Advantages of Yoga

yoga002We give undue importance to our health and the treatment of diseases. A large number of medicines treat only the symptoms of the disease, and not the root cause. In fact, the cause of many chronic ailments is still being researched. It is here that Yoga therapy comes to our assistance. Yoga emphasizes treatment of the root cause of an ailment. It works in a slow, subtle and miraculous manner. Modern medicine can claim to save a life at a critical stage, but, for complete recovery and regaining of normal health, one must believe in the efficiency of Yoga therapy.

The Yogic way of life includes a code of ethics, regulations, discipline and more, combined with prayer and meditation. Even a discussion of these subjects helps one relieve mental tensions and change attitudes. Simple Asanas help to stretch and relax the whole body and neutralize tensions. The sincere practice of Yoga postures benefits all levels of experience. From the restoration of balance, flexibility, poise, health and well being to the body, to the cultivation of mental equanimity, emotional balance, and inner strength. On a physical level Yoga postures stimulate the glands, organs, muscles and nerves in ways that traditional exercise cannot.

Muscle tightness and strain is quickly relieved and both circulation and digestion improves. Stress-related symptoms like poor sleep, fatigue, muscle spasms, anxiety, and indigestion are greatly improved. Through continued practice Yoga postures can have a profound effect on the inner dimensions of life, establishing deep calm, concentration, emotional stability and confidence.

Basic Precautions of Yoga
Yoga imposes certain disciplines for a balanced and contented life. These disciplines have scientific justifications. Unlike superficial, frivolous lifestyles without any do’s or don’ts, the regular practice of yoga helps by cultivating character, good eating, cleansing, proper breathing, ideal sex and relaxation. It is designed to awaken the characteristics of what it means in life to be human.

One should remember that
1. Practising yoga in the wrong manner can aggravate the negatives, rather than developing positive changes in the body and mind. Therefore it is advised that yoga should not be practised without suitable professional guidance and knowledge. If you’re physically unwell, do not practise yoga.
2. Weak patients are warned against holding their breath (Kumbhaka) during pranayama.
3. People suffering from serious problems like heart trouble, high or low blood pressure or any serious organic disease should also avoid asanas (postures) which may prove dangerous.
4. Practise in the presence of a medical or yoga expert.
5. Sweating during practice. Do not wipe the body with a towel, but rub the body with the palms.
6. Avoid strenuous physical exercises like gymnastics, weightlifting, jogging, tennis, swimming etc. after asanas and prayama. Allow at least 20 minutes after yoga before other exercise. The sequence of yogic practices; Kriyas, Asanas, Pranayama, Chittashuddhi and Yoga Nidra should be maintained.
7. In attaining peace of mind, yoga should be practised in a quiet, secluded place, where fresh air envelops you for fresh breathing of the mind.
8. It is recommended that you either practise early in the morning, or in early evening on a relatively empty stomach.You are allowed the flexibility of practising yoga four hours after a heavy meal and 20 minutes after a glass of juice or a cup of skimmed milk. After practice, meals after half-an-hour is optional.
9. Avoid tea, coffee, smoking, alcohol, zarda, pan masala, sweets, fried food and spices as they activate chemical toxins, which are harmful and lead to stress and illness.
10. Your diet should include raw food, salad and fruits.Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water everyday, irrespective of yogic practice. It helps in cleaning up the system.
11. A time schedule should be ideal capacity and to make it a regular practice. For instance, Pranayama can be started with a less duration initially and can be later increased gradually depending on one’s capability to concentrate.
12. Initially one may feel stiffness in muscles but it will ease out after regular practice.Physical comfort is as important as mental comfort while practicing yoga. Hence, clean, loose, free-flowing clothes; preferably cotton garments should be worn. In cold climates, a shirt or sweater can be worn. Jewellery and accessories should be avoided and practise with bare-feet to ensure contact with the ground.
13. As the body has to be stretched in all directions, yogic practice has to be done on a clean mat, rug, carpet or a blanket.
14. You should practise Yoga on the ground. Do not practise on sofas and beds.

