What is Yoga and What are its Physical and Mental Health Benefits
In the true sense of the word “Yoga” means “union.” Most of us, at all times have a strong idea and alongside a sense arising out of our experience of ourselves- who we are, what we are. Each of us functions as an individual. However, the term Yoga means union, the obliteration of the individual self with the existential blissful consciousness. But, this needs to be actualized and experienced rather than understand it theoretically. That’s why Yoga involves doable practice rather than just theoretical understanding.
To achieve this state and understanding that a human being is capable of, one can follow several techniques and practices. This is what will form one’s path to union. The regular practice of particular sets of techniques chosen as per your personal inclination and nature (prakriti), the techniques purify the subconscious whereby we see the reflection of one’s true self and achieve the state of Yoga.
However, the term “yoga” in the Western world implies to modulated and modern version of hatha yoga which focuses on aspects a such as:
- Posture-based physical fitness.
- And relaxation techniques.
In the present world, most people consider Yoga as a systematic practice involving:
- Physical exercise.
- Breath control.
- Diet control.
- Positive thinking.
All these practices are aimed for creating a harmony between the individual’s internal system with the gross external system of the universe.
It’s no wonder, everyone needs yoga to realise their full potential and to live their life to the fullest.
Human beings are now living in a world which is getting more and more unnatural. The outcome is our sense of harmony is being lost day in and day out. The time we spend in nature is becoming lesser and lesser with each passing day. There’s rising soil degradation, air pollution and global warming is impending. The word has become more plastic. All this is casting a stress not only on Nature but also we, the human beings who are part of Nature. So, how do we cope with this? Yoga plays a vital role here. It helps us take to powerful techniques which will bring back the harmony in our system which we lose due to a lot of anxiety brought about by a fast-paced lifestyle and pollution.
In my understanding, the word yoga, today also implies that we do acts to bring harmony in nature. Taking care of the soil quality, the five elements comprising earth, water, fire, air, ether- thee all need to be in harmony. But, we’ll talk about this in an upcoming blog. We will start with individual yoga which can empower us to bring back alignment to the Nature around us as well.
A human being has three aspects — the physical, the mental/emotional, and the spiritual.
In Yogic language, we say, we have three bodies
- Physical Body or Annamayya Kosh
This is the gross body, which is made from the visible food (anna) we eat.
- Sookshma Sharir
The subtle body comprising our mind, our intellect, (thoughts & emotions), the perceptive sense, the five senses of action, five sense of perception, sense of being- “I” ness.
- Karana Sharir
This is the basic illusory body from which sookshma and annamayi sharira arise. This is the basic cause (being of illusion) reason why we are born or exist in the first place.
Delving through these three layers of these bodies, we can reach our real self (blissful immortal consciousness) and reach the state of yoga.
But, first things first. Let us see how yoga can bring harmony in our life?
Yoga helps us to understand the way to lead a healthy life. It enhances the level of creativity, concentration and also improves our memory and cognitive functions. In the spiritual language, it helps us keep the slate of subconscious clean and clear. Result is it reflects your true nature of bliss and joy at all times and in all kinds of circumstances.
If you thought Yoga is tough, you may be wrong. It’s the most worthwhile thing to strive for. Just put in around half an hour to one hour everyday in your routine with the right guidance and your life will become more beautiful than you could ever imagine!
Yes, Yoga changes your life for the better. It makes you resilient and strong within and without. You’re like the powerhouse of positive energy that charges up every atmosphere even without knowing. And when you see things clearly, they can’t torment you any longer. You’re a player playing your part most beautifully on the stage of this life.
As Shakespeare put it:
“This world’s a stage and we are all actors on it.”
And yoga teaches how to play your part well and enjoy revelling in your real being.
Now, here are some basics of what you can choose from in the present day scenario of yoga.
We find many branches and specific practices of yoga in the modern world.
Power yoga has its roots in ashtanga yoga. It is important to perform Yoga postures at a quicker and highly active pace. It helps to tone your muscles and improves flexibility.
Yin is the feminine energy. When yoga poses are combined with martial arts it becomes yin yoga. This practice helps to increase blood circulation to the joints while improving muscle tone and flexibility.
The practice involves holding postures for a minute and sometimes up to 5 minutes. The more comfortable you’re staying in a pose determines your level of accomplishment for any form of yoga. Yin yoga involves the use of props such as blocks and blankets in various cases. If you practise after a workout, it can help to relax your body’s joints.
Yang yoga is a mix of Haha, Vinyasa and Ashtanga yoga and is less experimental. It is a highly energetic form of yoga and focuses on having a high vigour, endurance and to ease the tension in the body and helps to build body mass.
Restorative yoga is focused on relaxing in various poses. This type of yoga requires the use of props for body support. It requires considering yoga as an integral part of restorative yoga. Restorative yoga helps in relaxing your nervous system and it also actively de-stresses and calms down the anxious nerves. Here again, the idea is to hold a pose for a few minutes.
This form of yoga is related to massages and exercises which help to relax and strengthen facial muscles. As the muscles lose their stiffness, soften and relax, they also shake off stress, tension, and worry. Face Yoga has become popular in the last few years. Face yoga is done by people who consider that it will revere gaining and make them look younger countering signs of ageing on the face
Prenatal yoga helps in lowering the discomfort and pain related to pregnancy. Prenatal yoga involves the practice of breathing exercises which can be highly helpful during labour. You can also go for some techniques in prenatal yoga that can be a part of postnatal yoga. These exercises also help mothers to shed weight and stay more balanced in thai crucial time.
There are several relaxation techniques in yoga practices which can reduce chronic pain for example lower back pain, headaches, arthritis, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Moreover, yoga can lower blood pressure and reduce insomnia. Moreover, there are also several physical benefits of yoga such as:
- Better flexibility
- Improved muscle strength and tone
- Strengthening of respiratory system with more energy and vitality
- Balanced metabolism
- Balanced weight and healthy weight reduction
- Enhanced cardio and circulatory health
- Better athletic performance
- Lowered chances of muscle injury due to strenuous work.
Yoga also renders many mental benefits as it helps people to manage stress that can otherwise prove devastating on the body and mind. Stress may manifest in various ways such as:
- Sleeping problems
- Back or neck pain
- Drug abuse
- Inability to concentrate
Regular Yoga practices can prove highly effective to develop coping skills to get a highly positive outlook on life. Incorporating meditation and breathing can improve your mental well-being. On the whole, it is useful in bringing:
- Mental clarity
- Increased body awareness
- Relief of chronic stress patterns
- Relaxation to the mind
- Centering of attention
- And sharpening concentration.
Body- and self-awareness are really helpful as they help in the early and timely detection of physical issues and allow you to follow an early preventive action.
Irrespective of whether you’re a couch potato or a professional athlete, there is a yoga technique and set of practices you can do. Moreover, your size and fitness levels also won’t matter due to the various modifications in every yoga pose. Moreover, there are beginner classes for every style. Yoga lets you explore your limits. It allows you to get attuned to your body and your inner self making life more wholesome, and foremost it lets you get the glimpse of who ‘You’ really are. So, get ready to dive into this beautiful and blissful journey of yoga!