Yoga is essentially a spiritual discipline based on an extremely subtle science, which focuses on bringing harmony between mind and body. It is an art and science of holistic living consisting of Holistic value system featured by health, and wealth, bliss and poise, harmony and efficiency. Practice of Yoga is an integrated approach to achieve holistic health and total personality development.
How yoga helps?
When practiced regularly, yoga helps improve your physical, mental and emotional well-being. It improves your blood circulation, muscle tone and flexibility.
What is Yoga? Definition of Yoga
YUJYATE ANENA ITI YOGAH
JOINING INDIVIDUAL SOUL TO UNIVERSAL SOUL Classical
TAM YOGAM ITI MANYANTE STIRAM INNDRIYA DHARANAM
YOGA IS HOLDING THE SENSES STEADY Upanishad
MANH PRASAMANA UPAYAH YOGAH
A TECHNIQUE TO MAKE THE MIND QUIET IS YOGA Yoga Vasista
SAMATVAM YOGA UCCHYATE
YOGA IS A STATE OF EQUANIMITY Bhagavad-Gita
YOGAH CHITTA VRITTI NIRODHAH
YOGA IS CONTROLLING THE DISTURBANCES OF THE MIND Patanjali yoga sutras
How is Yoga?
YOGA = TRANQUILITY, HARMONY, PEACE OF MIND
ABHYASA = YOGA= DISCIPLINE= PRACTICE
VAIRAGYA= JNANA= LET GO= NONATTACHMENT
Dwau kramau chittanasaya yogam jnanam ca raghava
Yogah tat vritti rodhohi, Jnanam samyak avekshanam
Mind can be eliminated by two ways; one is Jnana and the other is yoga. Yoga is to discipline the mind and Jnana is to look into our Nature: Yoga Vasista
Abhyasa Vairagyabhyam tannirodhah
That (the vrittis of mind ) can be controlled by practice and detachment : Patanjali
Abhyasenatu kaunteya Vairagyena ca dushkrite
Oh Kaunteya, This can be achieved by practice and detachment : Bhagavad-Gita
4 Streams of Yoga:
“Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divinity by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work, or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy – by one, or more, or all of these – and be free. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines, or dogmas, or rituals, or books, or temples, or forms, are but secondary details.” : Swami Vivekananda
Presently world is facing several challenges, specifically on the health. At the same time people are become isolated more and more with insecurity feeling. Fear, anxiety, stress and inappropriate life styles causing several health problems. People unable to live together happily with harmony even in a nuclear families due to negative qualities like anger, greed, lust and jealous. Recent WHO survey shows that there is a drastic raise of mental problems also, which is also causing more violence and anti-social behavior among youth. This is all due to people are becoming more and more narrow minded and selfish.
It is important for all of us to think about this crisis to repair both and individual and society. To bring back health and harmony, Yoga is a flexible tool which offers solution with its different streams of yoga like Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Raja Yoga and Bhakti Yoga based on individual choice. As it is nothing to do with any religion, any human being can easily adopt one or all of these streams to achieve higher and spiritual goals while following healthy living.
As rightly said, sound mind in sound body, Yoga tones body and tunes mind.
Concept of Health and yoga
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), Health is a state of complete physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
As per Ayurveda Health is “State of balanced, dosha, agni, dhatu, malakriya along with pleasant state of mind, senses and soul”.
Health is pre-requisite to attain purusharthas or to lead purposeful and happy life.
As depicted in the picture below, Health is made of four elements: physical, mental, social and spiritual health! It also shows how Yoga practice gives complete health!
Patanjali Marshi has articulated Yoga principles very well in his Yoga Sutras and defined Astanga Yoga principles as follows:
- For practice of Yoga one must follow Yama, Niyamas, which is core for progressing in Sadhana.
“YogasChittavrithi nirodaha:” Patanjali Yoga Sutras 1.2: Yoga is gaining control of mind or mastery over mind. By controlling the mind we reach our original state. Control involves two aspects:
- A power to concentrate on any desired subject or object and
- A capacity to remain calm and quiet at all the time.
Nature of mind is always volatile with so many thoughts, which makes one happy some time and unhappy other time. Practice of Yoga, makes one to get control of thoughts and helps to achieve mastery over mind stuff/ Chitta. When you are able to achieve this state, mind will be calm and keeps one in healthy and conscious state always.