Who can Perform Yoga?
Yoga can be practiced by anyone, at any age, with any physical condition, depending on individual needs. For example, athletes and dancers can practice for restoring the energy and to improve stamina; housewives for rejuvenating the energy and to reduce fatigue; executives to give a break to the overworked mind; children to control the wandering mind, muscle toning, to improve memory and concentration; seniors to feel strong, and to improve memory. Yoga breathing techniques (Pranayama) are very powerful since they work as a tonic to reduce stress, insomnia, emotional imbalance, headache etc. Yoga, therefore, is for all ages from 5 years to as long as we live.

How to Start Yoga?
While starting a yoga practice without the support of a qualified yoga teacher is not recommended, we acknowledge that many people do not have access to a teacher due to location or times of classes.
We have put together this page and other resources to help you start a yoga practice.

While it is good to have goals for your yoga practice (build strength, reduce stress, obtain flexibility, lose weight), it is not good to be focused only on obtaining them. Yoga is a process, and sometimes this process can be very slow. Use your goals to help select the type and level of postures you wish to practice.

When not to do yoga:
Please read the contraindications for each posture before doing them. Menstruation, pregnancy, high blood pressure and injuries to the knees, shoulders, and neck are all conditions where certain postures must be avoided and special care must be taken in all postures. If you have any medical condition you should check with your health care professional before starting a yoga practice.

Variations and modifications:
The instructions and pictures of the yoga postures are the goal as to where you are going towards, not trying to be. Experiment and explore different positions and alignment to make the posture work for your body.

You can make your yoga practice as challenging and vigorous as you want. We recommend you start slowly and make sure you understand the alignment of postures.

There are 3 ways to increase the intensity of your practice.
1. Hold postures for longer and longer periods of time.
2. Slowly build your practice up to more advanced and challenging postures,
3. Move quickly between postures.

Your daily practice should be between 15 to 90 minutes long and done 3-6 times per week depending on your schedule, goals and ability.

Posture selection:
Choose to practice postures that look like you can do them. Postures done on the floor are going to be easier that standing postures as they do not require as much strength or balance. Also, postures that have longer recommended hold times (in breaths) are going to be easier to do. See yoga posture sequences for info on how to arrange the postures.

What to wear:
Lose comfortable clothing or tights / unitards work best. Its important to wear something that will not restrict your movement.

Drinking / eating:
It is not advisable to eat or drink right before a yoga practice (especially if you are practicing inversions). eat 1-3 hours before and drink only small amounts of water before practice, and do not drink during your practice.

How to start:
It is best to start your practice with a brief meditation. Come into easy pose close your eyes and breathe deeply. you can alternately practice a pranayama as you meditate.

How to end:
It is very important to end your practice with savasana, relaxation posture. This allows the body to integrate all of the postures and to balance and absorb the prana / energy that has been created and released during your practice. this is also an important practice for stress reduction.

Daily Regimen:
To become a master yogi capable of harnessing all the beneficial effects of yoga is a long process involving several hours of practice. However, making a start is the crucial step. Beginners can follow a basic daily yoga program to start on the path towards good health. This is a simplified program to rejuvenate your health through yoga exercises each day and a step-by-step guide to executing common therapeutic postures.

A Basic Practice Chart:
Daily yoga practice is an investment in improving your health. Twelve minutes a day will help you tone your muscles and improve the functioning of the digestive, circulatory and respiratory systems. The following exercises will provide a well-balanced program, which should be supplemented, of course, by any other postures that are particularly good for your needs as per your personal constitution (available in My Soul):

First Day: Complete Breathing Exercises, Spinal Roll, Cobra Pose, Sun Salutation, Corpse Pose.

Second Day: Complete Breathing Exercises, Sun Salutation, Corpse Pose.

Third Day: Complete Breathing Exercises, Bow Pose, Cobra Pose, Posterior Stretch, Corpse Pose

Fourth Day and on: Repeat sequence.

Introduction of Asanas
Maintain good health by improving its immune system.

Consideration to be taken while practising Asanas.

Control various diseases, improving physical fitness, etc.

