Yoga – Not Just Fitness
In the past few decades, a very common misunderstanding has taken hold in people’s minds. There is a belief that yoga is all about fitness and exercise. An additional misconception is that yogasanas (or asanas) are simply body movements and poses that are complex to perform, but which make the body supple.
Yes, asana or postures make the body supple. Just like stretching and other forms of body movement. But yoga and yogasanas are so much more than just fitness tricks.
In the west, somewhere in the 19th and 20th centuries, yoga was introduced to people by the Indians so that they too could benefit from it. As expected, it was a great success. But yoga began to be commercialized to make it more attractive to the public. Yoga went from an art to a training session.
This is something we need to understand, it is extremely dangerous. Yoga should not be done with wrong ideas or intentions. It has its own consequences.
Yoga is a way of life. It’s not a ritual, it’s a habit that you make a part of life. The ultimate goal of yoga is to achieve liberation or moksha. But yoga has a huge impact on our daily life.
Five basic principles of yoga
• Asana (postures)
• Pranayama (breath control)
• Shavasana (relaxation)
• Sattvic (correct diet)
• Dhyana (meditation)
Only when these 5 basic principles are followed can one consider oneself a yoga practitioner. When a person does yoga, he surrenders to the universe and becomes one with the universal energy. It is a very powerful source of life and should not be treated lightly.
Let us now look at some of the more important facets of yoga.
Schools of yoga
In Hinduism, there are the following types of yoga that are meant to be practiced. Please note that yoga is not talking about postures here. Yoga is indeed a practice. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a way of life. These yoga schools were thus part of life.
1. Jnana Yoga
Jnana means “knowledge” in Sanskrit. In ancient times, when there was a system of ‘Gurukul’ (students stayed with teachers and acquired knowledge), this was the initiation of the student into education and the realm of knowledge. The teachings contained information about everything under the sun. Jnana Yoga became the basis for yogic understanding and knowledge.
2. Bhakti Yoga
Bhakti Yoga or devotion is an essential aspect of yoga. Through this form of yoga one expressed love and devotion to God. Here God is the highest being. It does not refer to a symbolic god, just universal energy. The idea was to move the yogi to a spiritual awakening.
3. Karma Yoga
Karma Yoga means duty in Sanskrit. In the Hindu religion, the importance of doing one’s duty or karma was of paramount importance. Disciplined actions and all duties had to be performed with great reverence. It is said to be the most effective way to move forward in the spiritual life.
4. Laya Yoga or Kundalini Yoga
It is the form of yoga that is performed through regular practice of meditation, pranayama, mantra chanting, and yoga asana. It is called the yoga of awakening. You become more aware of yourself and your surroundings. It focuses on compassion for others and healing the body, mind and spirit.
5. Hatha Yoga
It is a system of physical techniques that complements a broad conception of yoga. There is a belief that Lord Shiva himself was the creator of hatha yoga.
This yoga school deals with physical exercise and asana or posture. Hatha Yoga is more known in the world as a physical exercise.
Benefits of Yoga
Yoga has physical benefits and is well known. The real power of yoga, however, shows in its benefits for the mental and other aspects of human life.
Below are some of the key benefits of yoga.
• Perfect your posture
Yoga helps you stand up straight and walk taller. The whole slumped shoulder problem goes away. It also makes you look much more graceful and tighter.
• Control of emotions
Yoga helps a lot to relax the body, which helps you control your emotions. Very often, excessive anger or negative emotions are directed at the wrong person. This happens when we cannot really control our thoughts and feelings. Yoga helps control our mind and also makes us patient.
• Makes you happier
Practicing yoga, even very simple breathing exercises or pranayama, helps pump more endorphins and dopamine into the system. These are some hormones that can make you feel happier. The more yoga you practice, the higher your chances of feeling happy and uplifted.
• Helps you focus
If you can’t concentrate, try practicing yoga and meditation. Meditation makes you focus and brings you increased powers of observation.
• Improves balance
What yogasanas do mainly is that they direct the energy of your body in a certain direction. Practicing yoga and maintaining proper posture will help direct more energy in different directions. This will help improve your balance.
• Relaxes the muscles
If you are prone to muscle tension or strains (thighs, shoulders, etc.), yoga can help keep your body supple. Your flexibility will naturally improve and you can easily do more activities.
There are many more medicinal benefits. However, there is little tested evidence that can be given. For example, people suffering from asthma and bronchitis are told to practice pranayama as it helps control their breathing, which improves lung capacity. These are proven facts.
However, there is no evidence that yoga can cure incurable diseases or act as a pain reliever. So we need to find out the facts before following any exercise.
Another important point to keep in mind is that yoga should only be practiced after initial training from a yoga guru or teacher. This is because we may try to adopt some postures and cause serious injury if not done properly.
After all, it is always best to read books and other resources that can clearly define what yoga really is before signing up for a class. When you have some knowledge to begin with, you will feel a lot more connected to the activity itself.