- Ahimsa (Nonviolence in thought, word and deed.)
- Satya (Truthfulness in thought, word and deed)
- Asteya (Non-stealing, not even the desire to possess what someone has)
- Aparigraha (Not taking and not expecting anything for free from others, Non-accumulation of wealth etc.)
- Brahmacharya (Celibacy / Continence behaviour in thought, word and deed leads to Brahma)
The society is at peace if these social restraints are practiced by every citizen.
For every individual, character development is very important part of practical education. Unfortunately these days many people are missing core values, which is causing them to go through several trouble. Niyamas helps one to purify body, mind and intellect, such that one can lead a happy life!
- Saucha (Purification of internal and external body, mind and intellect including thoughts, speech and actions)
- Santosha (Contentment)
- Tapas (Fervour, austerity, inner zeal: the endurance to face the pairs of opposites such as heat and cold; joy and sorrow; regard and disregard etc)
- Swadhyaya (Study of sciences of the self)
- Ishwarapranidhana (Dedication / Surrender to god and work without selfish motives and work not for praise)
Asana: Posture or position, “Sthirah Sukham Asanam” means constant confirmable body posture is called asana.
Key features of Asana are: 1. Stiram /Constant, Chiram/always, Sukham/comfortable, 2. Effortless “prayatna saithitya”, 3. Expansion “Anantha Samapathi”). There are number of asanas named after birds and animals based on the origin or appearance. Some examples are:
Standing Asanas: Vrikshasana, Natarajasana, Trikonasasa, Virabadhrasana,
Sitting Asanas:Vajrasana, Supta Vajrasana, Sashankasana, Ustrasana, Pachimotasana, Ardhamathyendrasana, Padmasana
Supine Asanas: Navasana, Pavana Muktasana, Sarvangasana, Halasana, Savasana
Prone Asanas: Bhujangasana , Salabhasana, Dhanurasana,
Physically fit: means 1. Muscles relaxed, 2. Joints flexible, 3. Low metabolic rate.. it needs 1. Satvit diet, 2. Asana, 3. Kriyas
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.
Kapalabhati, Bhastrika, Bramari, Anuloma Viloma (Nadi suddhi/ alternative nostril), Surya anuloma viloma (right nostril breathing), Chandra anuloma viloma (left nostril), Sitali, Sitkari Pranayamas can be practiced on regular basis, initially under the guidance of expert/guru.
Shat Kriyas: Basti, Dhouti, Nouli, Nethi, Trataka and Kapalapathi can be learnt under guidance of guru and practiced regularly to purify inner parts of the body like digestive system, excretory system, respiratory system etc. Practice of kriyas helps a lot one to get cure and prevention for many diseases.
Pratyahara: is to use the senses to gain mastery over the mind. Controlling senses from rushing towards their objects and there by control the mind. Two wards Prati and Ahara means denying the senses of their food viz.
Dharana: Dharana (Concentration) is holding the mind on to some object, either in the body, or outside the body and keeps itself in that state. “Deshabhandaschitasya dharana” (PYS 3.1).
Stilling the mind on a single thought stream is Dhyana, says great saint Patanjali in his aphorisms of Astanga Yoga. An unbroken flow of knowledge to that object is Dhyana.(PYS 3.2)
The 5 features of meditation are: Single thought / Effortlessness and relaxation / Slowness / Wakefulness and awareness /Feeling of Expanding lightness
Calm mind can think better! Stilling the mind on a single thought stream is Dhyana, says Patanjali (a great yoga teacher) in his aphorisms of Yoga.
The 5 features of meditation are: Single thought, Effortlessness and relaxation, Slowness, Wakefulness and awareness, Feeling of Expanding lightness
Meditate in Silence
“Do not spend your energy in talking, but mediate in silence; and do not let the rush of the outside world disturb you. When your mind is in the highest state, you are unconscious of it. Accumulate power in silence and become a dynamo of spiritually.”
Meditation is the soul of spiritual life. A life without meditation is like a horse without reins or a boat without rudder or a car without breaks. There are several methods of meditations. But adopt a simple technique and practice regularly. Simply watch your breath without any imagination and expectations calm down your mind naturally without any force! Consciously slow down breathing gradually! Just be an observer! “Prayer is talking to God! Meditation is listening to God!”
