We are living today in a world where people have become more health conscious than ever before. Research, competition and the struggle to hold a job is making lives even more strenuous and stressful. All these are leading an individual to search for means of wellbeing, peace and calmness. Fitness is the call of today’s world and many are turning to yoga which has millions of practitioners worldwide.
Now through research it has been noticed that yoga manages the stress level very effectively and can alleviate many diseases, maintain the healthy status and if practiced early in life, prevent the health ailments in future. Naturally then the immediate aim of practicing yoga has become ‘to control the disease and maintain the health’. Many people think that yoga is a therapy and it can cure any disease at any stage. However, this is not true. As a rule, there are limitations to any system, even yoga.
Many non-communicable disorders like hypertension, insomnia, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, hyperacidity, obesity are mainly due to stress and faulty lifestyle including wrong food habits. Fortunately, it has been proved through scientific investigation that such diseases can be very well controlled due to regular practice of yoga along with suitable lifestyle changes.
Yoga has traditionally been the art of living a healthy life. It has been major healer in ancient India. Be it a physical ailment or mental- the cure for all has been found in yoga. What began as a philosophical way of life in the east, caught on like wildfire in the west and has also seen a rejuvenation in India, the land where yoga was born. It is a 5000 year old Indian philosophy that combines exercise, breathing, diet, relaxation and meditation. It is combination of physical and mental disciplines which make the body stronger and healthier and the mind calmer and more controlled, helping towards self-realization.
This system of Yoga is structured around five main principles: Proper Exercise, Proper Breathing, Proper Relaxation, Proper Diet, and Positive Thinking and Meditation.
1. Headstand (Sirshasana)
2. Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana)
3. Plough (Halasana)
4. Fish (Matsyasana)
5. Sitting Forward bend (Paschimoth-anasana)
6. Cobra (Bhujangasana)
7. Locust (Shalabhasana)
8. Bow (Dhanurasana)
9. Spinal twist (ArdhaMatsyendrasana)
10. Crow (Kakasana) or Peacock (Mayurasana)
11. Standing forward bend (PadaHasthasana) Surya Namaskar
12. Triangle (Trikonasana)
Proper Exercise: acts as a lubricating routine to the joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and other parts of the body by increasing circulation and flexibility.
a. Our physical body is meant to move and exercise. If our lifestyle does not provide natural motion of muscles and joints, then disease and great discomfort will ensue with time. As Yoga regards the body as a vehicle for the soul on its journey towards perfection, Yogic physical exercises are designed to develop not only the body. They also broaden the mental faculties and the spiritual capacities.
b.The Yogic physical exercises are called Asanas, a term which means steady pose. This is because the Yoga Asana (or posture) is meant to be held for some time. However this is quite an advanced practice. Initially, our concern is simply to increase body flexibility.
c. The body is as young as it is flexible. Yoga exercises focus on the health of the spine, its strength and flexibility. The spinal column houses the all-important nervous system, the telegraphic system of the body. By maintaining the spine's flexibility and strength through exercise, circulation is increased and the nerves are ensured their supply of nutrients and oxygen.
d. The Asanas also affect the internal organs and the endocrine system (glands and hormones).
2. Proper Breathing: aids the body in connecting to its battery, the solar plexus, where tremendous potential energy is stored. When tapped through specific Yoga breathing techniques (Pranayama), this energy is released for physical and mental rejuvenation.
a. Yoga teaches us how to use the lungs to their maximum capacity and how to control the breath. Proper breathing should be deep, slow and rhythmical. This increases vitality and mental clarity.
b. Most people use only a fraction of their lung capacity for breathing. They breathe shallowly, barely expanding the ribcage. Their shoulders are hunched, they have painful tension in the upper part of the back and neck, and they suffer from lack of oxygen. They should learn the full Yogic breathing. A full Yogic breath combines all three, beginning with a deep breath and continuing the inhalation through the intercostal and clavicular areas.
c. Pranayama: By far the most important thing about good breathing is the Prana, or subtle energy of the vital breath. Control of the Prana leads to control of the mind. Breathing exercises are called Pranayamas, which means to control the Prana.
d. The two main Pranayamas taught in the Sivananda Ashrams and Centres are Kapalabhati and Anuloma Viloma.