List of Asanas
1. Supine Pose
2. Prone Pose
3. Sitting Pose

Know about Asanas:
Asanas, an intrinsic part of yoga, are body postures modeled to blend the mind and body and achieve complete physical and mental relaxation. Regular practise of yogasana rejuvenates the entire physiological system. In fact, yogasana postures help the body to maintain good health by improving its immune system. Asanas work mainly on the endocrine and nervous systems. Since both the systems are inter-related, the effects produced on these two reflect on the other systems as well.

A few things need to be remembered while practising Asanas, namely:
1. Develop a habit of drinking water before and after the practise, and if required even during practise.
2. Maintain the asana posture with ease as long as possible and gradually increase the time. If unable to retain the posture for long, repeat it several times to make it easier.
3. Avoid jerky movements while assuming or releasing the posture. Perform slowly and steadily without any strain. Start with the simple postures and then take up the more difficult ones.
4. Understand the purpose of each asana so that while retaining it, concentration can be bestowed on theed.

In fact, regular practise of yogasana helps in controlling various diseases and improving physical fitness, and improving flexibility of various joints by removing stiffness, increasing immunity and toning up the functioning of kidneys, lungs, intestine, liver and skin. It also helps in breaking down excess fat and increases blood circulation. It increases the coronary blood flow, oxygen assimilation and eases the flow of prance energy to the whole body. Asanas should be practised by individuals depending on age, capacity and the diseases to be treated. They should be performed on an empty stomach. The final position should be maintained with deep and slow breathing. The time limit of retaining the final posture depends on one’s capacity, which can be increased gradually.


What is Yoga?

yoga001Yoga means ‘Oneness’ and constitutes the essence of every possible religion, the gist of every creed and the core of every spiritual path.

In ancient India, yoga was practised by such sages as Shiva, Rama, Krishna and Vyasa. What Krishna teaches Arjuna is not Krishnaism, but just Yoga! The root of Jainism is Yoga, since Mahavira practised Hatha Yoga. Jesus Christ even carried out a lengthy pilgrimage with the purpose of studying yoga. Gautama Buddha studied Yoga throughout his life. Bodhidharma brought Buddha’s raja yoga from India to China.

In the Middle East countries this practice is known as SUFA or ZUF (hbr). As the Bible teaches, such men as Samuel or David the prophets, were related to the sufi school (rish). In Tibet, people do not call themselves the Buddhists but the yoga practitioners. Padmasambhava is a yogi as well.

Yoga comes from connecting to God, just as the word religion means in a western context. There are many schools or even called sampradajas with different forms of yoga. All teachings guide an embodied spirit in a (non)-personal relationship to God. The supreme godhead resides in every being in its heart.

The native yoga-paths are a part of the vedic-culture we refer to today as hinduism, but the real importance of vedic culture seems to be that it has enabled native yoga-paths to stay in the Indian sub-continent unchanged longer than they have in other locations. It seems as if these philosophies were once known all over the world.

Eight Stages of Yoga
The following are the eight stages in Yoga, known as ‘Ashtanga Yoga’. One needs to practice and master each of these eight stages in order to reunite with the divine energy in the universe.

Yama: These are eternal, universal moral commandments. Perpetual Yama curbs the tendency toward violence and possessiveness. It inspires truthfulness, purity, conscience, trustworthiness, goodness and honesty.

Niyama: This is the restraint of the mind by means of its own rules and regulations. It is self-purification through discipline, self-contentment, self-study and above all, the surrender of the self to God. It is also the study of scripts and holy texts.

Asanas: These are body postures, which develop inner awareness and aid in calming the mind.

Pranayama: This is the rhythmic control, prolongation and restraint of the breath. Its aim is to discover a subtle psychic force or a subtle cosmic element.

Pratyahara: This entails control of the senses of the human body. It is important to give up all emotions, sentiments and pleasures. The mind must be completely withdrawn from external attractions and objects.

Dharana: This is the Sanskrit word for “to hold”. It is an intense, deep concentration which enhances the selected mental state.

Dhyana: This is meditation, contemplation and poised awareness.

