Yoga is a way of life. It is a medium of self-transformation. The eventual goal is spiritual liberation and possible attainment of enlightenment. Yoga is the art of healthy living and focuses on harmonizing the mind and body.
Yoga is popular amongst the masses for the various sets of physical exercises that have a calming effect and offer immense health benefits. However, that is just a one-dimensional perspective. Let us delve deeper into the various layers of Yoga.
Brief History of Yoga
Yoga took root in ancient India. The practice of yoga is believed to have started at the very beginning of civilization. The earliest written evidence about yoga is found in the Rig Veda. Yoga profoundly influenced the development of several religions in Asia, like Buddhism, Jainism, Taoism, Sikhism, and Sufism. Since then, several different types of Yoga have developed.
Yoga for The Body
The yoga postures (asanas) help us keep our body healthy, strong, flexible, and full of vitality. This is the most common aspect of yoga, but it is not the entirety.
Some of the general benefits associated with the body are:
- Lowers blood pressure and blood sugar levels
- Increases flexibility, core strength, and balance
- Improves vitality and energy
- Decreases production of cortisol (stress hormone)
- Reduces anxiety and calms the mind
- Helps relieve chronic pain
- Strengthens immune system
- Enhances sleep quality
A daily practice of Yoga is an excellent preventive medicine, packed with several health benefits.
Yoga for the Mind
The focus of Yoga is meditation, along with the asanas. All yoga practices prepare you to meditate effectively. When there is stillness in the body and evenness in the breath, the mind is in a perfect state to meditate. There are many methods of meditation. The most used ones are:
- Mantra meditation involves repeating a sacred word throughout the session to maintain focus on a feeling related to the word.
- Chakra meditation refers to focusing the mind on the seven energy centers in the human body.
- Trataka is usually done by fixing the gaze on an external object, mainly an image or a candle. It is done with eyes open and later with eyes closed and is most effective in strengthening both the visualization and concentration powers of the mind.
Yoga practices are not rigid. They enhance flexibility. Meditation, the alter-ego of the asanas, can be dealt with equally easily. It is known that one can meditate the way they are most comfortable with.
The purpose of meditation is to nourish one’s overall health and wellbeing, and there are these quick fixes it offers in every-day life:
- Cleansing the mind of all negativity;
- Liberation from limiting beliefs;
- Dwelling in the superconscious;
- Ultimately, getting enlightened, attaining oneness with the universe
Yoga for the Soul
The breath and the mind are interconnected. So, by concentrating and correcting breath, one can change the state of mind. Also, it is less of a challenge to calm your breath than to calm your mind. Right breathing has proven to be a powerful tool for physical health, emotional wellbeing, and meditation.
From a spiritual perspective, these breathing practices benefit in different ways:
- Calm your body and mind before meditation
- Help one sit calmly during long meditation sessions
- Free your body from disease
- Make you more resistant to physical distractions
- Elongate lifespan and improve quality of life
A strong and healthy body sets the base for deep meditation. It also benefits people of all walks of life, regardless of any interest in spirituality.
Yoga for Life
Adopting Yoga as a way of life invites us to blend its core values into our daily life. Yoga can benefit much more than just having a flexible body. If you are willing to go deep, you will find a series of practices that can help you achieve an incredible inner transformation.
‘Our choices are what define us.’ This World Yoga Day, we are yet again faced with two choices; lead a carefree life without worrying for our health or to live through every moment diligently. May our choices always be wise and the deeper aspects of this art be more widely known and practiced-especially meditation and the lifestyle disciplines