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Friday, April 22, 2011

Has Yoga been Hijacked? By Aseem Shukla


Has Yoga been Hijacked? By Aseem Shukla

Swami Ramdev has helped spread traditional Hindu Yoga

Washington, US - Nearly 20 million people in the United States gather together routinely, fold their hands and utter the Hindu greeting of Namaste — the Divine in me bows to the same Divine in you. Then they close their eyes and focus their minds with chants of “Om,” the Hindu representation of the first and eternal vibration of creation. Arrayed in linear patterns, they stretch, bend, contort and control their respirations as a mentor calls out names of Hindu divinity linked to various postures: Natarajaasana (Lord Shiva) or Hanumanasana (Lord Hanuman) among many others. They chant their assigned “mantra of the month,” taken as they are from lines directly from the Vedas, Hinduism’s holiest scripture. Welcome to the practice of yoga in today’s western world.
Christians, Jews, Muslims, Pagans, agnostics and atheists they may be, but they partake in the spiritual heritage of a faith tradition with a vigor often unmatched by even among the two-and-a half-million Hindu Americans here. The Yoga Journal found that the industry generates more than $6 billion each year and continues on an incredible trajectory of popularity. It would seem that yoga’s mother tradition, Hinduism, would be shining in the brilliant glow of dedicated disciples seeking more from the very font of their passion.
Yet the reality is very different. Hinduism in common parlance is identified more with holy cows than Gomukhasana, the notoriously arduous twisting posture; with millions of warring gods rather than the unity of divinity of Hindu tradition–that God may manifest and be worshiped in infinite ways; as a tradition of colorful and harrowing wandering ascetics more than the spiritual inspiration of Patanjali, the second century BCE commentator and composer of the Yoga Sutras, that form the philosophical basis of Yoga practice today.
Why is yoga severed in America’s collective consciousness from Hinduism? Yoga, meditation, ayurvedic natural healing, self-realization–they are today’s syntax for New Age, Eastern, mystical, even Buddhist, but nary an appreciation of their Hindu origins. It is not surprising, then, that Hindu schoolchildren complain that Hinduism is conflated only with caste, cows, exoticism and polytheism–the salutary contributions and philosophical underpinnings lost and ignored. The severance of yoga from Hinduism disenfranchises millions of Hindu Americans from their spiritual heritage and a legacy in which they can take pride.
Hinduism, as a faith tradition, stands at this pass a victim of overt intellectual property theft, absence of trademark protections and the facile complicity of generations of Hindu yogis, gurus, swamis and others that offered up a religion’s spiritual wealth at the altar of crass commercialism. The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, under whose tutelage the Beatles steadied their mind and made sense of their insane fame, packaged the wonders of meditation as Transcendental Meditation (TM) just as an entrepreneur from here in Minneapolis applied the principles of Ayurveda to drive a commercial enterprise he coined as Aveda. TM and Aveda are trademarked brands–a protection not available to the originator of their brand–Hinduism itself. And certainly these masters benefited millions with their contributions, but in agreeing to ditch Hinduism as the source, they left these gifts orphaned and unanchored.
The Los Angeles Times last week chronicled this steady disembodying of yoga from Hinduism. “Christ is my guru. Yoga is a spiritual discipline much like prayer, meditation and fasting [and] no one religion can claim ownership,” says a vocal proponent of “Christian themed” yoga practices. Some Jews practice Torah yoga, Kabbalah yoga and aleph bet yoga, and even some Muslims are joining the act. They are appropriating the collective wisdom of millenia of yogis without a whisper of acknowledgment of yoga’s spiritual roots.
Not surprisingly, the most popular yoga journals and magazines are also in the act. Once yoga was no longer intertwined with its Hindu roots, it became up for grabs and easy to sell. These journals abundantly refer to yoga as “ancient Indian,” “Eastern” or “Sanskritic,” but seem to assiduously avoid the term “Hindu” out of fear, we can only assume, that ascribing honestly the origins of their passion would spell disaster for what has become a lucrative commercial enterprise. The American Yoga Association, on its Web site, completes this delinking of yoga from Hinduism thusly:
“The common belief that Yoga derives from Hinduism is a misconception. Yoga actually predates Hinduism by many centuries…The techniques of Yoga have been adopted by Hinduism as well as by other world religions.”
So Hinduism, the religion that has no known origins or beginnings is now younger than yoga? What a ludicrous contention when the Yoga Sutras weren’t even composed until the 2nd Century BCE. These deniers seem to posit that Hinduism appropriated yoga so other religions may as well too! Hindus can only sadly shake their heads, as by this measure, soon we will read as to how karma, dharma and reincarnation–the very foundations of Hindu philosophy–are only ancient precepts that early Hindus of some era made their own.
The Hindu American Foundation (Disclosure: I sit on the Foundation’s Board) released a position paper on this issue earlier this year. The brief condemns yoga’s appropriation, but also argues that yoga today is wholly misunderstood. Yoga is identified today only with Hatha Yoga, the aspect of yoga focused on postures and breathing techniques. But this is only one part of the practice of Raja Yoga that is actually an eightfold path designed to lead the practitioner to moksha, or salvation. Indeed, yogis believe that to focus on the physicality of yoga without the spirituality is utterly rudimentary and deficient. Sure, practicing postures alone with a focus on breathing techniques will quiet the mind, tone the body, increase flexibility–even help children with Attention Deficit Disorder–but will miss the mark on holistic healing and wellness.
All of this is not to contend, of course, that yoga is only for Hindus. Yoga is Hinduism’s gift to humanity to follow, practice and experience. No one can ever be asked to leave their own religion or reject their own theologies or to convert to a pluralistic tradition such as Hinduism. Yoga asks only that one follow the path of yoga for it will necessarily lead one to become a better Hindu, Christian, Jew or Muslim. Yoga, like its Hindu origins, does not offer ways to believe in God; it offer ways to know God.
But be forewarned. Yogis say that the dedicated practice of yoga will subdue the restless mind, lessen one’s cravings for the mundane material world and put one on the path of self-realization–that each individual is a spark of the Divine. Expect conflicts if you are sold on the exclusivist claims of Abrahamic faiths–that their God awaits the arrival of only His chosen few at heaven’s gate–since yoga shows its own path to spiritual enlightenment to all seekers regardless of affiliation.
Hindus must take back yoga and reclaim the intellectual property of their spiritual heritage–not sell out for the expediency of winning more clients for the yoga studio down the street.
Source: newsweek.washingtonpost.com

