Yoga: The exercise for mind, body and soul
The ancestral traits of a human nomadic life had people devoting all their time travelling long distances everyday, in search of food and shelter. The human body is designed to stay regularly active. Similar to a sports car, designed to run fast, its engine probably would soon create problems if not driven regularly. The human body also tends to develop several problems and diseases while sitting in one spot for long.
Exercise is not only a great way to reduce the risk of diseases, but it also assists with dropping mortality rates that these diseases confer. Yoga is a relatively new practice introduced in the Western world. The word “yoga” roots from a Sanskrit word “yuj” which means union, or to join, concentrate and direct one’s attention. It serves as a gauge for healthy living and a method that helps strengthen without strain.
Yoga, an ongoing tradition for over 3,000 years, is considered a holistic approach to one’s health and a retreat from the chaos and fast lifestyle in the current era. It has been classified as a type of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) by the American National Institute of Health. Several studies show that regularly practicing yoga helps build on endurance, strength and flexibility. A continued practice also helps develop healthy characteristics in a person like self-awareness, better life perspective, and increased energy levels. Practicing yoga is known to enable a person to achieve creating a balance between one’s mind and the body by creating a physiological state that interrupts stressful situations of the flight-or-fight response.
Yoga is for just about anyone and is a great way to work on one’s strength, flexibility and balance. There are several types of yoga ranging from relaxation and breathing exercises to more popular and challenging ones called asanas (postures). Asanas are recognized as one of several tools to help heal an individual. However, there are a total of 196 sutras (a genre of ancient and medieval Indian texts), only three out of those mention the practice of asanas. The rest focus on several other life traits like meditation, specific diet and lifestyle, conscious breathing and many others.
On June 21, a day that is marked as the longest day of the year, the North Pole is tilted towards the sun, and the sun begins to move south. This day is also known to be the day when the first yogi (practitioner of yoga) shared his knowledge on yog with his seven disciples. This day has its scientific significance in several parts of the world.
Following a speech about the benefits of yoga by the Prime Minster of India in the United Nations General Assembly in 2014, Sam Kahamba Kutesa, the President of UN General Assembly declared June 21 as “International Yoga Day” in 2015. The Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi said, "Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help us deal with climate change. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day”.
There are four basic principles underlining the teachings and practices of the healing system of yoga. The first apprises of the human body as a holistic entity that is built of several inseparable and interconnected dimensions, where any affect in the health and illness of one impacts the others. The second claims that every individual has unique needs, which must be catered to their individuality. The third is about self-empowering where a student is their own healer. Yoga engages the student and helps achieve a sense of autonomy, with healing coming from within. The fourth principle says that the state and quality of a person’s mind is vital to healing.
This mind-body form of medication, particularly helping with stress related illnesses integrates a person’s physical, mental and spiritual elements to boost aspects of heath. While stress is known to lead to several heart diseases, cancer and many chronic conditions, we must prioritize its management. Yoga is considered a form of CAM that builds events of physiological sequences in the body that helps reduce stress. Over the years, there has been a substantial increase in the study of yoga that has lead to several clinical trials designed to take advantage of the therapeutic effects and benefits of yoga. Therapeutic yoga is known as the application of postures and practices towards the treatment of one’s health conditions. It helps one gain better control over mind and body and reduce or alleviate physiological, structural, spiritual and emotional suffering, pain or limitation. Overall it is great way to improve body strength and flexibility, improve cardiovascular and respiratory functioning, aid addiction recovery, minimize stress, depression, anxiety, and chronic pain, enhance sleep patter and one’s overall well being and quality of life.
Today, it has been a month and a half since I have been regularly practicing yoga and I feel satisfied, refreshed and motivated to start my day.