“Ha” means sun and tha means “moon”. Hatha yoga is more body oriented as compared to Patanjali yoga which is mind oriented. Ultimate goal of Hatha Yoga is moksha or self-realization. The aim of Hatha yoga practice balance the energy system in the body, make body healthy, mind emotionally strong and conflict free, intellect sharp and spiritual aspiration fulfilled.
According to Garanda Samhita 7 steps of Ghata Shuddhi:
- Shatkarma: purification of the body
- Asana: strength/fitness of the body
- Mudras: Steadiness of the body
- Pratyahara: Attaining courage
- Pranayama: Lightening of the body
- Dhyana: Direct perception of the atman
- Samadhi: Detachment/isolation
To attain these conditions one should practice shatkarma.
Panchakoashas are five sheaths / layers of existence. Our body from gross level to micro level also called as Anatomy of Yoga as shown in figure below. This concept of Yoga makes it much more clear about human health.
Following picture shows how different streams of yoga is practiced to gain complete health in different koshas of the body.
|Kosa / Sheath||Practices||Health and Threptic benefits|
|Annamaya Kosha||Loosening, Asanas, Kriyas, Yogic / Satvic Diet||Physical health|
|Pranamaya Kosha||Kriyas, breathing, Pranayama||Subtle life energy|
|Manomaya Kosha||Dhyana, Bakthi / devotional||Emotional balance (Bhakti Yoga)|
|Vijnanamaya Kosha||Dhyana, discourses, self-study for true knowledge, yogic counselling||Rational thinking & judgement (Jnana Yoga)|
|Anandamaya Kosha||Working in blissful awareness||Complete health and happiness (Karma Yoga)|
In Anandamaya kosha a man is healthiest, perfect harmony and balance of all his faculties. In Vijnanamaya Kosha, there are movements but they are channeled in the right direction.
As per Hatha Yoga, origin of disease are 1. Stress, 2. Wrong diet, 3. Wrong exercise, 4. Bad habits.
All begins in Manomaya Kosha! As such, it is Manomaya Level the imbalances start, say yoga texts. Likes and dislikes have come to play at this level. The imbalances amplify themselves resulting in mental illnesses called Adhis. At this stage there are no symptom at the physical level. The preponderance of Ajnana (ignorance about one’s real state of bliss) leads one to perform wrong actions such as eating of unwholesome food, living in unhealthy dwellings, doing hinges in untimely hours, association with wicked, evil thoughts, inflicting injuries etc. these bread physical diseases called Vyadhis or the secondary diseases.
The Adhis (primary diseases) are twofold Samanya (ordinary) and Sara (essential). The samanya are normally produced during the interactions with the world. These may be termed as psychosomatic ailments.
Following are some of the key principles of working with mind from Patanjali Yoga Sutras:
States of Mind (Chitta Bhumis): Kshipta (disturbed), Mudha (dull), Vikshipta (distracted), Ekagra (one pointed or concentrated) and Nirodha (Mastered). Ultimately one must achieve the state of Nirodha (mastered mind where there are no thoughts) by practice of un-attachment (Abyasa and Vairagya).
Kleshas, which accompany the Vrittis: Avidya (ignorance), asmitha (Egoism), Raga (attachment), Dvesha (Aversion), Abinivesha (Clinging to life).
Vikshepa Sahabuvas (Non-retention of concentration): Dukha (grief, unhappiness), mental distress, tremors in the body, irregular breathing (PYS 31)
Replace Sahbuvas with Chittaprasanam (PYS 32): Maitri (friendship), karuna (merciful), muditha (gladness), upeksha (indifference), Punya & Apunya (good or evil, birth or death)
Sadhana Chatushtaya (qualifications of student of Vedanta)
- Viveka: Discrimination
- Vairagya: non attachment
- Shatsampathi: Six attributes (Sama, Dama, Uparathi, titiksha/endurance or patience, Sradha/ faith and sincerity, Samadhana / not losing sight of goal)
- Mumukshutva: Yearning for freedom
Yogic Practice for Mental Health:
- Abhyasa (Consistent practice)
- Vairagya (be unattached)
- Psycho social environment (Yama Niyamas)
- Prayers and Meditation
Role of Yoga in Stress Management:
AHARA (diet correction), VIHARA (activity correction), ACHARA (lifestyle correction) and VICHARA (thought process correction)
Achara: make necessary corrections in the life style with the practice of yama niyamas as we live for dharma (righteousness).