Samadhi: Profound Meditation leads to a state of superconsciousness. This state is called Samadhi. It is the union of the individual aspirant (Sadhaka) with the object of his meditation Paramatma or the Supreme Universal Spirit – the all pervasive truth.

This is sometimes referred to as your potential or destiny. Living up to attributes of this number may not be easy, but it is your goal in the here and now. It is your life’s purpose, spiritual mission, and your field of opportunity.

Basic Principles of Yoga
Regular practice of yoga helps in cultivating a strict discipline in food habits, cleanliness, sex and character, thus enabling one to become a better person.

The therapeutic use of yoga is widely known. In fact, today, yoga is considered a global phenomenon and an essential part of modern civilisation. However, yoga, when practiced in the wrong manner, and without professional guidance, can do more harm than good.

Equally important are the proper time, place and dress and the right diet. Yoga has to be practiced in a quiet, secluded place, where fresh air is easily available – like a verandah, terrace, garden, etc. Ideally, yoga should be practiced in the early hours of either morning or evening (on a relatively empty stomach).

However, it can be practiced either four hours after a heavy meal, or 20 minutes after a glass of juice or a cup of skimmed milk. On completion, one can have a meal after half-an-hour. Avoid tea, coffee, smoking, alcohol and spices.

The duration of practice should also be fixed according to one’s capacity. Most importantly, yoga should be practiced at a fixed time every day; in two sessions if one feels able. One may feel an initial stiffness of the limbs and muscles. This will ease with regular practice. During yoga, the attire has to be clean, light and loose fitting to allow free movement; preferably light cotton garments.

In cold climate, a shirt or thin sweater can also be used. To avoid discomfort, jewelry or accessories need to be taken off. One must always practice barefoot to ensure contact with the ground. Further, since the body has to be stretched in various directions, yogic practice has to be done on a clean mat, rug, carpet or a blanket. The seat should be firm and comfortable. Yoga should not be practised on any sofa surface.

During Yogasana, one should breath through the nostrils and not through the mouth, except in the case of Sheetali and Sheetakari Pranayama. While bathing is not directly related to yogasana, a shower before and after yogasana can refresh the body and mind.

Yoga should be commenced in a meditative posture, with a calm, tension-free mental state. Observe complete silence during the practice. One must not perform asanas during acute illnesses like fever, a severe asthmatic attack or extreme fatigue. Very weak patients in extreme exhaustion are warned against holding the breath (Kumbhaka) during pranayama.

Persons suffering from heart trouble, high or low blood pressure or any serious organic disease should avoid postures, which may prove dangerous. They should preferably practice yoga in the presence of a medical or yoga expert. If there is profuse sweating during practice, do not wipe it with a towel, but rub the body with the palms.

The sequence of yogic practices, i.e., Kriyas, Asanas, Pranayama, Chittashuddhi and Yoga Nidra should be maintained. Do not practice yoga merely by studying books, seeing television or others practising it. Beginners should first take lessons from a qualified and experienced Yoga expert. Pregnant women should avoid Yogasanas, Kapalbhati, Bhastrika and Suryabhedana during menstruation.

Asanas could be practiced during pregnancy upto the first 80-90 days. Pranayama can be continued without Kumbhak throughout pregnancy, as it helps considerably during labour. Take more raw food, salad and fruits. Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water everyday. Reduce consumption of salt, sweets, spices and chilies. Avoid tea, coffee, fried food, smoking, alcohol, chewing zarda, pan masala etc.

Avoid other physical exercises like gymnastics, weightlifting, jogging, tennis, swimming etc. after asanas and pranayama for at least 20 minutes after yoga.

Yoga is a way of life. It must be practised regularly and conscientiously, with thorough preparation, bearing all precautions in mind for true mental and physical relaxation. One has to also keep in mind that any results depend purely upon the individual, the nature of ailments and the regularity of yogic practice.

Why Practice Yoga?
Every human being is born with powers to make life more meaningful and complete.

