There are many speculations about the existence of yoga in an ancient era which is not supported by concrete evidence. The form of yoga which we all practice today is associated with the classical concept propounded by the sage Patanjali. “The best known early expression of yoga is the yoga sutra of Patanjali, a series of one hundred and ninety-six short statements (sutras) concerning yogic techniques and states” (Mallinson &Singleton, 2017).
Yoga is a practice that is continuously changing with time. In the past, yoga was practiced for liberation(moksha). Today, yoga is practiced to reduce stress, anxiety and to promote good health. Yogic exercises are meant to bring about a state of relaxation which further leads to physical and mental well-being (Hussain, 2016). Yoga is essential for fulfilling both the physical and spiritual growth of humanity. It is a process of uniting the three systems, i.e., the mind, body, and soul.
The asanas in yoga are focused on the muscular movements and hone one’s flexibility, balance, and improve one’s concentration. It is designed to enhance one’s mood and reduce anxiety. It's processed to develop one’s functional capacity and to give the practitioners better quality of life. Only when we gain mastery of the body, can one train the mind (Devanand,1960). Our mood controls our five senses, and our mind controls the mood. The mind can be controlled with meditation (dhyana yoga). This is how yoga can help the mind to balance and regulate our body.
Yoga is not attached to any particular religion or community or belief system. It is practiced without any differences in gender, age or education levels. Yoga has taught generations about inner wellbeing and has continued to do so. There are different types of yoga, i.e. raja yoga (human behavior); swara yoga (breathing); kritya yoga (consciousness); karma yoga (work); Japa yoga (psychic centers); bhakti yoga (devotion); mantra yoga (mantras); Janan yoga (self-realization) & hatha yoga (mudras / pranayama).
Different types of yoga and its posture conveys unique meaning and serves a different purpose in individual’s life. Each yoga style differs the by emphasis put on the components of yoga, i.e., asana, pranayama, dharana, and dhyana. The performance of yoga requires wholehearted devotion and dedication. The stage when mind itself is freed from the moment of thoughts and the torments of desires. Only then, the mind and the five senses reach a state of oneness or unity i.e. yoga.
Physical health is an asset that needs to be maintained by our efforts. Yoga has emerged as an alternative approach to deal with challenges of newly discovered diseases. It can provide equality in access to good health that doesn’t restrict individuals from any social and economic circumstances. Yoga has multiple health benefits like reduction in anxiety, depression, panic attacks, phobia, and hypertension. Regular practice of yoga increases flexibility, gives more energy ,and boosts metabolism.
These days’ non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma and blood pressure are the cause of concern for modern science. In India, over 15 million people are suffering from breathing problems which are a consequence of rising pollution levels and changing lifestyles. As a result of long and irregular working hours, people are suffering from neck, back, and joint pains. The regular practice of yoga can mitigate these problems to a large extent. The method of pranayama called Anuloma-Viloma is helpful in curing breathing problems. Another exercise is the kriya pranayama, which emphasizes fast/shallow rhythmic breathing. Science and traditional methods should be seen as complementary of each other rather than in opposition. The scientific methods are proven, tested and concluded with scientific evidence, while traditional methods are a self-healing process of removing disharmony between the mind and the body. Traditional methods can’t be disregarded by their inability to change with time.
Modern science is still struggling to deal with issues related to emotional or spiritual health. Yoga is seen as a deterrent to many illnesses. Modern yoga has also incorporated elements from both physical therapy and psychotherapy. There are both external and internal benefits of yoga. It includes physical, mental and spiritual health. It is designed to achieve inner peace and holistic healing. Anyone who practices yoga regularly can discover its immense health benefits.
Mallinson, J. & Singleton, M. (2017). Roots of Yoga. Penguin Classics. UK.
Hussain, A. (2016). YOGA: a path for attaining spiritual energy & power. Indian Yoga. Retrieved from indianyoga.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/v5-issue1-article6.pdf
Devananda, S.V. (1960). The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga. Julian Press. USA.
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