Spiritual Tour Guide
Yoga is a system of exercises for the physical & mental well being. It combines stylized poses with deep breathing and meditation. The term yoga itself is derived from a Sanskrit word meaning 'to join together'. The ultimate aim of yoga it to unite the human soul with the universal sprit
Yoga was developed about 5 thousand years ago. Its founders were great Sages who carried out intense feats of physical and mental concentration. Yoga has its origins in the Vedas, the oldest records of Indian culture. The great Indian sage Patanjali who described a series of postures or Asanas, which the student gradually tries to attain, systematized it. Maharishi Patanjali rightly called as the "Father of Yoga" compiled and refined various aspects of Yoga systematically in his "Yoga Sutras" (aphorisms). He advocated the eight-fold path of Yoga, popularly known as "Ashtanga Yoga" for the all-round development of the human personality.
According to Patanjali, within the human body there are channels called Nadi & centers called chakra. If these channels & centers are tapped, energy hidden in the body can be released. This energy is called kundalini.
The eight stages of yoga stated by Patanjali
- The yama (universal moral commandments)
- Niyama (self-purification through discipline)
- Asana (posture)
- Pranayama (breath control)
- Pratyahara (withdrawal of mind from external objects)
- Dharana (concentration)
- Dhyana (meditation)
- Samadhi (state of super consciousness)
Besides the different stages in yoga, there are various forms of discipline touching different aspects of human life. These disciplines include
- Hathyoga (physical exercise)
- Gyanayoga or Dhyana yoga (exercise for the mind & intellect)
- Karmayoga (disciplined action in daily life)
BENEFITS OF YOGA
This ancient health & fitness practice provides both physical & mental therapy. It considers ageing as largely an artificial condition, caused mainly by autointoxication or self-poisoning. By keeping the body parts clean and well lubricated, cell deterioration can be greatly reduced. To get the maximum benefits of yoga one has to follow three main guidelines i.e. practice of asanas, pranayama and yoga nidra.
With the regular practice of asanas, we control our cholesterol level, reduce weight, normalize blood pressure and improve cardiac performance. Asanas harmonize our mental energy flow by clearing any blockages in the subtle body, leading to mental equilibrium & calmness.
The practice of pranayama, the correct breathing technique, helps to manipulate our energies. Most of us breathe incorrectly (only thoracic ally not using our abdomen, thereby utilizing only half of our lung capacity). Pranayama is a technique where in it re-educates our breathing process, helps to release tensions and develop a relaxed state of mind. It balances our nervous system, reduces the need for sleep and encourages creative thinking. Increasing oxygen to our brain, improves mental clarity, alertness and physical wellbeing.
Yoga nidra is a form of medication. Performed while lying on the back in the shavasana pose, it relaxes the physiological & psychological systems. This technique completely rejuvenates the body & mind, giving a sense of wellbeing.
People from all over the world travel to India to learn the ancient science of yoga. The tradition of Yoga was born in India several thousand years ago. Yoga is practiced all over the world today.
TRAINING IN YOGA
Gurus such as Bikram Singh have coined their own brand of Bikram Yoga and popularized it. It continues to be practiced in the traditional way in India and its gentle stretching and mental concentration exercises have been proven to have a beneficial effect on the body and mind. Each posture or asana exercises some of the muscles of the body and combinations of these asanas can provide you with a complete physical and mental workout routine.
Asanas such "Suryanamaskara," an invocation to the Sun god can be the ideal way to start your day. Savasana while involves meditation while lying flat on ones back, can provide relief from stress and restore you to a sense of calm.
There are many ashrams across India where Yoga is practiced. Yoga is not merely a form of exercise or meditation but is a complete health giving system that will keep you fit as you travel on your journey through life.
More and more doctors are prescribing meditation as a way to lower blood pressure, improve exercise performance in people with angina, help asthmatics breathe easier, relieve insomnia and generally ease the everyday stresses of life. Medication is a safe and simple way to balance a person's physical, emotional and mental states. The concept of meditation works on the principle that when the mind is calm and focused on the present. Neither is it reacting to memories from the past nor being preoccupied with plans for the future: two major sources of chronic stress known to impact health.
There are several techniques of meditation but they all have one thing in common -- focus on quietening the busy mind. The concept is not to remove stimulation but rather to direct concentration to one healing element: one sound, one word, one image, or one's breath.
All forms of meditation can be broadly classified into concentrative meditation and mindful meditation.
Concentrative meditation focuses attention on a breath, an image, or a sound (mantra), in order to still the mind and allow greater awareness and clarity to emerge. The simplest form of concentrative meditation is to sit quietly and focus attention on the breath. Yoga and meditation practitioners believe that there is a direct correlation between one's breathe one's state of the mind. For example, when a person is anxious, frightened, agitated or distracted, the breath will tend to be shallow, rapid and uneven. On the other hand, when the mind is calm focused and composed the breath will tend to be slow, deep and regular.
As one focuses one's awareness on the breath, the mind becomes absorbed in the rhythm of inhalation and exhalation. As a result, breathing will become slower and deeper, and the mind will become more tranquil and aware.
Mindful meditation, involves becoming aware of the continuously passing parade of sensations and feeling, images, thoughts, sounds, smells, and so forth without becoming involved in thinking about them. The person sits quietly and simply witnesses whatever goes through the mind, not reacting or becoming involved with thoughts, memories, worries or images. This helps to gain a more calm, clear and non-reactive state of mind. Studies show that after meditation, reactions are faster, creativity greater and comprehension broader. In addition, by silencing the mind, meditation can also put one in touch with the self, allowing the body's own inner wisdom to be heard.