As quoted a long time ago,”Yoga is not just repetition of few postures-it is more about the exploration and discovery of the subtle energies of life.” The word ‘Yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Yuj’ in verb form, which means to ‘unite’ or ‘join’. It is the science of development of an individual’s consciousness. It is the unification of Atma with Paramatma, the connection of the physical, mental and emotional aspects of the human body.
The practice of Yoga has been thought to date back to pre-vedic Indian traditions- possibly in the Indus Valley Civilization around 3000 BCE. ‘The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali’ date from the 2nd century BCE & gained prominence in the west in the 20th century after being introduced by Swami Vivekanand. The mention of Yoga has been seen in several ancient as well as modern texts, early references to practices that later became a part of Yoga are made in ‘Brihadaranyaka Upanishad’ and also the Rigveda. Lord Krishna says, in Bhagwad Gita, “Skills in action or efficiency alone is Yoga.” In several chapters of Mahabharata also, Yoga covers a significant part.
Patanjali describes 8 elements in the Yogasutras, through which the ultimate goal of Yoga can be achieved i.e. the union of our soul with the supreme soul. These elements include: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. The main goal of these practices is to make the human race perceive their priorities and inherit the fine qualities of life like Ahimsa (nonviolence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing) and Aparigraha(desireless life). All this provides a medium of experiencing the divine pleasure of converging with the Almighty for our subconscious.
Asanas are the salient feature of Yoga, it is not only an excellent way to attain mental peace but also helps in keeping the body flexible, agile and young. Asanas also improve body fitness by reducing inappropriate fat accumulation in the body. There are several categorized asanas like corrective asanas, relaxative asanas and meditative asanas, each of them has its own medicinal and enriching effects on the body. The meditative asanas enhance the focus & concentration level of an individual, the relaxative asanas like Shavasana and Makarasana aids in the removal of fatigue from the body and also helps in reducing stress, the corrective asanas provide a systematized approach and boosts energy as well as helps in maintaining a proper posture. ‘Prayamana’ or regulation of the vital force of life is also very beneficial for the body. It helps in the refinement of the Autonomous Nervous System & helps in relieving hypertension and anxiety.
There are a number of asanas that help improve our physical as well as our mental fitness. For instance, Sukhasanais the posture in which a person sits upright and tries to meditate, this improves his/her concentration and posture and also facilitates mental, physical and emotional balance without causing strain.
Tadasana helps in increasing height and reduces obesity. It cures digestive problems and alleviates sciatia. This asana is also a good medium of treating hypertension.
Padmasanaindicates sitting in a position without any movement, it increases the focusing ability and also strengthens the hip and knee jointsof the body. It also helps in bracing the abdomen and the spine.
Naukasana is the body posture in which one exhibits the similar posture and shape that of a boat, it tones the body muscles and helps in burning calories and excess body fat.
Shashankasanaor the hare pose helps in abolishing fatigue and improves memory capacity of the brain. It is amusing to know that it also prevents diseases like Diabetes and Rheumatism.
The Vrikshasanais the body posture shaped like a tree (Vriksha) which helps in the strengthening of the ligaments and tendons of the feet, it improves the body balance and reduces knee related problems. There are innumerable asanas and poses that help us develop our body and mind simultaneously.
Yoga also includes the process of Meditation or ‘Dhyana’. According to Patanjali, “The concentration of chitta (mind) on an impulse without any divergence is called ‘Dhyana.’ Usually it is believed that meditation is a practice but as a matter of fact, Dhyana is a stage that can be achieved or attained by one in order to be wise and contented. Meditation helps us to focus on our present, it makes us optimistic and gives us a positive point of view, it helps us increase our tolerance and patience level. It also reduces mental stress, keeping our mental health miles away from any risk and its effective practice also helps in improving our attention span. Just like a machine needs both inner and outer cleansing for proper proceeding, humans also need to maintain inner and outer cleanliness. The part of the outer clarification seems generally easy but to be pure from the inside is something toilsome. ‘Shatkarmas’or ‘Shudhi-kriyas’are an excellent way to detoxify our soul from any negativity of the outside world. Some shatkarmas are Neti, Dhouti, Basti, Tratakand Kapalbhati etc.
‘Yoganidra’ or the Yogic sleep is also very advantageous for the body as it promotes willpower and an optimistic approach towards everything in life, it helps counteract stress thus, keeping the mind healthy and relaxed. It has effective healing powers and the body with the ‘feeling good hormones’ like serotonin and dopamine etc.
Altogether Yoga provides a firm base for the body and the mind to repair and renew itself, Yoga in itself is self-sufficient of making an individual understand the meaning of life and the various lessons that accompany it. There is no problem, be it, physical, mental, emotional or spiritual which cannot be healed or solved through the divine practice of Yoga. One must know how the proper contraindications of performing Yoga and implement it to his/her own benefit.