Yoga is an age-old science made up of different disciplines of mind and body. It has originated in India 2500 years ago .
The word yoga is based upon a Sanskrit verb Yuja. It means to connect, to culminate or to concur. It’s the culmination of mind and body or the culmination of Jiva and Shiva (soul and the universal spirit). It’s also a culmination of Purush and Prakriti (Yin and Yang).
There are several schools or systems of Yoga:
- Dnyanayoga (Yoga through knowledge),.
- Bhaktiyoga (Yoga through devotion),.
- Karmayoga (Yoga through action),
- Rajayoga (Royal or supreme Yoga).
- Hathayoga (Yoga by balancing opposite principles of body).
the beauty of Yoga is in the fact that at a not-so-perfect level most of the benefits are still available. That means even a beginner benefits from Yoga as much as an expert.
In their quest to find a solution to the miseries of human body and mind, the founders of Yoga found part of their answers in the nature. They watched the birds and animals stretching their bodies in particular fashion to get rid of the inertia and malaise.
- matsyasana (fish pose),
- makarasana (crocodile pose),
- shalabhasana (grasshopper pose),
- bhujangasana (cobra pose),
- marjarasana (cat pose),
- mayurasana (peacock pose),
- vrischikasana (scorpion pose),
- gomukhasana (cow’s mouth pose),
- parvatasana (mountain pose),
- vrikshasana (tree pose) etc.
Many of the Asana can be broadly categorized based upon the type of pressure on the abdomen. Most of the forward bending Asana are positive pressure Asana as they put positive pressure on the stomach .
The backward bending Asana are the negative pressure Asana as they take pressure away from the abdomen .
Both types of Asana give excellent stretch to the back and abdomen and strengthen both these organs. Alternating between positive and negative pressure on the same area of the body intensifies and enhances blood circulation in that area. As a result you feel fresh and rejuvenated.
Practicing Pranayama is one of the ways of getting rid of mental disturbances and physical ill health. Pranayama means controlled and prolonged span of breath.
Just like a pendulum requires twice long to come back to its original position, the exhalations in Pranayama aretwice longer than the inhalations.
The main purpose of Pranayama is to bring mental stability and restrain desires by controlling breathing.
On the other hand Pranayama prepares the mind and body for meditational and spiritual practice of Yoga
Here are a few physical benefits of Pranayama:
- Lungs, chest, diaphragm become stronger and healthier.
- Capacity of lungs is increased.
- Slow changing pressure creates a form of massage to all organs in the stomach cavity.
- Purifies blood by increasing blood’s capacity to absorb more oxygen.
- Brain functions better with more oxygen in the blood.
- Neuromuscular coordination improves.
- Body becomes lean and the skin glows.
Characteristics of Yoga
Let’s take a look at some of the chief characteristics of Yoga.
- Yoga is not an exercise.
- To understand the concept of Yoga one must keep in mind that the positions in Yoga are not exercises but bodily stretches and maintenance of stretches
- Yoga requires very smooth and controlled motions and a slow steady tempo.
- Breathing in Yoga remains steady unlike many aerobic exercises.
- Yoga is also Isotonic unlike bodybuilding exercises, which are isometric in nature.
- Longer maintenance and fewer repetitions (as per the body’s capacity).
- Trust your body. Apply minimum efforts.
- Focused stretching.
- This habit of differentiating between different muscles for the pressure becomes very useful in other areas of life too. It enables you to relax better while driving during rush hour. While doing normal daily tasks it makes you aware of the unnecessary tension on different parts of your body.
- Yoga teaches you how to relax and gives you time free of worries and regrets, impatience and anxieties.
- Monitoring your breathing is an integral part of Yoga.
- Anantha Samapatti (Merging with the Infinite):
Ultimate goal of Yoga is the amalgamation of self into the greater self.
Yoga is a way of life. It’s a total integration
In fact a body that has become flexible and steady through practice of various positions becomes a good basis for the ultimate transcendental state of mind (Samadhi).
Benefits of Yoga
Stress, tension, anxiety are the inevitable features of modern day life. Yoga offers many techniques to cope up with the stress and anxiety. A stress free mind reduces the chances of catching a disease to half, this has been widely known by now.
Yoga teaches you how to breathe adequately and how not to make your body tense and stiff while doing other daily tasks too.
People having busy schedules who are used to being in action all the time, must understand that relaxing is not a crime or not a waste of time. On the contrary it gives you new energy to do your tasks better.
Feeling energized and refreshed
Adequate breathing plays a great role in rejuvenating and refreshing mind and body. Breathing techniques in Yoga provide abundant supply of oxygen to the lungs, cleanse nasal passages and sinuses and thus help feel refreshed.
Flexibility of mind and body
Apart from the relaxing effect, yoga also consists of many body stretches which when maintained for a few minutes give a wonderful flexibility to our muscles. One starts wondering, ‘Am I the same person who used to be so stiff?’ In many chronic disorders of the spine, Yoga has helped many people to reduce the frequency and intensity of the disorder such as spondylitis, arthritis etc.
Relief from chronic disorders
Many Yoga stretches make the spine strong and flexible. Time and again Yoga has proved to be a blessing for all kinds of disorders of the back. The technique of exhaling twice longer than inhaling (Pranayama) gives abundant supply of oxygen to blood and many impurities of blood are cured.
They help get rid of chronic sinus trouble or clogging of nasal passage for many people. That makes the lungs and respiratory organs stronger. The abdominal breathing technique (Kapalbhati) helps people with asthma or weak diaphragm to breathe easily.
Focus of mind
Practice of Yoga helps in getting better focus of mind. Meditation, being part of Yoga, teaches you how to focus better and achieve more from any activity.
Benefits at not-so-perfect level
Even if one cannot achieve perfection in an Asana, the benefits of an Asana are still available at a not-so-perfect level such as calmer mind, better flexibility, better blood pressure, lower pulse rate and better endocrine function.
Those seeking this should be warned that it is not simple. However, yoga can bring about this awareness and the rewards are great. Once this has been attained, life becomes a much richer experience, with an outlook on life and general positive attitude.
Many thanks to Nivedita Ayogi