All about real yoga
In respect of understanding what is yoga, people make two common mistakes. Most people think that yoga means only asanas or physical postures. It's that and more.
Yoga is a complete way of life including therein, gyan yoga or philosophy, bhakti yoga or path of devotional bliss, karma yoga or path of blissful action and raja yoga or path of mind control. Raja yoga has eight parts of which only one part is asana.
Not an alternative The second misconception about yoga is that it is thought to be an alternative to physical workouts. Yogasana is quite different from any other form of physical workout. First of all, the purpose of physical exercise is to improve the body, while the main purpose of yogasana is to control the mind. The benefit of yogasana to the human body is only incidental; a welcome by-product. When we do asanas in the way prescribed by the scriptures, our mind becomes steady and quiet. Once you practice asanas for a long period, the mind learns to be steady in all situations. Of course, in this process, the body also becomes flexible and gets toned up.
Need to slow down Another major distinction between asanas and other physical exercises is in the method of performing them. In physical exercises, it is believed that the faster the movement, the better it is. However in asanas, slower the movement, better it is. Asanas are always performed with very slow movement of body parts. And the main benefit of asanas come in maintaining the posture in the final stage. For example when we do sarvangasana, we have to raise the legs very slowly, inch by inch, in the supine position and then lift the torso slowly. Once we reach the final position of having the weight of our entire body on our shoulders, we must stay in that position for as long as we can. Also, after every asana performed in this way, sufficient rest has to be given to the body. This is the method shown by Sage Patanjali in his Yoga Sutra.
Breath and movement Also, in yogasana, the coordination of breath with the body movement has to be perfect. Asanas become more beneficial if such a breathing coordination happens. Breath is the carrier of Prana, the life-energy. Prana flows in 72 lakh invisible micro channels called nadis in our body. The disturbance in flow of prana causes disease. Systematic breathing practice removes the imbalance of prana in our body. So, along with asana, breathing co-ordination is a must.
Remain fully aware The third main distinction lies in the level of awareness. While doing asanas, one has to keep full awareness in the body part which is being affected by the posture. One should not think of anything else at that time. Listening to music while doing asanas can also cause distraction, and so, the level of awareness required in the posture may not be attained. In physical exercise, people might work out while listening to music or watching television. In most gyms, there is a TV screen in front of jogging belts or cycles.
Yogasanas have to be done in a quiet and pleasant surrounding where one can link body and mind properly by maintaining awareness. Holistic healing Because of all these differences, yogasana is a holistic method that brings benefits to both body and mind. While both physical exercise and asanas improve our skeleton-muscular, cardio-respiratory and circulatory systems, yogasanas also improve the neuro-muscular system and the endocrinal system, which controls our sympathetic and parasympathetic reactions in case of perceived stress. For lifestyle-related diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes, anxiety and depression, yogasanas are known to bring spectacular results.
Credit : Hasmukh Adhia, Times of India
Photo Credit: NathanYoga