring your hands to your heart and allow your chest to sink and rise again. Sit in this position for as long as you like.
Watch the instruction video here!

2. Tadasana
Helps you focus, concentrate and set your posture, to find balance.

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Begin by standing up straight, taking in the mountain pose – Tadasana. To bring your mind into focus, inhale and sweep both arms out to your sides, up to shoulder height. On exhaling, lower your arms to shoulder height and bring both arms to your sides. Repeat several times.  
Watch the instruction video here!

3. Viparita Karani
Calm the nervous system, open the chest and relieve low-back pain.

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Begin the ‘legs-up-the-wall’ pose by lying on your back, supported by a soft blanket or pillow. Place your buttocks against the wall, making sure your hips are as close to the wall as possible. Lift your legs and let them rest against a wall. Lean back, rest your hands at your sides, and breath. Stay in this position from 5 to 15 minutes, whatever feels comfortable. Exhale when you release and hug your knees to your chest and you get out of position.
Watch the instruction video here!

We hope these yoga poses help you to feel balanced. There’s hundreds more, so please feel free to share your favorite pose with us on our Facebook page!

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About Us

With a lifelong experience in home and lifestyle collections, Dutch entrepreneur and wayfarer in life Anne Marie Hermans is proud to bring you the brand that mirrors her vision on the world: Urban Nature Culture.