Introduction to Yoga
Yoga is a complete science of life that originated in India many thousands of years ago. It is the oldest system of personal development in the world, encompassing body, mind and spirit. Anyone can practice yoga. You don’t need special equipment or clothes – just a small amount of space and a strong desire for healthier, more fulfilled life. The yoga postures or asanas exercise every part of the body, stretching and toning the muscles and joints, the spine ant the entire skeletal system. And they work not only on the body`s but the internal organs, glands and nerves as well, keeping all systems in radiant health. By releasing physical and mental tension, they also liberate vast sources of energy.
Yoga in your Life
Many people are first drawn to yoga as a way to keep their bodies fit and supple – good to look at and to live in. Others come seeking help or relief for specific complaint, like tension or backache. Whatever your reason, yoga can be a tool, an instrument for you – giving you both what you came for, and more. Anyone who continues with regular practice becomes aware of a subtle change in their approach to life – for, through persistently toning and relaxing the body and stilling the mind, you begin to glimpse a state of inner peace which is your true nature.
The Physiology of Yoga
Ageing is largely an artificial condition, caused mainly by auto-intoxication or self poisoning. Through keeping the body parts clean and well lubricated, we can significantly reduce the catabolic process of cell deterioration. In recent years, medical research has begun to pay attention to the effects of yoga. Studies have shown, for instance, that relaxation in the Corpse Pose (Shavasana) effectively relieves high blood pressure and that regular practice of asanas and pranayama can help such diverse ailments as arthritis, chronic fatigue, asthma, varicose veins and heart conditions.
The Meaning of Yoga
Yoga literally means `union`. It means union of individual self with the cosmic self i.e. Brahman, as per Hindu scriptures. To be more direct, it means union of man with God. This is the highest goal of mankind, as stated in the holy scriptures, which leads to liberation i.e. Moksha. On attaintment of liberation, one is freed from endless cycles of birth and death, as he has realized the ultimate goal of his life – Godhood. Our scriptures profoundly proclaim, `Thou art that` i.e. you are God. But the truth of this statement has to be discovered by individual himself, before he claims, `I am God`.
The Eight Limbs of Raja Yoga
Compiled by the sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras, the Eight Limbs are a progressive series of steps or disciplines which purify the body and mind, ultimately leading the yogi to enlightenment: yamas; niyamas; asanas; pranayama; pratyahara; dharana; and Samadhi. The yamas or restraints are divided into five moral injunctions, aimed at destroying the lower nature: non-violence; truthfulness in word, thought and deed; non-stealing; moderation in all things; and non-possessiveness. The niyamas or observances are also divided into five. Fostering positive qualities, they consist of: purity; contentment; austerity; study of the sacred texts; and constantly living with an awareness of the Divine Presence. Asanas are the postures and pranayama is regulation of breath.
Pratyahara means drawing the senses inward in order to still the mind, in preparation for dharana or concentration. Dharana leads to dhyana or meditation, culminating in Samadhi or superconsciousness.
The Five Principles of Yoga
1. Proper relaxation – releases tension in the muscles and rests the whole system leaving you as after a good night's sleep.
2. Proper Exercise- is given by the yoga postures or asanas, which work systematically on all parts of the body – stretching and toning the muscles and ligaments, keeping the spine and joints flexible and improving the circulation.
3. Proper Breathing-means breathing fully and rhythmically, making use of all, not just part, of your lungs to increase your intake of oxygen. Yoga breathing exercises or pranayama teach you how to recharge your body and control your mental state by regulating the flow of prana – the life force.
4. A proper Diet-is one that is nourishing and well balanced, based on natural foods. It keeps the body light and supple and the mind calm, giving a high resistance to disease.
5. Positive Thinking and Meditation-help you to remove negative thoughts and still the mind, ultimately transcending all thoughts.
"We do not know the various kinds of saints, how they behave, what they do and eat, etc. We only know that by God`s grace they manifest them selves in this world to liberate the ignorant and bound souls". Shirdi Sai Baba(1838-1915)
"Bring our culture back and educate our children on the great science of Hinduism”