10 Responses for “Has Yoga been Hijacked?”
s anderson says:
April 26, 2010 at 8:06 pm
Swami Vasudevananda Saraswati Maharaja recently spoke very strongly about how he has never heard, in all of the history of India, of any great saint who gave absolutely all credit to his Master in the way that Maharishi Mahesh Yogi gave to his Guru Dev. (the former Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math). So it is COMPLETELY wrong to call this pactice “unanchored” or “orphaned”.
Paris France says:
May 3, 2010 at 4:44 am
The Vatican cult of criminals should all report to jail ASP. What the Top RCC leadership did is beyond my understanding. These fools blatantly cover-up Children being molested by clergys.Its a Sad realization that the pope choose to allow more Children to be harm by priests.Just to protect the interest of the catholic church. If Joe blow did what the pope did,he would be eating cheese sandwich and drinking ice tea in a Jail cell block. The pope power of immunity should be null and void for protecting the Offender instead of the Children.
Leena says:
June 8, 2010 at 10:18 am
Benefits of Yoga:
The most important benefit of yoga is physical and mental therapy. The aging process, which is largely an artificial condition, caused mainly by autointoxication or self-poisoning, can be slowed down by practicing yoga. By keeping the body clean, flexible and well lubricated, we can significantly reduce the catabolic process of cell deterioration. To get the maximum benefits of yoga one has to combine the practices of yogasanas, pranayama and meditation.
Regular practice of asanas, pranayama and meditation can help such diverse ailments such as diabetes, blood pressure, digestive disorders, arthritis, arteriosclerosis, chronic fatigue, asthma, varicose veins and heart conditions. Laboratory tests have proved the yogi`s increased abilities of consciously controlling autonomic or involuntary functions, such as temperature, heartbeat and blood pressure. Research into the effects of yogic practices on HIV is currently underway with promising results.
According to medical scientists, yoga therapy is successful because of the balance created in the nervous and endocrine systems which directly influences all the other systems and organs of the body. Yoga acts both as a curative and preventive therapy. The very essence of yoga lies in attaining mental peace, improved concentration powers, a relaxed state of living and harmony in relationships.
Through the practice of yoga, we become aware of the interconnectedness between our emotional, mental and physical levels. Gradually this awareness leads to an understanding of the more subtle areas of existence. The ultimate goal of yoga is to make it possible for you to be able to fuse together the gross material (annamaya), physical (pranamaya), mental (manomaya), intellectual (vijnanamaya) and spiritual (anandamaya) levels within your being.
Physiological Benefits
Physicians and scientists are discovering brand new health benefits of yoga everyday. Studies show it can relieve the symptoms of several common and potentially life-threatening illnesses such as arthritis, arteriosclerosis, chronic fatigue, diabetes, AIDS, asthma and obesity.
Asthma
Studies conducted at yoga institutions in India have reported impressive success in improving asthma. It has also been proved that asthma attacks can usually be prevented by yoga methods without resorting to drugs.
Physicians have found that the addition of improved concentration abilities and yogic meditation together with the practice of simple postures and pranayama makes treatment more effective. Yoga practice also results in greater reduction in anxiety scores than drug therapy. Doctors believe that yoga practice helps patients by enabling them to gain access to their own internal experience and increased self-awareness.
Respiration Problems
Patients who practice yoga have a better chance of gaining the ability to control their breathing problems. With the help of yogic breathing exercises, it is possible to control an attack of severe shortness of breath without having to seek medical help. Various studies have confirmed the beneficial effects of yoga for patients with respiratory problems.
High Blood Pressure
The relaxation and exercise components of yoga have a major role to play in the treatment and prevention of high blood pressure (hypertension). A combination of biofeedback and yogic breathing and relaxation techniques has been found to lower blood pressure and reduce the need for high blood pressure medication in people suffering from it.
Pain Management
