The Art of Physical, Mental and Spiritual Discipline
When you ask someone about their thoughts on yoga, people concoct a variety of ideas. Some people think it’s a form of exercise which involves stretching your body in various positions, others might say that it’s about learning to keep calm and meditation and some will say it’s about breathing and chanting to find inner peace. Well, the truth is yoga isn’t just about one of these factors; it’s all of the above and so much more. Yoga is much more than a workout routine, it’s an entire lifestyle that helps to keep you fit, calm and stress free.
Yoga according to the Vedic Sanskrit means “to add”, “to join” or “to unite”. Yoga has appeared in history as early as 4000 BC in the form of Yoga Sutras of Patanjali which focuses on the mind and Hatha Yoga which focuses on the health and purity of the body. The concentration and various bodily poses that Vedic priests used to conduct their rituals were the first indications of the practice of Yoga. In the Brahmanas, an ancient Vedic text dating 1000 – 800 BC, mentions various techniques for controlling breathing and vital energies, the Bhagavad Gita also mentions yogic practices such as meditation. Yoga was introduced to the Western world in the late 19th century by Swami Vivekananda. Since then it has become a popular form of physical and health exercise and many studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of yoga in terms of reducing the occurrence of common ailments such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.
There is a variation of benefits when practicing yoga, one such benefit is the toning of body, increased flexibility and bodily strength. Yoga lets you firm areas such as the thighs, abdomen and lumbar region by performing a variation of asanas. Asanas are a coordinated series of stretching, breathing and finally holding the last posture. The major objective is for the body to develop stamina and remove the lack of energy. All together, this loosens the joints and makes the spine flexible. In addition, depending on the asana you perform, sore muscles can be relieved along with back and abdominal pain. A major upside to this is that you don’t have to put chemicals via medication into your body; nature provides its own relief!
Additionally, yoga is also very effective in relieving tension and stress. We may not realize it, but very often most of our physical ailments such as headaches and insomnia are a result of some sort of psychological distress. Therefore, in order to reduce these bodily ailments our minds must be calm and stress free. This state of mind is attained from a series of rhythmic breathing. Practicing simple yogic breathing exercises can harness the energy for development of the body and psyche. It also helps the body fully utilize the lungs and make your overall breathing uniform and continuous. One simple remedy of controlling your breathing is through the nose making sure to lengthen exhalation relative to inhalation. This remedy is used to relieve stress and increase relaxation, therefore having a calming effect on the body and mind.
Perhaps the most perplex function of yoga is the effect it has on the mind overall. According to the ancient teachings of Patanjali, yoga is the process of gaining control over the mind. No, it doesn’t give you the power to move objects with your mind, rather it is focused on the power to concentrate on a desired object or subject. Swami Vivekananda has classified them simply into four streams namely work, worship, philosophy and psychic control. The path of work, known as Karma Yoga is performing and action with an attitude of detachment to fruits of that action. This brings you a steadiness of mind when you release yourself from strong attachments, whether it is material or emotional. Bhakti Yoga or worship is a path in which to control emotional instability while learning to properly channel its energies. Philosophy or Jnana Yoga is centered on happiness and analyzing its source and potential. Finally, Raja Yoga or psychic control is reaching a higher state of consciousness through of course, meditation. It is a source for self – realization and liberation and considered the most powerful form of yoga.
Altogether these ancient teachings bring something extraordinary to our modern, fast phase ever changing world. For such a small word, it is packed with meaning and its purpose is relatable to everyone. So the next time you’re considering a new workout routine, a fresh way to de – stress or find personal revitalization you can find them all in one place by doing one thing – yoga.
By | Rhea Ramkhelawan
This post originally appeared on Uncovered