Yoga defines itself as a science that is, as a practical, methodical, and systematic discipline or set of techniques that have the lofty goal of helping human beings to become aware of their deepest nature. The goal of seeking to experience this deepest potential is not part of a religious process, but an experiential science of self-study. Religions seek to define what we should believe, while a practical science such as meditation is based on the concrete experience of those teachers and yogis who have previously used these techniques to experience the deepest self. Yoga does not contradict or interfere with any religion, and may be practiced by everyone, whether they regard themselves as agnostics or members of a particular faith.
Yoga, in today's world has become a commodity and something of a statement. Arguably India's greatest cultural export, yoga has morphed into a mass culture phenomenon. All our popular assumptions about this ancient science actually date back to the last 100 - odd years. Yoga has been subjected to reinventions for thousands of years. Yoga, today involves a complex regimen of postures (asanas) - that are either held for a long duration of time or are executed in a rapid manner - along with breath control (pranayamas). However, the ancient Hindu texts, like Bhagvad Gita and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali make no mention of body postures and breathe control. They have laid more stress on the theory and practice of meditation (dhyana).
The word Yoga was first mentioned in the oldest sacred Hindu scriptures, The Vedas. The Vedas are a collection of texts that describe rituals, hymns, mantras and songs to be used by Brahmans, or the Vedic priests.
Importance of yoga in modern life
Yoga has always been a source of numerous health benefits, both for the body and the mind. In today’s fast-paced and stressful life, Yoga is quintessential to staying fit, healthy and happy. Yoga is an ancient Hindu discipline, aimed at training the consciousness for a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquillity that is achieved through the three paths of action, knowledge, and devotion. It involves practicing certain asanas (bodily postures) along with breathe control and meditation for achieving good mental, as well as physical health. Raja, Karma, Jnana, Bhakti, and Hatha Yoga are the different types of the same. Asans, breathing exercises known as pranayama meditation and chanting are among many aspects that people get familiar with while practicing yoga.
Health benefits that Yoga offers
Yoga enhances blood circulation, which in turn, helps the various parts of body get oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood. Controlled breathing also promotes a lower respiratory rate. This has a good effect on the lung function and keeps a check on respiratory ailments.
It also helps slow down the pulse rate. It helps the heart pump more blood with fewer beats. This is especially beneficial for people who are prone to or affected by hypertension, heart diseases, and stroke.
It not only facilitates healthy functioning of the body, but also improves one's mental health as well. Even people who have recently started practicing yogic asanas and breathing techniques feel the positive effects. This is due to the fact that yogic practices help in reducing catecholamines, dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine, which in turn reduces the effects of stress and calms one's mind. It also improves one's ability focus and concentrate.
It has been studied that people who practice yogic asanas regularly have lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. Apart from these, people noticed a reduction in the intensity of the symptoms of asthma, back pain, arthritis, insomnia, etc. Following this ancient discipline will certainly strengthen one's immune system. Increased pain tolerance, improved gastrointestinal functions, and cardiovascular endurance are some of the other health benefits of yoga.
Flexibility is perhaps one of the most important health benefits of practicing asanas. People belonging to any age groups, can improve their flexibility with the help of asanas. These poses help reduce stiffness, tension, pain, and fatigue in the body, thereby increasing the range of motion. With increased flexibility, pain in different body joints seems to resolve, and there is a feeling of ease and fluidity throughout your body. It also helps improve one's posture.
Power yoga involves vigorous exercises than the traditional ones and it tremendously helps in toning the muscles. However, even the traditional styles help in improving the muscle strength. Athletes always need to be on their toes, when it comes to strength, endurance, and agility. Yogic practices can certainly help them achieve that.
Following yoga during pregnancy can also improve the health of expectant mothers. It not only has a calming effect, but also helps the expecting mother to tone the reproductive organs, pelvis, and the rest of her body to ensure an easier childbirth. Following breathing exercises improves the flow of oxygenated blood, which in turn, has a positive effect on the unborn child.
Other benefits include:
- Delayed aging process by effective detoxification of the body
- Decreased fatigue and increased level of energy for most part of the day
- Better metabolism and maintenance of healthy weight
- Improved sleep and more control on body and mind
- Helps one to be more aware of his/her body and develop greater self-confidence
- Better control on breathing The advantages of this ancient discipline are numerous.
These were the benefits which have been observed by experts and by those who have incorporated this discipline in their lives. So, follow yogic practices and enjoy living each day healthily and happily!