Physical power fulfils our physical needs through action; psychological power enables us to achieve the impossible in a civilised world and moral (inborn) power helps us master the ‘art of living’ by inculcating good values. Unfortunately, this inborn power is the least utilised, leading to physical and psychological breakdowns.Yoga, rooted in ancient history, helps to overcome these physical and mental diseases by generating cosmic powers. Yoga is usually associated with yogis; as a method used at high altitudes to attain peace. However, it has no relevance to any particular religion.
It is a way of life to control the mind, body and soul.

Yoga helps us to get in touch with reality by being in touch with the inner self. Yoga helps to achieve that elusive contentment which no materialistic luxury of the modern world can bring, to strike a perfect balance between the mind and body and harmony between man and the universe through yogic kriyas, yogasanas, chitta shuddhir and yoga nidra. It relaxes the physical and psychological powers and recharges them for better performance.

Yoga, as defined by Maharishi Patanjali, one of India’s greatest sages, is a technique used to control thought waves in the mind. He calls it a way of life, beyond the consciousness of body, mind and intellect.

Types of Yoga
There are different paths (margas) of yoga that can be taken in order to reunite with the divine energy. An active person can realize his divinity through work and duty (Karma),a religious person through devotion (Bhakti),an intellectual person through knowledge (Jnana), anda meditative/reflective person through Raja Yoga.
The different types of yoga share some common elements. Some focus more on breathing exercises and postures, whereas others focus more on spirituality.
Each type emphasizes a particular path that comprises a certain set of beliefs, practices, and rituals. The Yoga types constitute a ladder, from the “lowest” form of Hatha yoga, with its focus on physical postures and breathing techniques, to the “highest” form known as Raja yoga, or “union by mental mastery.”

The following are the various types of Yoga:

Hatha, Bhakti, Karma, Jnana, Raja, Tantra, Purna

Hatha Yoga, or Yoga of Vitality

Hatha Yoga is the foundation of all Yoga systems. Hatha Yoga is a preparation for higher Yogas.”Ha” means “sun” and “tha” means “moon.” Thus, Hatha Yoga refers to positive (sun) and negative (moon) currents in the system. These currents have to be balanced and mastered so that vital force (prana) can be regulated, the mind cleared and superconscious state be experienced. The ideal way to practice the Hatha Yoga poses (asanas) is to practice in a calm, meditative mood. Sit quietly for a few moments, then begin the series. This should be done slowly, with control and grace, all the while being inwardly aware as the body performs the various poses. Do not overdo the asanas or try to compete with others. Enjoy the asanas and take it easy.

Bhakti Yoga or Yoga of Love
Bhakti Yoga is the system in which love and devotion is emphasized.Love of God and one’s complete surrender to God’s will is stressed in the Bhakti Yoga approach. Some people are naturally inclined by temperament to be devotional and to love God. However, balance is strongly recommended: devotion should be balanced by reason, love should be balanced by understanding. There are no set ways to perform Bhakti yoga. Some people find that external aids can contribute to a devotional attitude: an altar used during prayer and meditation; pictures of saints to serve as inspiration; chanting or singing; use of mantra or even a simple devotional ceremony to aid in creating a mood as preparation for meditation. The best approach is the one which is found most useful in the long run. Singing the name of God aloud can elevate consciousness, clear the mind and even charge the environment with pure energy. For those who find it difficult to concentrate during meditation, and for whom the approach of calm discernment is too subtle, prayers and chanting can be of value.

Karma Yoga, or Yoga of Selfless Action
The message of Karma Yoga is:Working in harmony with the Power that runs the universe, not being egotistically motivated, having no compulsive desires relative to the future.With the eradication of the compulsive desire, one is able to live in the present, while planning for the future, without being bound to it. Every reasonable desire carries within itself the motivating force for its fulfillment. The Yogic philosophy does not ask one to give up intelligent planning. It only aims at the renunciation of egotistic desire.