3. Proper Relaxation: cools down the system, as does the radiator of a car. When the body and the mind are continually overworked, their efficiency diminishes. Relaxation is Nature’s way of recharging the body.
a. Long before the invention of cars, planes, telephones, computers, freeways and other modern triggers of stress, the Rishis (sages or seers) and Yogis of yore devised very powerful techniques of deep relaxation. As a matter of fact, many modern stress-management and relaxation methods borrow heavily from this tradition.
b. More of our energy is spent in keeping the muscles in continual readiness for work than in the actual useful work done. In order to regulate and balance the work of the body and mind, it is best to learn to economize the energy produced by our body. This may be done by learning to relax.
c. During complete relaxation, there is practically no energy or "Prana" being consumed, although a little is keeping the body in normal condition while the remaining portion is being stored and conserved.
d. In order to achieve perfect relaxation, three methods are used by yogis: "Physical", "Mental", and "Spiritual" relaxation. Relaxation is not complete until the person reaches that stage of spiritual relaxation, which only advanced spiritual aspirants know.
4. Proper Diet: provides the correct fuel for the body. Optimum utilization of food, air, water, and sunlight is essential.
a. Besides being responsible for building our physical body, the foods we eat profoundly affect our mind. For maximum body-mind efficiency and complete spiritual awareness, Yoga advocates a lacto-vegetarian diet. This is an integral part of the Yogic lifestyle.
b. The yogic diet is a vegetarian one, consisting of pure, simple, natural foods which are easily digested and promote health. Simple meals aid the digestion and assimilation of foods. Nutritional requirements fall under five categories: protein, carbohydrates, minerals, fats and vitamins.
c. There is a cycle in nature known as the "food cycle" or "food chain". The Sun is the source of energy for all life on our planet; it nourishes the plants (the top of the food chain) which are then eaten by animals (vegetarian), which are then eaten by other animals (carnivores). The food at the top of the food chain, being directly nourished by the Sun, has the greatest life promoting properties. The food value of animal flesh is termed as "second-hand" source of nutrition, and is inferior in nature. All natural foods (fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and grains) have, in varying quantities, different proportions of these essential nutrients. As source of protein, these are easily assimilated by the body. However, second-hand sources are often more difficult to digest and are of less value to the body's metabolism.
d. Many people worry about whether they are getting enough protein, but neglect other factors. The quality of the protein is more important than the quantity alone. Dairy products, legumes, nuts and seeds provide the vegetarian with an adequate supply of protein.
e. A healthy motto is: "Eat to live, not live to eat". It is best if we understand that the purpose of eating is to supply our being with the life force,orPrana, the vital life energy. So the greatest nutritional plan for the Yoga student is the simple diet of natural fresh foods.\
f. Any change in diet should be made gradually. Start by substituting larger portions of vegetables, grains, seeds and nuts until finally all flesh products have been completely eliminated from the diet.
5. Positive Thinking and Meditation: puts you in control. The intellect is purified. The lower nature is brought under conscious control through steadiness and concentration of mind.
a. Here is the most important point of all, we become what we think. Thus we should exert to entertain positive and creative thoughts as these will contribute to vibrant health and a peaceful, joyful mind. The mind will be brought under perfect control by regular practice of meditation.
b. We can control the mental agitation by two means: by concentrating the mind either externally or internally. Internally, we focus on the "Self" or the consciousness of "I am". Externally, we focus on anything other than the "Self" or "I am".
c. The mental ability to concentrate is inherent to all; it is not extraordinary or mysterious. Meditation is not something that a Yogi has to teach you; you already have the ability to shut out thoughts.
d. All happiness achieved through the mind is temporary and fleeting; it is limited by nature. To achieve that state of lasting happiness and absolute peace, we must first know how to calm the mind, to concentrate and go beyond the mind. By turning the mind's concentration inward, upon the self, we can deepen that experience of perfect concentration. This is the state of Meditation".
How to change the lifestyle
On many occasions, suffering persons are advised to change the lifestyle but they are not given fare idea as to how to correct it. Here are some of the elucidations.
1. Assess your both positive and negative qualities and thinking. Accept your faults and mistakes. See that you do not repeat them.
2. Make positive changes in your timings for work, yoga, exercise, hobbies, meals, rest, sleep and entertainment. Make a time table and stick to it.
3. Think positively and think happy. This neutralizes the negative emotions. It increases synthesis of nor-adrenaline and dopamine, bringing peaceful feeling to you.
4. Change your diet in terms of nutrition, quantity and the fat contents. Avoid junk foods or fast foods, bakery products and cold drinks.
