”He who has good health has hope, and the one who has hope, has everything” – ancient Arab proverb.
Out of the many things that India is known for her contribution to the world, ‘Yoga’ is perhaps one of the most important and popular exports. Yoga finds a mention in the ancient scriptures – the Vedas, Upanishads and puranas and the holy book of the Hindus – the ‘Bhagwad Gita’. From the ancient times, the ascetics, the ‘rishis’ and the ‘munis’ of India have been practicing this form of art and science and deriving the benefits of enlightenment that accompany yoga.
What is Yoga and why is it important?
Yoga has a lot of definitions floating around in today’s world; however, if we go back to the roots of the word, we find that the term ‘Yoga’ has its origins in Sanskrit. It means to unite – Yoga helps the body to unite with the other vital metaphysical aspects of the mind and spirit. It is also often defined as a lifestyle which aims to have a healthy mind within a healthy body.
Most simply defined, yoga is a set of poses or ‘asanas’ , coupled with breathing techniques, which help impart strength and flexibility to the body while helping to balance the mind and its’ thinking. Unlike other physical forms of exercises, like the aerobics, by practicing yoga, one can not only achieve physical health, but also mental and spiritual well being.
The aim of yoga is to promote overall well being of the body. And though, it is found beneficial for a variety of conditions, it is not considered a therapy for specific illness. Unlike other forms of exercises, yoga has a more holistic approach to teach the people the right way to lead their lives disease free and stress free.
In today’s world, all of us suffer from stress and a perpetual anxiety to perform well, leading to a plethora of diseases that we expose ourselves to. Yoga aims to calm and compose our minds and help us focus clearly on what really matters – good health and the happiness that accompanies it!
Benefits of Yoga
- Let us first begin with the benefits of Yoga on mental health. After all, good mental health is of paramount importance for being healthy physically as well. As advised above, breathing technique forms an integral part of Yoga. Do I hear you asking ‘how?’It really is very basic – by breathing deep and right, something that you would be doing when you practice Yoga, you are inhaling more oxygen and allowing the cells of your body to have access to that oxygen for a longer period of time.
- A common practice in yoga is to breathe only from one nostril at a time, while holding the other one closed with the tip of your finger. Medical research has shown that this boosts increased activity of the opposite side of the brain, leading to better cognitive performance and tasks associated with the other side of the brain.Regular yoga practice helps children with attention deficit disorder and people suffering from anxiety, depression and mood swings. It also helps keep the mind calm and reduce stress and thereby increase the general well being of the person.
- Ever wondered, why so many of us, after a hard day’s work, come and plonk ourselves, on our home sofas, with very little energy to even fetch a glass of water for ourselves. This is caused by lack of inner strength. Certain asanas of the yoga help generate inner strength. Inner strength is essential in doing day to day activities and in preventing you from injuries. This is especially useful, as we grow old and need more energy and strength to do the same activity.
- The popular notion that you need to be flexible in order to do yoga is incorrect; it is really the other way round – you should do yoga so that you can be more flexible. If you have a flexible body, you find it easy to do tasks. A lot of poses in Yoga concentrate on stretching and improving your flexibility.
- With yoga, not only the muscles of the body, but also the softer tissues of your body are worked out, resulting in less build up of the lactic acid, which is responsible for stiffness in various parts of the body. Yoga increases a range of motions of the less used inner muscles and helps in lubrication of joints. The result is a more flexible body, able to perform tasks easily!
- Yoga has a lot of positive effects on the cardiovascular system of our body. A healthy cardiovascular system is responsible for preventing heart attacks, strokes and hypertension. Heart disease is a problem which has roots in an improper lifestyle, faulty diet and negative thinking. Our thoughts, emotions and feelings affect our body and negative emotions/thoughts send a series of complex and unhealthy chemical processes throughout the body, giving alarms that something is amiss. Yoga tends to control these by bringing in fresh life-giving oxygen. The anti oxidant properties of Yoga help in preventing the negative emotions and promote a general well being in the body.
Joint pain and arthritis
- The general tendency of people suffering from joint pain, inflammation and stiffness is to avoid exercise. Yoga helps prevent advancement of this malady by toning the muscles and loosening the joints. When a person suffering from joint pain practices yoga, the gentle stretching and strengthening movements of the various Yogic poses, improves the blood flow to the muscles and tissues supporting the joints, thereby making it more comfortable to move.
- Practice of certain asanas of Yoga has helped check chronic cases of Asthma and other respiratory problems. When the nasal passages get inflamed, they start producing mucous in excess making it difficult to breathe and often have common symptoms like coughing, wheezing etc. Respiratory problems could also be caused by multiple factors like allergy, exercise, weather change etc. By practicing yoga, the lungs capacities increase and so does stamina and stress on air passages is reduced.
- Yoga has helped innumerable cases of back ache. Back ache is caused due to stress and tension in the muscles supporting the spinal cord. Back ache may be caused due to improper postures mild injuries, which have been left untreated etc. Yoga has seemed to help cases of back pain by enhancing flexibility and strengthening the muscle groups supporting the spine, helping the body to maintain an upright posture. It eases the back pain by increase in blood circulation and getting healing nutrients to the injured muscles. Apart from healing injured muscles, it also prevents further injuries by strengthening the muscles.
“Memory is the measure of ability to reproduce the knowledge that is known”, says Yogacharya Vishwas.
“Memory is holding on to that which has been known.”- The Hindu Texts.
- Yoga helps in retaining information better and for a longer period of time due to its focus on concentration and meditation. By breathing right, concentrating and meditating, more blood flows to the brain , making it supple and ready to accept more information and reproduce that information when required.
- Obesity is when a person weighs more than his normal/ stipulated weight. This may be caused due to faulty eating habits, stress related eating, imbalances in the digestive and endocrine system or even something as basic as less physical exercise. Yoga helps obesity by inhaling more oxygen, which helps in breaking down fat cells and increasing your metabolism. Also, it helps remove sluggishness from the digestive and endocrine systems, making them work better.
- Regular practice of yoga has anti ageing effects. Yoga revitalizes the mind and makes the approach towards life positive and stress free. Apart from this, a person practicing yoga regularly is more flexible, fit and mentally agile. Overall happiness and positive attitude towards life reflects on the face , leaving it glowing and reverses the ageing effect internally.
Yoga has a whole lot of other everyday benefits such as sound and deep sleep, high energy levels etc. However, the key to deriving these benefits is to be consistent with Yogic practices and do it under the supervision of a well trained yoga teacher.