What is Yoga? Why we should practice yoga?

What is Yoga? Why we should practice Yoga?


The simplest essence of yoga is union. Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Yuj’, which means to unite. 

According to Indian psychology, it is “unification of Atma with Parmatma” i.e. union of our consciousness with the super-consciousness. It provides the discipline of the mind as well.

The modern age is indeed full of stress, depression, and anxiety. The symptoms of the modern age are due to unhealthy as well as an unhappy lifestyle. 

Therefore, yoga proves to be significant for people in various ways – Physically, mentally, and emotionally.

spirituality
yoga-goal

HISTORY OF YOGA


Yoga is leading way through the culture and heritage of India. The origin of yoga is considered as old as human civilization.

It is also believed that yoga existed since 5,000 years ago in India. At first, it was termed as a myth. But later, during the excavation of the earliest known civilization of Indus valley proved that yoga was practiced since 5,000 years back.

The soapstone seals that were found engraved resemble yoga postures, which indicated that they knew what yoga is and even practiced it.

In India, the earliest scripts were Vedas, which are - Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama-Veda, and Atharv Veda. The Vedas found to have several descriptions of yoga in it.

Yoga was practiced to increase the boundaries and limitations of mind. It was believed that yoga not only relaxes the mind but can improve your brain functioning.

It improves the efficiency of the mind and encourages faster and accurate works. Hence, the Vedic period yoga was also related to the ritual life of the people at that time.

That is why several holy scripts in India describe yoga as an essential part of life. It was also described in Upanishads, Gita, Mahabharta, and Ramayana.

Moreover, Yoga is connected to Hinduism as well as Buddhism, since Lord Buddha taught about yoga and the importance of meditation.

Afterward, yoga sutra, written by Patanjali, belonged to the 2nd century. Yoga sutra implies “thread of memory” in which he mentioned the knowledge and wisdom he gained about yoga throughout his life.

yoga posture
yoga-meditation

He wrote about 8 elements of yoga that are:
1) Yama          
2) Niyama
3) Asanas 
4) Pratyahara
5) Pranayama 
6) Dharna
7) Dhyana 
8) Samadhi

ELEMENTS OF YOGA


As Patanjali described in yoga sutra, there are 8 fold paths to attain yoga. The practice of each element is very essential for our body, mind, and soul to achieve the goal of yoga.

One who wants to attain the state of a yogi (those who want to achieve the goal of yoga) should practice its entire elements one after the other.

Once you gain efficiency in one element, then, you can proceed to other elements.

1) Yama


Yama is the first element among the elements of ashtanga yoga. Practicing Yama removes the senses from worldly materials that distract the mind and make it struggle for peace. 
According to maharishi Patanjali, there are 5 kinds of Yama – Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya, and Aparigraha.

  1.   Ahimsa (Non-violence) – Yoga doesn’t support causing harm to any organism or living being. Any negative thought, whether its hate, anger, jealousy, anxiety, etc., are included in violence. We should be free from such emotions since they can easily possess a person and could lead to wrong directions. Thus, instead of representing negative emotions, we should focus on the positive values of others that encourage us to perform better.
  2.   Satya (Truthfulness) – Satya is an important part of Yama. We should be true to ourselves. One should not be fake rather they should behave what and who they are. We should be truthful in our thought, words, and deeds.
  3.   Asteya (Non-stealing) – The propensity to use others' objects, money, or thought for our benefit is considered stealing. Whereas, Asteya promotes the feeling of being satisfied with what we earn, what we have.
  4.   Brahmacharya – Brahmacharya implies to stay away from pornographic literature and food supplements that promote sexual desire. We should be Brahmachrya by thoughts and should stay away from such distractions.
  5.   Aparigraha – Aparigraha means living a life with minimum requirements. According to aparigraha, one should attain a state of mind that causes us to have only as many resources as we require. We should run after worldly objects, which don’t even belong to us or are not needed.
man practicing yoga
practicing-yoga-element



2) Niyama


Niyama also comprises of ethical ideology as Yama. Niyama is related to the body and sense. There are 5 niyama that are

