IMPORTANCE OF YOGA
Yoga is not a religion; it is a way of living which aims at achieving “a healthy mind in a healthy body”. Man is a physical, mental and spiritual being; yoga helps to promote a balanced development of all the three. Other forms of physical exercise, like aerobics, assure only physical wellbeing. They have little to do with the development of the spiritual or astral body. Yogic exercises recharge the body with cosmic energy
The benefits of Yoga include
facilitating attainment of perfect equilibrium and harmony.
removing negative blocks from the mind and toxins from the body.
enhancing personal power.
increasing self –awareness.
helping develop attention and concentration, especially important for children.
ELEMENTS OF YOGA (ASHTANG YOGA)
Yoga is more than just a physical discipline. It is a way of life–a rich philosophical path. And the yamas (social restraints) and niyamas(self-discipline) are ten good common-sense guidelines for leading a healthier, happier life and for bringings piritual awareness in to a social context. They are for the individual to think about and ponder over with a rational mind, because yoga is not about mindlessly accepting externally imposed rules – it is about finding the truth for oneself and “connecting” with it.
1. Yamas: Yamais the first “limb” of Ashtang Yoga. The 5 yamas are universal practices that help us move forward in our personal and spiritual development. The five yamasask practitioners to avoid violence, lying, stealing, wasting energy, and possessiveness. The five yamas, or codes of conduct or moral disciplines towards the outside world are: a) Ahimsa — Sanskrit for“non-harming” b) Satya — Sanskrit for “refraining from dishonesty” c) Asteya— Sanskrit for“non-stealing” d) Brahmacharya — Sanskrit for “wise use of vitality” e) Aparigraha— Sanskrit for“non-possessiveness”
Practicing Yoga’s “golden rules” helps us attain a healthy mind and body, and it is important to follow the yamas without the desire for an end goal. a) Ahimsa (non-violence): Ahimsa means practicing kindness towards others, towards animals and towards ourselves in every thought and action. When we are compassionate and accepting of all ways of life we can handle any situation with grace. b) Satya (refraining from dishonesty) Satya is the principle of living with integrity. Satya refers to refraining from dishonesty and betrayal in thought, word, and deed. It is important to note, though, that ahimsa is still the most important principle. Thus, in case truth can cause harm or violence, the option to be exercised is one that will not cause harm. c) Asteya (non-stealing): Asteya teaches that everything we need in life is already within us. By choosing Asteya, we rise above our “base cravings” and become self-sufficient because we no longer desire something outside of ourselves. Feeling gratitude for what we have, and only taking what’s freely given, makes it easy to wipe out feelings of envy or entitlement, and for authentic generosity. d) Brahmacharya (wise use of energy) Brahmacharya refers to the wise use and preservation of vitality. It does not mean celibacy, but rather acting responsibly with your vitality, as a way to respecting others and yourself. e) Aparigraha(non-possessiveness) Aparigrah are fersto the ability to let go. It encourages non-grasping, non-clinging, and non-attachment to possessions or even thoughts. Aparigraha teaches you not to take it easy and be happy with what you have
2. Niyamas: The niyamas, the second constituent of Asthang Yoga, deal with the manner in which we interact with ourselves and our internal world. Following the Niyamas helps the individual regulate her/his behaviour and maintain a positive environment in which to grow. Energy generated through the cultivation of the yamasis harnessed through the practice of the Niyamas. While to Sage Yajnavalkya liststen niyamas and the Bhagavad Gita lists11, Patanjali names the following five: a) Sauch aorpurity b) Santosh aorcontentment c) Tapa orausterity d) Swadhyayaor self-education,and e) IshwarPranidhanor meditation on the Divine.
Benefits of Practicing Yamas & Niyamas
They amas and niyamas help in managing our energy in an integrated manner, complementing our outer life to our inner development. They help us view ourselves with compassion and awareness. They help in respecting the values of life, in balancing our inner growth with outer restraint. Inshort, Yamas and Niyamas are not about right and wrong, but are about being honest with oneself. Living according to these principles is about living our lives in a better way, and moving towards connecting with the Divine.
1. Asanas: Asana is a posture in harmony with one’s inner consciousness. It aims at the attainment of a sustained and comfortable sitting posture to facilitate meditation. Asanas also help in balancing and harmonizing the basic structure of the human body, which is why they have a range of therapeutic uses too.
2. Pranayama: Pranayama is a compound term (Prana and Yama) meaning the maintenance of prana in a healthy manner throughout one’s life. More than being merely a breath-control exercise, Pranayama is the art of the life force or prana. Ancient yogis, who understood the essence of prana, studied it and devised methods and practices to master it. These practices are better known as Pranayama since breath or prana is basic to life, the practice of Pranayama helps in harnessing the prana in and around us, and by deepening and extending it, Pranayama leads to a state of inner peace. According to Hatha Yoga, Pranayamascan be classified under:
3. Pratyahara: Pratyaharais the “withdrawal of the senses” and it is the fifth element among the eight stages of Patanjali’s Ashtang Yoga, as mentioned in his classical work. It is also the first stage of the six-branch yoga of the Buddhist Kalachakra tantra, where it refers to the withdrawal of the five senses from external objects to be replaced by them entally created senses of an enlighten eddeity.
4. Dharana: The last three limbs of Ashtang Yoga are the three essential stages of meditation. Dharana involves developing and extending our powers of concentration. This consists of various ways of directing and controlling our attention and mind – fixing skills, such as concentrating on the chakras or turning inwards.
5. Dhyana: Dhyana is the state of meditation, when the mindattains a state of concentration without getting distracted. Strictly speaking, unlike the other six limbs of yoga, this is nota technique but rather astate of mind, a delicate state of awareness, where the mind has been quieted, and in the stillness it produces few or no thoughts at all. This state rightfully precedes the finalstate of Samadhi.
6. Samadhi: Samadhi or total absorption is the ability to become one with the true self and merge into the object of concentration. In this state of mind, the perceiver and the object of perception unite through the very act of perception–a true unity of all thought and action. This is the acmeofallyogic endeavours the ultimate “yoga” or connection between the individual and the universal soul.