Vichara: it stress upon the distressing of the mind, modes of relaxation and how to solve the solvable problems and how to live harmoniously with the non-solvable issues. Maitri, Karuna, Mudita, Upeksha and Punyapunya are thought processes suggested for different situations in life like: In day to day life be friendly with all, be merciful with poor/suffering, be happy with people doing good work / success, be indifference or ignore the wicked, be Equanimeous in both birth or death/good or evil.
Practice of Tapas, Svadyaya & Iswara Pranidhana helps to purify thoughts.
Yogic attitude is always staying in equanimity with three conceptions:
- Pratipaksha bhavana which yogis discontinue negative ways of thinking through the discipline of “cultivating the opposite. First instill a calm or peaceful mind that observes without thinking, listens without thinking.
- Nispand bhavana where one sits in a comfortable position with eyes shut, making no movements and only listening to the sounds around without thinking – Passive Listening.
- Anitya bhavana / Sakshi Bhavana: means thinking about the transitory nature of things around us. All things of the worldly life are perishable; and nothing is permanent. It is fruitless to mourn over the loss of perishable, and we should not lose our mental peace and emotional poise over them.
Role of Yoga in life Management:
In day to day life everyone has to perform some work for their survival. However Bhagavadgita suggested to perform work without any expectations or attachments. That action has got following four characteristics: 1. Niayatam (regulated), 2. Sangha rahitam (without any attachment), 3. Aragadveshakritam (without any craving or aversion), 4. Aphalapresuna karma (without any selfish motives of fruits of action).
Niyatam sanga rahitam araga dveshatah krutam I
Aphala prepsuna karma yat tat sattvikam uchyate II sloka 23
नियतम् संग रहितं अराग द्वेषतः कृतं I
अफल प्रेप्सुना कर्म यत् तत् सात्त्विकं उच्यते II श्लोक 23
Breathing is indispensable to life; and it is done without love or hatred. Every individual in society has his duty to discharge. It has to be executed faithfully and incessantly like breathing. No selfish consideration should dominate that work. Duty for duty’s sake is the motto of a yogi. When the duty is discharged with such a sterling attitude, the man grows both in knowledge and efficiency.
Spiritual Health: If you have spiritual health you can attain other 3 parts of health automatically.
Yoga can enable one to relax fully and promotes sound sleep; it also improves digestion and simulates circulation. It frees the practitioner physically and mentally, often heightening intuition and creatively. Yoga creates a perfect balance between the activities and process of body, mind and soul. Although Yoga has proved to be very effective in the treatment of many impossible and incurable diseases, the therapeutic effect of Yoga is only a byproduct and incidental. The final goal is of course the spiritual well-being.
As one proceeds with the practice of Yoga, the first symptoms of progress show up. As said in Svestasvvataropanisat “It is said that the first sign of entering Yoga are lightness of body, health, un-thirst mind, clearness of complexion, a beautiful voice, an agreeable odour and scantiness of excretions.”
Hatha Yoga Pradeepika says “When the body becomes lean, the face glows with delight, (divine sound) manifests, and eyes are pure, body is healthy, sexual discharge under control, the appetite increased; then one should understand that the Nadis are purified and success in Hatha Yoga is approaching.”
Yogasana 8 Steps teaching Method:
8 step method is a teaching technique used to teach asanas. In any Yoga class, irrespective of level of student, teacher must give clear instructions for each step of Asana practice in order to make sure every student does with proper understanding, necessary precautions, care and perfection.
Follow are one of the defined sequence for preparation and practice of Asanas in a Yogasana class:
- Introduction (Name, meaning, sthiti, relaxation, complementary, counts, category and type)
- Demonstration (Silent Demonstration, demonstration with count, demonstration with counts, breathing and explanation)
- Limitation and benefits of the asana,
- Individual practice
- practice in pair
- Questions and answers,
- Key points
- Whole group practice with closing prayer