  1.    Swaccha – Swaccha refers to purity. There must be physical as well as mental cleanliness. As every day we clean ourselves externally through bathing, similarly, there should be internal purity too. Internal hygiene would keep you away from several diseases. We have several ways to ensure internal cleanliness, which are collectively called Shatkarmas. Shatkarmas are 6 kriyas in yoga named Neti, Dhoti, Nauli, Basti, Kapalbhati, and Tratak.
  2.   Santosh – Santosh implies satisfaction. Santosh is required to be happy in life. One should be free from greedy desires and should be contented in what he/she has. There should not be a feeling of anger, sorrow, jealousy, etc.
  3.   Tapa – The word tapa is resembled by the state of the dedication that is maintained to achieve a target. It indicates mastering the obstacles and difficulties and to make continuous efforts in achieving your desired goal. It also supports the idea of not losing hope in case of complex situations and should remain consistent towards the achievement.
  4.    Swadhyaya – It is the path of awareness and knowledge. Swadhyaya includes self-awareness as well as knowledge of devotional holy scripts. Since it is equally important to know about what we are doing, what is the reason behind it. Several problems are solvable through the matter given in Vedas, Granthas, Upnishads, Yogdarshan, and Gita. Thus, it is considered helpful to study these piety scripts to accomplish knowledge of life.
  5.    Ishwara Pranidhan – Dedicating all our deeds to god is known as Ishwara Pranidhan. People being a true devotee believe that whatever he/she has achieved in life is due to god’s grace. For him/her facilities and prosperity like mind, youth, intelligence, power, position, etc. are provided by god. Therefore, such people get free from ego, vanity, and other emotional impurities.

3) Asana



Asana suggests a position or posture of the body. Since asanas are the most practiced elements of yoga, it is misunderstood as the yoga, of which it (asana) is a component. 

Therefore, practicing asanas take you a step towards yoga. Asanas are performed to benefit the body e.g. improving flexibility, agility, and maintenance of juvenility. 

Depending on different effects and impacts on body parts, asanas are divided into separate categories as meditative asanas, relaxing asanas, and corrective asanas. 

Asanas are beneficial for every age group whether is young or old.

4) Pranayama


Pranayama includes controlled breathing that causes relaxation and improves blood circulation. It helps us to control our inhalation and exhalation process. 

It has 3 components – Puraka means inhalation, Kumbhaka means retaining the breath, Rechaka means exhalation. 

There are also different types of pranayamas based on its effects. Some are Ujjayi, Suryabhedi, Sheetkari, Bhastrika, Bhramari, Murcha, and Plavini. 

It improves breath volumes and increases heart rate. It also strengthens the lungs and provides cardiovascular health which results in longevity of life.

lady practicing pranayama
pranayama

5) Pratyahara


It is assumed quite beneficial to gain control over our senses as it helps reducing distraction. Thus, Pratyahara, another component of yoga, is a process of achieving control over senses. 

Pratyahara focuses our senses internally rather than indulging them in external objects and thus leads to succession. It is quite helpful in case you want to focus your mind and energy on self-ascension. 

We should rather focus on our goals and achieve them with continuous efforts than being diffracted by materialistic hindrance. Sometimes attachment to several senses averts a person from chasing its goal. 

Those who learned pratyahara and also practice it daily were found to have ease with their achievements.

6) Dharana


Dharana, similar to pratyahara, refers to the concentration of mind. Often you might have found that while trying to focus our mind generates innumerous thoughts. 

To confine this scattering of mind is Dharana. When we focus our mind at a particular point, our mind is said to be concentrated. 

The point of convergence could vary with the part you want to heal or to improve. Dharana is seen as the first step of Dharana and Samadhi.


monks in dhyana
dhyana

7) Dhyana


Dhyana reflects the idea of consistency in mind. Generally, during our daily tasks, sometimes unknowingly we are deeply indulged in it that we forget what is going on in the surrounding. 

Dhyana means a complete concentration of mind while performing any task without any divergence for a long time. It is also considered the earlier stage of Samadhi and later stage of Dharana.

8) Samadhi


Samadhi is considered to be the union of the individual soul with the supreme soul. Samadhi is also checking all pulses of mind. 

When a yogi, who has achieved the goal of yoga, has attained the stage of oneness with the supreme, are said to have Samadhi. 

When the difference between individual self and divine disappears and one begins to understand the god, people are said to have Samadhi.

BENEFITS OF YOGA


Along with physical and mental stability, yoga improves health, heals aches, and keeps diseases at bay. Practicing yoga provides you flexibility and improves correct posture.

