Yoga: Minding The Body, Bending The Mind

yoga

Words: Dr RAJGOPAL Nidamboor

June 21: International Day of Yoga.

Yoga, the ancient Indian form of health and well-being, is defined as a sense of balance. Yoga works on four planes: physical, physiological, psychological, and spiritual. When you practice yoga, you not only understand the lessons of the past, you will also be able to fully understand the present, and experience the future.

The central part of yoga is aimed at transcending the ego. In so doing, the practitioner is able to become part of the pure self, or bliss. Put simply, yoga teaches guidelines and values. It also takes us into practices that purify our mind, body and spirit.

Yoga has no religious undertones; it first began as a spiritual path to purification. Although the practice is over 2,500 years old, it’s only recently that yoga has become the mainstay of healthy living in the West. As a matter of fact, there are today more yoga teachers in the any of the 50 states in the US than the whole of India.

All this has happened because of the benefits yoga has to offer in the presence of scientific investigation and clinical validation.

The Essentials 

A study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that a simple yoga programme significantly reduced pain and increased the hand strength of patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. This is a common problem. It is caused by the compression of the median nerve in the wrist — usually as a result of repetitive movement of the wrist. Example: computer [over]use.

Scientific studies suggest that yoga breathing can immensely improve scores on tests of spatial memory, including right-brain function.  Besides, yoga has been found to be useful and safe in stress reduction.

This is also why yoga is being increasingly offered in community health programmes all over the world. In recent times, a combination of mindful-meditation and yoga has been shown to significantly improve physical and mental health, as well as self-esteem in individuals and patients.

This is not all. Clinical studies have shown that yoga — exercises, meditation, and breathing, or pranayama — helps to reduce stress, pain, high blood pressure, heart disease, drug abuse, or addiction, depression, tension and anxiety. The list is long. Reason? Yoga increases our body’s strength and flexibility. It improves posture, muscle tone, and circulation. Most important: yoga promotes greater mental clarity.

Language Of Yoga 

You need to know four key words related to yoga:

  • Asanas, the exercises or poses, with which yoga is most often known.
  • Pranayama, the practice of breathing and breath control in combination with yogic exercises.
  • Meditation, or mind focus, including mindfulness, which is practiced during yoga.
  • Mantra, the sound or chant.

Yoga Forms 

There are different types of yoga.

Hatha yoga, or physical yoga, is the most popular form of yoga. It is based on the fundamental principle that a strong body is indispensable for enlightenment. The style lays great emphasis on concentration, breathing, fortitude, flexibility, stretching, and also alignment. It includes principles that help strengthen the body, quieten the mind, and awaken the spirit within us too.

Astanga yoga, a ‘side-shoot’ of Hatha yoga, is another popular form. It focuses on the co-ordination of asanas with breathing. There are six sets of postures in the practice and each set is performed independently.

Viniyoga is another form. It attracts people who wish to practice a subtle, or gentle, form of yoga. Viniyoga gives detailed personal attention to individual needs. In this form, the practitioner uses flowing movements [vinyasa]. These movements provide the strength and balance to the psyche. It also heals us from deep within.

The yogic practice is most beneficial and effective for the young and the elderly alike. It offers relief to chronic pain sufferer, and patients convalescing from injury, trauma, or disease.

Training

Yoga is physically, emotionally, and mentally challenging. You’d, therefore, think that you’d need to be flexible and in good shape to practice, or perform, yoga. Not at all

Well, it is, of course, imperative to learn the tradition from a yoga teacher — yet, it all depends on how you evolve yourself with the practice. The more you evolve, the better it is for your health, well-being, and spiritual evolution.

7 Steps To Yoga Practice

  1. You’d do well to think that yoga is not goal-oriented. You need not set a goal
  2. Yoga does not need focus to perform the most complicated of asanas
  3. Remember — you need to focus on the process, not on the result
  4. You need to learn, and know, your own self. In other words, yourself
  5. It is best for you to enrol in a beginner’s class to learn the basic postures and breathing exercises
  6. You should learn to listen to your body and set your own pace
  7. Most important. Yoga is your own journey. You are not doing it for someone else.
Dr RAJGOPAL NIDAMBOOR, PhD, is a wellness physician-writer-editor, independent researcher, critic, columnist, author and publisher. His published work includes hundreds of newspaper, magazine, web articles, essays, meditations, columns, and critiques on a host of subjects, eight books on natural health, two coffee table tomes and an encyclopaedic treatise on Indian philosophy. He is Chief Wellness Officer, Docco360 — a mobile health application/platform connecting patients with Ayurveda, homeopathic and Unani physicians, and nutrition therapists, among others, from the comfort of their home — and, Editor-in-Chief, ThinkWellness360. 

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