There are many ways to relax at home, and more and more people have started to use yoga for meditation and relaxation purposes.
But don’t be scared by what you think you may know about yoga!
Not all yoga positions require outstanding flexibility, and your flexibility will improve with time, allowing you to learn and master more yoga asanas.
This page contains some background information about yoga as well as links to illustrations and step-by-step instructions for specific yoga poses, along with their health benefits (see links in the sidebar).
A Little Yoga History
While the exact birth date of yoga is unknown, most agree that it started some 4,000 to 8,000 years ago in India. It evolved with time, and the concept that the mind, body and soul were one cosmic entity was introduced with Hinduism.
Yoga for meditation and relaxation is growing in popularity in the west while it maintains its living tradition in India.
Types of Yoga For Meditation and Relaxation Purposes
There are several types of yoga, but the following four are recognized to be the main branches of yoga:
Each yoga focuses on a distinct path:
- Karma Yoga: Selfless Work
- Bhakti Yoga: Love and Devotion
- Jnana Yoga: Knowledge and Discernment
- Raja Yoga (or Ashtanga Yoga): Meditation
Although not an official yoga type per se, you may be interested in a fun and relaxing activity called laughter yoga. It’s great for your mood and for your health!
Some Yoga Definitions and Common Sanskrit Terms
Before you start practicing yoga for meditation and relaxation purposes, you should familiarize yourself with these common yoga terms and definitions:
- Asanas. Generally speaking, this word is used to refer to yoga positions. It is a state of being where you are physically and mentally steady, calm, quiet, and comfortable. In Raja Yoga, it only refers to the sitting position, but in Hatha Yoga, Yogasanas also include opening the energy channels to increase awareness.
- Chakras. These are energy centers located throughout your body. There are seven major chakras and several smaller ones. Chakras can be opened or closed to re-balance the flow of energy within yourself.
- Dhayana. A meditation aimed at connecting yourself with the universal consciousness.
- Mantra. This Sanskrit word means speech. A mantra is usually a word (or series of words) that, repeated, helps focus the mind.
- Namaste. You’ve probably heard this term before. It is very common in yoga and it means “I honor the light within you.”
- Niyamas. These are disciplines or “must-do” items. Examples include cleanliness, contentment, austerity, study of self, and devotion to God (but it doesn’t have to be God per se; it could be devotion to your spiritual quest).
- Prana. Vital energy that is the equivalent of chi in Chinese culture and Feng Shui.
- Pranayama. Breath control through yoga breathing exercises.
- Pratyahara. Concentration where you withdraw yourself from reactions to external stimuli.
- Samadhi. Liberation where a total balance and unity exist between you and the universal consciousness.
- Yamas. Yamas are restraints similar to the “Ten Commandments.” The five most common yamas are: non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, abstinence, and non-greed.
- Yoga. Yoga is a Sanskrit word that means union with the universal soul by integration of body, mind, and spirit.
Where Does Religion Fit In?
That’s the wonderful part about yoga. You can make it a part of your religion or not. You choose.
There are different disciplines that focus on the mental, physical, and/or spiritual aspects of yoga, so you can follow your own path.
If you intend to use yoga for meditation and relaxation purposes, you should probably include these three complementary elements (mental, physical, AND spiritual). Keep in mind that a spiritual person may (or may not) be religious and/or vice-versa.
You may also be interested in learning how to meditate.
Other Resources – Yoga for Relaxation and Meditation
Explore the list of asanas in the sidebar to begin your practice (located on the right or below this section, depending on your screen size). Unsure where to start? I recommend these breathing exercises.
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