Many who have practiced it were amazingly astonished by its benefits. Once you step towards yoga practice regularly, you’ll probably feel free from any disease and increased strength of the immune system. 

monk doing meditation
yoga-benefits

Yoga can prevent disease and help you recover from the disease. Here are some amazing benefits of yoga that helps you live a healthy and happy life:

1) Corrects your posture


Yoga is the best way to correct your posture. It may help relieve unnecessary strain produced due to an improper lifestyle.

Improper postures are a result of inappropriate sitting, walking, or lifting weight. Yoga fixes your inappropriate postures and relaxes the body from the strain.

Yoga also relieves from the pain that occurs due to disjoint and wrong posture. Poor posture can cause major pain in the neck, shoulder, ankle, back, etc.

Practicing yoga not only corrects your posture but also makes you look good and consequently increase the efficiency of performing other tasks as well.

2) Yoga decreases stress


Yoga is widely practiced due to its ability to relieve stress and promote relaxation. 

In fact, according to a study on women ensured that performing yoga regularly reduces the secretion of the stress hormone, named as cortisol. 

Yoga includes meditation as the most effective stress releasing activity that also pleases your mind.

Several other experiments on thousands of people concluded that yoga not just removed stress from people but also improved the quality of life through discipline, hygiene, and self-awareness.

a girl practicing meditation
relaxing-yoga

 3) Removes Anxiety


Anxiety is a day-to-day problem of common people. Yoga serves as a way to remove anxiety and induces creativity and productivity.  

Anxiety is a result of unnecessary distractions due to past acts or maybe future destinations. And, yoga helps you live in the present moment that consequently removes stress, depression, and anxiety.

It draws your mind to a state of peace in mind which eliminates unnecessary thoughts. A research study held on a group of women indicated that women who practiced yoga classes were likely to have the least anxiety and resulted in a better lifestyle than those who didn’t.

Another study included women with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which had severe anxiety and fear along with exposure to a traumatic event. 

Some were treated with the help of yoga while others were not. It was successfully proved that yoga being a relaxing medium helped most of the PTSD suffering women and resulted in less or no further symptoms of trauma.

4) Build strong muscles  


Strong and increased muscle mass not only increases the rate of burning fat but also increased good looks. 

Body muscles prevent injury in the bones during any fall. It works as a building strength along with flexibility.

Building muscles also prevents back pain, arthritis, etc. In the gym, while strength training, it is obvious to have an injury if we neglect proper warm-up. 

Warm-up introduces flexibility that prevents tearing of muscles or ligaments.

Therefore, yoga is the best practice before strength training to build strength as it improves one’s flexibility. 

Each yoga asana takes your joints through an increased range of movement. These kinds of practices prevent inflammation in joints, ligaments. 

The joint cartilage is a sponge-like structure that requires nutrients regularly better provides strength to joints. 

Performing yoga helps regulate the cartilage to squeeze and soak its byproducts and nutrients respectively. 

yoga posture
yoga-asana-improving-strength

When we contract and stretch muscles, while doing yoga, our lymph secretions, high in immune cells, is increased. 

It promotes the disposal of toxic by-products, which also destroys harmful cells and fight infection.

5) Strengthens Bones


It is well known that weight lifting exercises strengthen your bones and also helps in osteoporosis. 

Several yoga asanas and poses make you lift your weight that causes the strengthening of bone muscles. 

However, it is required to have an adequate amount of calcium in your diet to control osteoporosis fractures. 

Additionally, yoga helps with different weight-bearing exercises that strengthen bones and improves its density as well. Yoga’s ability to reduce stress levels may also help keep calcium in the bones.

One of the common bone problems include pain in the spinal disk that serves as shock absorbers and also regulates several hormones circulation. 

It provides essential nutrients and protection to vertebrae. Well, balanced yogic asanas can help them develop the strength which is fruitful for bones as well as the brain. 

It regulates several signals throughout the body. Thus, it helps in circulation and ensures the proper connection of nerve all over the body.

6) Improves blood flow


Yoga improves blood flow in the body. While performing some relaxing asanas, we get proper blood flow to every body part. 

Since yoga provides blood flow in the body so that the cells get access to oxygen and improve efficiency to work.

Also, those who have a problem of swelling in their legs could be benefited from yoga. It is better to perform yoga asanas regularly as it reduces much of its swelling. 

Yoga also improves the amount and health of hemoglobin and red blood cells that promote oxygen circulation through every cell and tissue.

Performing activities like yoga also maintain blood thickness, which means it neither remains much thick nor become much thinner. 

yoga position held by a woman
improves-blood-circulation

There is a healthy range of platelets and blood clotting proteins (white blood cells) in the blood that prevents the risk of heart attacks and strokes.   
  
