t’s the International Yoga Day today, and perhaps everyone who is a fitness enthusiast like me, is surely preparing themselves for a small yoga workout session either at home or in their respective workplaces! But, yoga is not something that gives you results in a day or two! It is not just a form of workout for losing weight or for increasing your flexibility! If you thought YOGA was the best solution for your home work out sessions or for enhancing your body’s flexibility, you probably don’t know a thing about Yoga!
Yoga is a complete mind and body practice that works on every part of your body, including your physical postures, breathing techniques, relaxation and meditation. It is an ancient Hindu ascetic and spiritual discipline that you need to follow for achieving your health goals, which is surely not an easy task. However, today, we will learn a little more in depth about Yoga, its 8 limbs and how Yoga heals your body against diseases and health conditions as serious as cancer.
About Yoga in Depth
The word “YOGA” comes from the Sanskrit word “YUG” pronounced as “yuj”. It means “to join”, “to unite” A union in various levels, a union of the body, mind and soul. It is the union of the “atma” with the “Paramatma” and a union of “thoughts and actions”.
The Geeta describes yoga as “skill in action” and “moderation in everything”
The most famous definition of Yoga is in the Yoga Sutra, the ancient text attributed to the sage Patanjali: Yogas Citta Vrtti Nirodhah, “Yoga is the restraint of the agitation of thoughts”.
Yoga is a science that has been gifted to us by ancient gurus, a tried and tested means for salvation. It has 8 limbs, or steps that one must follow, in sequence, to achieve the ultimate. Some might call this “Nirvana”, some might call it “liberation” or “enlightenment”
According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, there is an eight-fold path leading to liberation, known as the ‘Ashtanga Yoga System’ or ‘8 Limbs of Yoga’ (the word ‘ashta’ means ‘eight’ and ‘anga’ means ‘limb’).
The 8 Limbs of Yoga
YAMA – Restraints, moral disciplines or moral vows
NIYAMA – Positive duties or observances
ASANA – Posture
PRANAYAMA – Breathing techniques
PRATYAHARA – Sense withdrawal
DHARANA – Focused concentration
DHYANA – Meditative absorption
SAMADHI – Bliss or Enlightenment
Hence what we think of yoga is wrong! What we do on our mats is just one limb of yoga known as ASANAS. The third limb of Ashtanga yoga Asanas are postures that help in making the body and mind ready for further spiritual growth. It is NOT per say YOGA!
Since Yoga is a proven science, tested by great masters and handed down to us through generations, we can safely conclude that Asanas too are beneficial for our all round growth, growth not just in terms of body but the mind and soul too. One of the many benefits of practicing Asanas is to lose weight, and look good but it has far greater reaches than just that.
Practising Asanas can change your entire psycho-physiological system. Starting from your nervous system to your circulatory system, muscular system, respiratory system, endocrinal system and your lymphatic system! All this has been very much proved by science.
You may wonder how this can be done! We are all part of this beautiful cosmos, what is within, is without.We as human beings are the microcosm living in the macrocosm, we are purush and prakriti, we are energy in form of matter. Hence like the universe has its own rhythm, like the sun has its own pace, and everything in nature is in perfect harmony, so is the body and mind supposed to be.As human beings we are nothing more than the 5 elements – Fire, Water, Air, Space and Earth. And it is through YOGA that we can find our rhythm, and be a part of nature as were born to be.
Asanas help us to do just that.The basic nature of man is “BLISS”. And this can’t be achieved till our body is in perfect condition, till our body and mind is in sync with each other and with the universe. We can only reach this perfect rhythm when all our biological and psychological systems are functioning at their optimum level. A body and mind that is at rest at peace in their perfect state of being is what ASANAS can help us do.
Asanas work on our autonomic nervous system, helping us to move away from the vicious circle of stress and move towards the rhythm of rest and rejuvenation, this being our natural state of being.
Although yoga is much more than a stress-reduction method, stress adversely affects a wide range of health conditions, and yoga is arguably the most comprehensive approach to fighting stress ever invented. Stress isn’t just a factor in conditions commonly labeled “stress-related,” such as migraines, ulcers, and irritable bowel syndrome, but it appears to contribute to such major killers as heart attacks, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
Even diseases such as cancer—for which there is surprisingly little evidence that stress is a causative factor—are extremely stressful once a person has been diagnosed and begins treatment. Yoga can improve not only the quality of life after diagnosis, but it appears to diminish the side effects of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and other treatments, and may increase the odds of survival.
To appreciate the role of stress in disease and of relaxation in prevention and recovery, it’s important to understand the function of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which controls the function of the heart, liver, intestines, and other internal organs. The ANS has two branches that work in conjunction: the sympathetic nervous system. The SNS, in conjunction with such stress hormones as adrenaline and cortisol, initiate a series of changes in the body, including raising blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar levels. These changes help a person deal with a crisis situation. They mean more energy and more blood and oxygen flowing to the large muscles of the trunk, arms, and legs, allowing the person to run from danger or do battle (the so-called “fight-or-flight” response).
The PNS, in contrast, tends to slow the heart and lower the blood pressure, allowing recovery after a stressful event. Blood flow that was diverted away from the intestines and reproductive organs, whose function isn’t essential in an emergency, returns. In contrast to fight or flight, these more restorative functions can be thought of as “rest and digest.” They are also sometimes dubbed the relaxation response (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). In general, when activity is high in the SNS, it is lower in the PNS, and vice versa. YOGA JOURNAL
Asanas can restructure and remodel your entire physical and mental system. Your thought process changes for the better, your habits, your mind set, your physical body and your mental state all can take a turn for the better.
Different postures can take you deep within yourself, it can help you understand yourself. After all, “Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” –The Bhagavad Gita. It makes you realize the true value and purpose of life.It strengthens you physically as well as mentally.Postures, breathing, meditation and relaxation can help you shed off all that is unnecessary.
The practice of yoga helps you to become a more compassionate and loving person. It makes you more mindful and aware of yourself and your surroundings .It teaches you the art of gratitude, it helps you to love yourself and your body, making you more accepting towards yourself and others.
On a mere physical level, it helps you discover strength that you wouldn’t have imagined you possessed. Brings forth muscles you never knew existed, tones your entire body, makes you look leaner and younger and gives a glow like no product on earth can give you.it calms your mind and lightens your body.
Hence it is a good idea on WORLD YOGA DAY to get on your mat and begin with a few stretches, deep breathing, meditation and relaxation. Be aware of your” inner technology”, be aware of your “true self”. Our body is a temple and we must love it and cherish it and do as much as we can to keep it fit and healthy. So do some stretching, some breathing and some soul searching.
NAMASTE (“I bow to you.”)