Guidelines to Yoga practice for mental peace, physical fitness
Guidelines To Yoga Practice For Mental Peace, Physical Fitness. India is set to celebrate International Day of Yoga on 21st June 2015 to highlight the importance, relevance and usefulness of this ancient Indian technique to the overall benefit of mankind.
India is set to celebrate International Day of Yoga on 21st June 2015 to highlight the importance, relevance and usefulness of this ancient Indian technique to the overall benefit of mankind. On December 11, 2014, the 193 member UN General Assembly approved observation of 21 June as "International Day of Yoga" by consensus with a record 177 countries co-sponsoring the resolution. It is a great opportunity for all of us to explore ways and means of propagating this knowledge through multiple strategies.
It all started when the Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi while addressing the 69th session of United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on September 27, 2014 extolled the delegates to adopt Yoga. "Yoga is an invaluable gift of ancient Indian tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature and a holistic approach to health and well-being. Yoga is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with ourselves, the world and Nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help us to deal with climate change. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day”, he said.
What is Yoga
Yoga is essentially a spiritual discipline based on an extremely subtle science which focuses on bringing harmony between mind and body. It is an art and science for healthy living. The literal meaning of the Sanskrit word yoga is "to add", "to join", "to unite", or "to attach" is derived from the root yuj. In the context of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the root yuj samādhau (to concentrate) is considered by traditional commentators as the correct etymology. The ultimate goal of Yoga is moksha (liberation) though the exact definition of what form this takes depends on the philosophical or theological system with which it is linked. Apart from the spiritual goals, the physical postures of yoga are used to alleviate health problems, reduce stress and make the spine supple in contemporary times. Yoga is also used as a complete exercise program and physical therapy routine.
The aim of Yoga practice (sādhana) is to overcome all kinds of sufferings that lead to a sense of freedom in every walk of life with holistic health, happiness and harmony. The science of Yoga has its origin thousands of years ago, long before the first religion or belief systems were born. Yoga is widely considered as an outcome of the Indus Valley Civilisation – dating back to 2700 BC – and has proven itself to cater to both material and spiritual uplift of humanity. Though Yoga was practiced in the pre-Vedic period, the great sage Patanjali systematised and codified the then existing Yogic practices, its meaning and its related knowledge through Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. After Patanjali, many sages and Yoga masters contributed greatly for the preservation and development of the field through well documented practices and literature. In early 11th century, the Persian scholar Al Biruni visited India, lived for 16 years and translated several significant Sanskrit works into Arabic and Persian languages. One of these was Patanjali's Yogasutras. Al Biruni's translation preserved many of the core themes of Patañjali's Yoga philosophy, but certain sutras and analytical commentaries were restated. Al Biruni's version of Yoga Sutras reached Persia and Arabian peninsula by about 1050 AD.
Yoga has spread all over the world by the teachings of eminent Yoga masters from ancient times to the present date. Today, everybody has conviction about Yoga practices towards the prevention of disease, maintenance and promotion of health. Millions and millions of people across the globe have benefitted by the practice of Yoga and the practice of Yoga is blossoming and growing more vibrant with each passing day.
Yoga works on the level of one's body, mind, emotion and energy. This has given rise to four broad classifications of Yoga: Karma Yoga where we utilise the body; Jnāna Yoga where we utilise the mind; Bhakti Yoga where we utilise the emotion and Kriya Yoga where we utilise the energy(breath or pran). Each system of Yoga we practice falls within the gamut of one or more of these categories.
The widely practiced Yoga sadhanas are: Yama, Niyama, Āsana, Prānāyāma, Pratyāhara, Dhārana, Dhyāna, Samādhi, Bandhas and Mudras, Shatkarmas, Yuktāhāra, Mantra-japa, Yukta-karma etc. Yamas are restraints and Niyamas are observances. These are considered to be pre-requisites for further Yogic practices. Āsanas, capable of bringing about stability of body and mind, "kuryat-tadasanam-sthairyam", involve adopting various psycho-physical body patterns and giving one an ability to maintain a body position (a stable awareness of one's structural existence) for a considerable length of time. Prānāyāma consists of developing awareness of one's breathing followed by willful regulation of respiration as the functional or vital basis of one's existence. It helps in developing awareness of one's mind and helps to establish control over the mind. In the initial stages, this is done by developing awareness of the "flow of in-breath and out-breath" (svāsa-prasvāsa) through nostrils, mouth and other body openings, its internal and external pathways and destinations.
General Guidelines for Yoga Practice
A Yoga practitioner should follow the guiding principles while performing Yogic practices:
· Cleanliness - includes cleanliness of surroundings, body and mind.
· Yogic practice should be performed in a calm and quiet atmosphere with a relaxed body and mind.
· Yogic practice should be done on an empty stomach or light stomach. Consume small amount of honey in lukewarm water if you feel weak. ·
· Bladder and bowels should be empty before starting Yogic practices. ·
· A mattress, Yoga mat should be used for the practice. ·
· Light and comfortable cotton clothes are preferred to facilitate easy movement of the body. ·
· Yoga should not be performed in state of exhaustion, illness, in a hurry or in acute stress conditions.
· In case of chronic disease/ pain/ cardiac problems, a physician or a Yoga therapist should be consulted prior to performing Yogic practices.
· Yoga experts should be consulted before doing Yogic practices during pregnancy and menstruation·
· Breathing should be always through the nostrils unless instructed otherwise.
· Do not hold body tightly, or jerk the body at any point of time.
· It takes some time to get good results, so persistent and regular practice is very essential.
· Yoga session should end with meditation/ deep silence / Śhānti paṭha.
· Bath may be taken only after20-30 minutes of practice.
· Food may be consumed only after 20-30 minutes of practice.
Benefits of Yoga
Yoga is essentially a path to liberation from all bondage. However, medical research in recent years has uncovered many physical and mental benefits that Yoga offers, corroborating the experiences of millions of practitioners. A small sampling of research shows that Yoga is beneficial for physical fitness, musculoskeletal functioning and cardio-vascular health. It is beneficial in the management of diabetes, respiratory disorders, hypertension, hypotension and many life style related disorders. Yoga helps to reduce depression, fatigue, anxiety disorders and stress. Yoga regulates menopausal symptoms. In essence, Yoga is a process of creating a body and mind that are stepping-stones, not hurdles, to an exuberant and fulfilling life.
The benefits of Yoga in physical and mental well being of the people have been quite established. Incorporating Yoga in to the curriculum of medical education is a much needed intervention. In the context of increasing life-style related health problems, and rising cost of curative treatment, the conventional curriculum guided by Western medicine is no more compatible. Even considering the amount of stress generated among medical and health professionals, Yoga appears to be the only ray of hope for facing the enormous challenges. Every medical college should therefore seriously think in terms of introducing Yoga for the faculty as well as students for disease prevention and health promotion. Some can specialize in therapeutic uses of Yoga.
To conclude, Yoga provides a holistic approach to health and well-being and wider dissemination of information about the benefits of practicing Yoga for the health of the world population. Yoga also brings harmony in all walks of life and thus, is known for disease prevention, health promotion and management of many lifestyle-related disorders.
By Dr. H.R. Keshavamurthy
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