We asked NPR's resident yogi, Kelly Fisher, to explain the basic idea behind yoga and 10 of the most common postures. Kelly teaches yoga in and around Washington DC and practices herself everyday. We're glad she could share her knowledge with all of us. Thanks Kelly!
Yoga is a sanskrit word meaning "union." It is a bringing together of the individual mind with the larger, universal mind, if you will. Human beings have a natural tendency to seek that which is greater; something to make them better or bigger or happier. But this is the irony. "Things" are finite. Things can never help a person achieve complete peace because they have a clear beginning... and a clear ending.
Yoga postures, or asanas, are physical exercises that also engage the mind in a larger sense of awareness. The postures give pressure to glands inside the body to promote health and well-being. They massage the internal organs, generate the relaxation response, and quiet the mind. Regular practice of asanas brings a sense of balance that grows from a calm mind.
The mind-body connection is a dynamic relationship that has been studied for thousands of years. Ancient yogis developed asanas by watching animals and other living things in nature as they develop and heal themselves. In an attempt to reach a similar place of stillness, of greater awareness, larger than the individual self, the yogis designed the exercises to increase and perpetuate contentment in the mind, preparing the way for further concentration and meditation.
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