Yoga – Essay 1.

The Meaning of Yoga

Yoga is a philosophical tradition native to India. It includes a set of physical, psychological and spiritual practices for attaining a unity between the body and the mind. Yoga can mean a variety of things to people. A thread that is common with all the definitions of yoga is connection with a higher self and attaining a sense of balance. Yoga is derived from a Sanskrit word ‘yuj’ meaning to connect, join or balance.

Lord Krishna defines the essence of yoga as equanimity. It can also be defined as a union of the limited Self with the Divine Self.

The Ministry of AYUSH defines Yoga as a discipline that helps develop one’s inherent power in a balanced manner.

The Kundalini definition of Yoga views it as a science of liberating the energy that is dormant in the base of one’s spine.

Maharishi Patanjali defines raja yoga as a practise that helps block mental modifications such that the self can identify with one’s higher self.

Purpose of Yoga

The ultimate purpose of yoga would mean the attainment of a higher sense of self as given by Maharishi Patanjali. In the path towards attainment of a higher self, there are a variety of benefits for which people continue to practise yoga. There are several physical, psychological and spiritual benefits associated with yoga. Not all practitioners do yoga for the attainment of a higher sense of self but for the mental and health benefits associated with it.

Yoga and Mental Health

Yoga is not merely a form of physical exercise but includes a set of practices that promote mental health and general quality of life. The unique combination of postures with breathing exercises and meditation is capable of producing specific and general benefits to mental health.

  • By focusing on the here and now, yoga helps the individual understand the negative emotions that they are dwelling upon. They can focus on the physical effects of these negative emotions and slowly disengage which can considerably reduce anxiety.
  • Focusing on breath while practicing yoga can helps attain peace and calm.
  • By helping deal with negative emotional states and creating a sense of peace and calm, it creates a sense of emotional stability.
  • It enables the individual to retain attention for longer periods of time. The emotional stability and increased concentration lead to clarity of thought and decision making.
  • Yoga helps in improving the general quality of life by focusing on positive emotions and developing relevant cognitive and mental capacity that can be very productive for the individual.

Yoga and Physical Health

The health benefits derived from yoga are multiple. It has innumerable benefits that we are yet to understand and identify. Yoga can be used an alternative form of medicine for treatment of chronic health problems as well help improve quality of life.

  • Primarily, by helping deal with negative emotional states like anxiety and depression that cause sleep disturbance. It also helps in body relaxation and induces good sleep for quality rejuvenation.
  • Yoga, especially in the form of asanas, help makes the body muscles and joints more flexible with increased exercise. Some of the postures are primarily focused on helping with balance.
  • By combining physical exercise with breathing techniques, yoga helps improve cardiovascular health and lung capacity.
  • Chronic pain like lower back pain has come to become the most prevalent of lifestyle disorders. Yoga proves to be an effective pain management strategy and can be tailor made according to the needs to individual with the aid of an instructor.
  • The physical postures of yoga act as an effective technique for maintain body weight and for weight loss. As an alternative to quick weight loss procedures, yoga, though takes time, is an effective long-term weight loss method which can provide sustainable results.

Yoga and Spirituality

Spirituality is often confused with being religious but it goes beyond the realms of religious practices. It is a broader sense of connecting with one’s self and gaining awareness about one’s self. People have come to describe spiritual experiences as being transcendent and sacred. Yoga is definitely a means to spirituality by coordinating the mind, body and soul. Through a combination of meditation, asanas and pranayama it helps attain self-awareness and mindfulness.

  • Self-awareness: Practicing yoga enables one to give more focus to the bodily sensations and mental states. The individual is in a better position to understand their selves, their behaviours and motivations. The individual attains a higher level of self-awareness and is able to relate to their self in a better way.
  • Mindfulness: It is a momentary self-awareness where the individual is able to understand their experiences while they are experiencing them. The ultimate aim of yoga would be attain this state of mindfulness. Yet this requires prolonged practise of asanas, pranayama and meditation.

Yogic Tradition in India

The yogic tradition in India can be traced to have three distinct phases- the ancient, the middle and the late period.

The ancient period is associated with Lord Shiva who is considered the Adiguru. The Pashupathi Yoga propounded by Lord Shiva aimed at transcending from personal suffering.