Jnana Yoga, or Yoga of Knowledge
The Jnana Yoga stresses the use of the mind to transcend the mind. It works with that part of the human mind which strives incessantly to know and understand. It is multi-limbed, and its other limbs are detachment, self-discipline, longing for freedom, desire to hear the truth, reflection upon that truth, and meditation. The tradition of Jnana Yoga teaches that “Liberation is attained, not by works or ceremony, but by knowledge alone.” Knowledge in this context is not belief or collected data; it is comprehension as a result of discernment and experience. The way of knowledge is for the special few who are prepared for steady examination and clear perception of the nature of consciousness. One who chooses this path studies the conclusions of the seers by reading the great scriptures and commentaries, then examines them in the light of his own intelligence and comes to his own realization. In deep meditation, he contemplates the characteristics of consciousness in manifestation and, by doing so, gains insight and perfect realization.

Raja Yoga, or The Highest Form of Yoga
“Raja” means “royal”. and Raja yoga is the royal path to Self-Realization by way of meditation. Raja Yoga starts with the mind. Its goal is complete stilling of the mind, so that the light of the indwelling spirit may shine out. It makes use of asana and pranayama, and it is also considered by some as a name for Ashtanga Yoga. Raja Yoga meditation is the process whereby the practitioner concentrates upon one point in order to integrate discontinuous, diffused attention, thus holding his attention steady. All distractions are thus effectively closed out, and meditation proceeds.

Mantra Yoga
Mantra yoga means “union by voice or sound”. This form includes the rhythmic repetitions of specific sounds, or mantras. The practitioner repeats the syllable, word or phrase continually; sometimes for weeks, months or years on end. Certain syllables are believed to posses healing potential for specific purposes.

Tantra Yoga, or Kundalini yoga
A celibate approach to spiritual growth is quite common in many of the world’s religious traditions. Many yoga practices suggest that sexual involvement is a detriment to a greater development of self and hence should be avoided if possible. However, tantric yoga suggests that sexuality can be a very powerful force which can be harnessed for increased self-awareness.

Tantric yoga is unusual, in that it not only allows sexual feelings and contact, but uses sexual experience as a means to enlightenment. The Tantrics maintain that there is an enormous energy locked into sexuality, which, if released from the lower end of the spine, can flow up the spinal column to bring divine illumination to the brain.

They believe that within the interior of the spine, in a hollow region called the canalis centralis, there is an energy conduit called “sushumna”. Along this conduit, from the base of the perineum to the top of the head, flows the most powerful of all psychic energies, the Kundalini energy. On each side of the canal are two additional energy channels, one called “Ida” corresponding to the male, and the other the “Pingala” corresponding to the female. Ida begins at the right of the base of the spine and the Pingala begins at the left. These two psychic currents are said to coil upward like snakes around the spine, crossing the chakras (energy wheel centers of consciousness).

The Kundalini yogi’s lifelong tasks is to bring the focus of the Kundalini energy upward from the root chakra at the base of his spine to the crown chakra at the top of his head. Once the yogi has achieved mastery of self , he is ready to join with a partner whose energies and spirit complement his own in such a way that together they form a “whole”.

The partners must first achieve a highly developed awareness within their being before they are ready to engage in tantric embrace. In the tantric lovemaking experience, known as “maithuna”, the lovers undergo a variety of meditations and rituals before they actually make physical contact. They maintain the spiritual link or bond throughout the lovemaking process. They visualize the flow of currents between them. In tantric yoga, the lovers do not try to achieve orgasm. In fact, they work hard not to have one.

They attempt to draw the forces of Kundalini energy upward through their bodies, thus releasing the power of the various chakras. This force transforms the yogi psychologically, changing his personality as the Kundalini reaches each succeeding chakra. The emphasis is not on the sexual release as an end in itself, but rather on sex as a channel through which the evolution of self may proceed. The goal of Tantra is the union of dynamic and static aspects of personality (shakti and shiva). It is quite different from practices that dwell on renunciation.

Purna Yoga, or Integral Yoga
This yoga attempts to integrate all aspects of action, wisdom, and peace into one yoga. It aims at an integration on three levels: Psychic integration, of the various facets of the self; Cosmic integration, of the aspects of the universe; and Existential integration, which comes when one fully realizes that the self and the universe are one.