Yoga & Health Tourism

Yoga is a term encompassing a wide variety of practices that originated in India, many of which are profoundly different in their execution but are united by the fact they share the same fundamental philosophy.

The word ‘yoga’ is a derivative of the Sanskrit word yuj, meaning ‘union.’ It follows that the philosophy behind all forms of yoga is the pursuit of union between an individual’s consciousness and what is referred to as the ‘universal consciousness.’ The techniques practiced to achieve this union can involve physical or mental exercise, or a combination of both.

The physical aspects of yoga are significant and tend to be the focus of the majority of classes given at fitness centers in Europe and North America. There are many branches of yoga, however, each adopting its own approach to achieving ‘union.’ Hatha is among the most common branches practiced in the west and is the form most associated with physical exercise and manipulations of the body. Other branches of yoga include: Karma, Jnana, Bhakti and Tantri.

Hatha yoga involves students performing a series of movements or postures known as asanas, combined with complex breathing techniques known as pranayama (a term meaning ‘breath of life’). Yoga classes in the west invariably focus on Hatha yoga and often incorporate a routine of poses known as surya-namaskar, or ‘sun salutation.’ Sun salutation in its basic form involves the same stages as asanas, although some teachers like to vary these stages by adding extra poses or repeating certain poses in the series.

The benefits of yoga are widely acknowledged, not only by proponents of alternative medicine, but also by members of the conventional medical community. Mental benefits include increased ability to concentrate and relief from stress, depression and anxiety. Physical benefits include increase strength, flexibility and mobility, relief from localized pain, a lowering of blood pressure, improved circulation and better cardiovascular health.