5. Be friendly and affectionate with all. Be frank and ‘open’ with your friends and elders.
6. Practice yoga regularly for at least 45 minutes. It renders health and morality, and increases spirituality. You can do moderate exercises 15 to 30 minutes before yoga.
7. Wake up early in the morning before sunrise. Of course for this you will require to sleep earlier. Youngsters will require 7-8 hrs sleep while for elders 6-7 hrs sleep is sufficient. For the seniors 5-6 hrs sleep is enough.
8. Respect others and their feelings, thoughts or ideas. Appreciate them.
9. Be thankful to all particularly those who help you in whatever manner.
10.Do not be a mobile/internet addict. Don’t be their slave. They are to ease our communication, exchange of knowledge and thoughts. Put a limit to their use.
These corrections in your lifestyle will make the inner atmosphere of your body mind complex conducive to establishing better health and virility. It will keep you active and creative with correct drive. It will certainly reduce your anxiety and stress level. Second step is to start practicing yoga. Remember, regular yoga practice is a part (and indicative) of an a healthy lifestyle.
Selection of the correct yoga regime and teacher
There can be mainly three main categories of people coming to yoga. 1. Patients suffering from the above mentioned disorders, seeking yoga therapy. 2. Normal persons who are learning and practicing yoga for health and fitness and 3. Spiritual aspirants who wish to maintain health and also to progress on the spiritual path. Naturally then the selection of the appropriate yoga practices will also be different for these three groups. So our success depends on 1.Correct selection of the yogic practices and 2.Learning from a proper yoga expert or guru. Remember, TV programs or books on yoga cannot give you instant feedback or modification as per your purpose, age and capacity. At least in the beginning you need a good yoga teacher who will introduce various yoga practices like asanas, pranayama, mudras and kriyas gradually. After such initial training for 15 days to one month, you can practice on your own. The response of our body depends upon the nature of stimulus or actions. Yoga is not an exercise though it gives momentum to various systems of our body. While selecting a good yoga teacher, see that he is expert in all the yogic methods and has spent many years in teaching, treating or training yoga. His experience in self practice and living with yogic principles etc always counts. You have a right to verify from where he has obtained knowledge of yoga, his graduation or post graduation and the experience in yoga etc.
Be sure that you are practicing correctly
Many people will be very enthusiastic on the Yoga day. Even if they have not learnt properly before, they will practice on that day in an excitement. As a result, next day they feel bruised and therefore cannot practice anything. Then they leave the practice. Following guidelines will help you to learn and continue your yoga practice in a right way. Remember, wrong practice of yoga may be harmful to your health. Your wellbeing depends upon what kind of yoga you are practicing, how, when and how much.
1. Yoga should be practiced early in the morning, around the time of sun rise and on empty stomach. Practicing after bathing will give you still better results.
2. Your yoga teacher will select suitable asanas, pranayama, mudras and kriyas as per your age, work or job, need and capacity. He will fix up the sequence of these practices. Practice daily in the same sequential order. After 6 months or one year take his advice for continuing same or to make any change.
3. Have faith in Yoga and the wisdom of its ancient practitioners for their vision, knowledge and contribution. Practice with utmost concentration and awareness. Experience the internal feelings, changes or response of the body while practicing. For this, it is better to close the eyes while practicing.
4. Practice peacefully, without any exertion or too many efforts. Do not apply force or jerk while practicing asanas or pranayama. Do not practice yoga mechanically.
5. If you want to practice kriyas (cleansing methods like Neti etc), practice them before asanas and pranayama.
6. If you are a patient of hypertension, diabetes, then there are limitations to certain yoga practices. Your yoga therapist will tell you what is to be avoided.
7. After the practice of yoga one should feel relaxed, peaceful and yet energetic and fresh. If you feel tired, fatigued or restless, if you perspire, feel weakness or hunger then understand that you have practiced yoga incorrectly.
8. You can notice the changes in your body functions such as digestion, defecation, sleep, freshness and energy level, vigor and vitality as well as stress-free condition within a few days to one month. If not, contact your teacher / yoga therapist.
9. It is important to make suitable changes in your lifestyle as mentioned above.
10. In case you are a patient, do not stop medicines all of a sudden because you are practicing yoga. Continue the medication. Your physician will guide you to reduce the dose or to stop the medicine, after monitoring your progress.
Source:- Employment News and Various Yog Trainers