Nowadays, several unhealthy eating habits and lifestyles are also responsible for these problems. However, yoga being an energetic exercise can reduce its effect and promotes healthy maintenance of the body.

7) Increases heart rate


When we regularly practice such activities that make your heart pump faster like cardio exercise, you tend to decrease the risk of a heart attack.

Yoga, however, is categorized in many forms, where some are relaxing, others are intense. One that boosts your heart rate belongs to some intense exercises that are taught in Ashtanga yoga, e.g. Surya-namaskar.

Moreover, every yoga practice is capable of improving the cardiovascular health of a person. It also improves your breath volume that results in greater oxygen intake which reflectively improves one’s health. 

Even pranayama, which includes breathing practices, is found helpful in improving cardiovascular health.

According to a study those who were taught pranayama were found to have improved breathing skills and also resulted in increased efficiency of performing such tasks. 

Also, another study on people suffering from hypertension was found to have a mind-blowing decrease in blood pressure when made to perform cobra-pose or Shavasana regularly. 

It was beneficial for hypertension as it relaxes our body, mind, and improves cardio health.

It does not only lowers the blood pressure but also blood sugar, LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), and promotes HDL (good cholesterol). 

By regulating several hormone secretions, yoga proves to be healing our insulin sensitivity and ensures a healthy weight range required for an individual.

Yoga impressively gets your blood sugar level down and reduces the risk of heart attack, kidney failure, and blindness.

8) Improves Flexibility


Being stretching exercise yoga introduces flexibility to the body. A daily practice of yoga would eventually increase the range of movements of your joint as they become quite flexible.

stretching position attained by a girl
improves-flexibility

It also eliminates corresponding pain in joints or muscles. Lack of flexibility leads to improper muscle development and results in a poor posture that eventually causes pain in several parts of the body. 

Thus, we should practice yoga to ensure better posture and healthy joints. While performing simple tasks, we unknowingly produce strain in our muscles, ligaments, joints, and increases stress and fatigue. 

Yoga helps us remove strain from the effected part like neck, shoulders, hamstring, feet, spine, etc.

Strain for longer periods results in improper mood and inadequate posture which is responsible for unnecessary pain.

9) Improves emotional health


While practicing yoga, several emotional impurities are quelled. Yoga slows down the frustration, regret, anger, fear, and desire that are responsible for stress, tension, anxiety. 

Since some diseases like high blood pressure, heart attack, migraines, insomnia are implicated by stress. If you can learn to quiet your mind, you can easily achieve your target.

We improve our imagination power through contemplating images in our mind while performing yoga Nidra. It is also believed that it can cure migraine problems as it improves the pulse of the mind.

It makes us aware of our emotions and body science that helps us decide what is good for you or how to achieve peace and happiness. Several meditative yoga practices speed up your mind and its decision process. 

It can help you keep calm at the unfavorable condition and conquer the situation with ease as it improves decision making.

spiritualistic position
emotional-stability

10) Keep diseases at bay


Kriyas and cleaning practices we learn through yoga are helpful prevention from diseases. They include everything from breathing skills to internal cleansing. 

Jal Neti is performed in accordance to get rid of mucus and virus from the nasal cavity. Thus, several such practices help keep you protected from several contamination or diseases. 

It also encourages the idea of self-care. Since more, you become committed towards the yoga practices more you develop a clean and positive environment which prevents you from aging, sickness. 

Sometimes providing a hope that we will get better is way more helpful than a real diagnosis. It not only increases the positivity in the environment but also provides strength to overcome health conditions and become better. 

Therefore, since school time we practice the prayers of self-empowerment encourages us to achieve our aims. 

Enchanting positive words are powerful and effective on our health whether emotional, mental, or physical.

yogic asanas
yoga-prevents-diseases

11) Improves self-esteem


Many young age children suffer from low self-esteem. And if not directed correctly are diverted to negative routes as through drugs, overeat, disorders, etc. that may further ruin their behavior. 

Yoga provides a discipline to conquer over flaws and promotes focus on your strength. Remember the self-awareness property of yoga that improves self-image and consequently self-esteem. 

Regular practice of yoga introduces a different side of self filled with values like discipline, hard work, consistency, etc.

Therefore, yoga being a pack of several ethical, physical practices is quite helpful in leading a healthy and happy life. You can achieve your desired target through continuous efforts.
  


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