Monday, March 21, 2011

Beautiful secret weapon

Feeling tired? Under too much stress? No time to exercise?

Well, you may want to try yoga. It's what more and more people have been turning to to ease the troubles of modern life. Practically unheard of in the West until 50 years ago, yoga has become one of the most popular health trends around.

Yoga has become so popular in recent years; it's easy to overlook the fact that it is actually one of humankind's oldest activities. Scholars think that yoga grew out of the methods used by shamans of the Indus Valley, more than 5,000 years ago.

Shamans were the holy men of early human civilization. Their role in society was to communicate with the spirit world to find solutions to problems facing their people. Over time, these shamans developed a system of mental and physical exercises to expand their consciousness, and thereby give a new perspective on the problems of daily life. These exercises formed the foundation of modern yoga.

For thousands of years yoga was practiced mainly in India. The exercises of yoga were incorporated into three of the Indian religions: Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. Technically, yoga is not a religion; it is a method that can be used by anyone to pursue their own religious (or non-religious) goals. Siddhartha, the founder of Buddhism, practiced yogic meditation, and meditation is still a central part of Buddhism today.

Yoga was practically unknown to the West until the 1960s, when popular culture began to show an interest in Eastern religions. Pop culture icons, such as the Beatles, helped popularize yoga by showing interest in yogic meditation. People began to look at yoga as a way to find peace of mind in a world that was anything but peaceful.

Since the 1960s yoga's popularity has grown steadily. Nowadays, Westerners practice all kinds of yoga. There is Bikram, or "hot Yoga", done in rooms heated to over 40 degrees Centigrade. There is baby yoga in which infants copy the stretching poses of their mothers. There are even yoga classes for people in their 70s!

In fact, there are so many people who want to learn yoga that yoga schools across the United States are having difficulty keeping up with the demand. Judging by its popularity, yoga is as useful for solving the problems of today as it was for solving the problems 5,000 years ago.

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