The Middle period is associated with Patanjali Yoga and the Yoga Sutras that he had written. It focused on raja yoga and mind management.

The final phase is associated with the resurgence of the importance of yoga in the nineteenth century. This was primarily due to the efforts of Swami Vivekananda. At present, yoga is gaining popularity globally and various forms have been emerging and being practised by million world-wide.

International Yoga Day and Global Popularity

The International Yoga Day was for the first time celebrated on the 21st June of 2015. The motion to declare the day as International Yoga Day was accepted by the United Nations on 11th December 2014. This particular day is the day of the summer solstice which is considered to be one of the two longest days in the Northern Hemisphere.

On the first International Yoga Day, a mega Guinness record event was conducted in the Rajpath, New Delhi with 35,985 individuals belonging to 84 different nationalities performed Yoga along with the Indian Prime Minister for 35 minutes.

Yoga is gaining global popularity. A recent survey conducted in the United States showed that 8.4% of the population regularly practise yoga and 44% aspire to practise yoga in the future. The popularity of yoga is primarily boosted by the fact that it is a good alternative to traditional forms of medicine. It has come to become an effective pain management strategy for dealing with chronic pain. By the day, yoga is being increasingly practised over the globe.

Conclusion 

Yoga is a unique discipline that brings a variety of benefits to its practitioners. There are several physical, mental and spiritual benefits associated with yoga. It improves the general quality of life of people by improving body flexibility and general mental state. Due to its perceived benefits and the emergence of a wide variety of lifestyle disorders, yoga is gaining global popularity. The UN declared 21sst of June as International Yoga Day to promote Yoga globally. Yoga presents an alternative form of lifestyle that can substantially alleviate health concerns and promote healthy living.

Swetha (2019) – edited.

Importance of Yoga – Essay 2

Yoga is a spiritual and ascetic discipline which includes training the body by practice and training the mind through meditation. The importance of yoga and meditation lie in the inherent benefits it has for those who practice it.

The importance of Yoga are as follows:

  1. The breathing exercises that are a part of yoga help asthma and sinus patients breathe better as it helps the person practicing it train themselves to breathe well and fully.
  2. Yoga helps reduce blood pressure. A complete breathing exercise allows blood flow to be regulated in the body and thus helps pressure to be maintained in the flow system.
  3. Yoga and Meditation helps calm the mind and thus is helpful for those suffering from anxiety or depression or stress. A calm mind means the person is less troubled and thus negative thoughts are reduced. Studies have shown that more than 90 percent of those who practice meditation have handled panic situations much better than non-practitioners as they believe themselves to be in a position of control over their minds and have a better grasp of the situation.
  4. Yoga is very beneficial for back aches. Those who practice it have been scientifically proven to have fewer instances of chronic lower back ache as it relieves the muscles in that region.
  5. Yoga and Meditation has been proven to help the memory capacity and recall capability of the people who practice it. A calm and trained mind is better at remembering events, people, tasks to be done etc.
  6. Increased concentration levels are a direct benefit from meditation as has been repeatedly proven. The mind being calm and the body being more at ease allows for more focus on the task at hand and thus helps better the mental capacity.
  7. A practitioner of yoga and meditation is more resilient and has higher emotional intelligence than those who do not, at an average. This comes from continuous training of the mind and body.
  8. Yoga help become more tolerant of pain as they train their mind and body through the many exercises.
  9. As yoga helps calm the mind it is very effective against insomnia as it relaxes the mind and allows the person to sleep peacefully and as much as it needed for their body.
  10. At the same time, yoga also help the person reduce on unnecessary sleep that may be a product of a depressed mind or an unhealthy body.
  11. Yoga and meditation help the body and mind be in control and thus substance and alcohol abuse become less likely for practitioners as the need for them is not felt to calm themselves or as means of escape.
  12. As yoga leads to better breathing, it helps the blood flow to the brain and this reduces the chances mental diseases for the practitioners.
  13. Meditation has been proven to increase the concentration and creativity of those who practice it. It is thus advised to those who suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to calm them and help them be better at work.
  14. Yoga and meditation has been shown to be also much more effective in communication and interactions with others. Also, meditation helps those who practice it be more empathetic towards others.

The benefits of Yoga and Meditation are diverse and make practicing them a near necessity.

By Ritvik (2019) – edited.

Last updated: August 5, 2019.

Reference

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