Yoga is believed to reduce pain by helping the brain`s pain center regulate the gate-controlling mechanism located in the spinal cord and the secretion of natural painkillers in the body. Breathing exercises used in yoga can also reduce pain. Because muscles tend to relax when you exhale, lengthening the time of exhalation can help produce relaxation and reduce tension. Awareness of breathing helps to achieve calmer, slower respiration and aid in relaxation and pain management.
Yoga`s inclusion of relaxation techniques and meditation can also help reduce pain. Part of the effectiveness of yoga in reducing pain is due to its focus on self-awareness. This self-awareness can have a protective effect and allow for early preventive action.
Back Pain
Back pain is the most common reason to seek medical attention. Yoga has consistently been used to cure and prevent back pain by enhancing strength and flexibility. Both acute and long-term stress can lead to muscle tension and exacerbate back problems.
Arthritis
Yoga`s gentle exercises designed to provide relief to needed joints had been Yoga`s slow-motion movements and gentle pressures reach deep into troubled joints. In addition, the easy stretches in conjunction with deep breathing exercises relieve the tension that binds up the muscles and further tightens the joints. Yoga is exercise and relaxation rolled into one – the perfect anti-arthritis formula.
Weight Reduction
Regular yoga practice can help in weight management. Firstly, some of the asanas stimulate sluggish glands to increase their hormonal secretions. The thyroid gland, especially, has a big effect on our weight because it affects body metabolism. There are several asanas, such as the shoulder stand and the fish posture, which are specific for the thyroid gland. Fat metabolism is also increased, so fat is converted to muscle and energy. This means that, as well as losing fat, you will have better muscle tone and a higher vitality level.
Yogic practices that reduce anxiety tend to reduce anxious eating. In addition, yoga deep breathing increases the oxygen intake to the body cells, including the fat cells. This causes increased oxidation or burning up of fat cells. Yogic exercises induce more continuous and deeper breathing which gradually burns, sometimes forcefully, many of the calories already ingested.
Psychological Benefits
Regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness, increases body awareness, relieves chronic stress patterns, relaxes the mind, centers attention and sharpens concentration.
Self-Awareness
Yoga strives to increase self-awareness on both a physical and psychological level. Patients who study yoga learn to induce relaxation and then to use the technique whenever pain appears. Practicing yoga can provide chronic pain sufferers with useful tools to actively cope with their pain and help counter feelings of helplessness and depression.
Mental Performance
A common technique used in yoga is breathing through one nostril at a time. Electroencephalogram (EEG) studies of the electrical impulses of the brain have shown that breathing through one nostril results in increased activity on the opposite side of the brain. Some experts suggest that the regular practice of breathing through one nostril may help improve communication between the right and left side of the brain. Studies have also shown that this increased brain activity is associated with better performance and doctors even suggest that yoga can enhance cognitive performance.
Mood Change And Vitality
Mental health and physical energy are difficult to quantify, but virtually everyone who participates in yoga over a period of time reports a positive effect on outlook and energy level. Yogic stretching and breathing exercises have been seen to result in an invigorating effect on both mental and physical energy and improved mood.
Spiritual Benefits
When you achieve the yogic spirit, you can begin knowing yourself at peace. The value of discovering one`s self and of enjoying one`s self as is, begins a journey into being rather than doing. Life can then be lived practicing “yoga off the mat”.
Pride
Pride, and especially anxiety about pride, is something which Hatha Yoga seeks to diminish or eliminate. To one who has been dejected because he cannot do his work properly when he becomes tired, irritable, or haggard, any degree of refreshment may be accompanied by additional degrees of self-respect. Furthermore, one who has benefited from yoga may be moved to help his friends who are obviously in need, he may instruct others and be rewarded with appreciation due a to teacher.
But if one succeeds in achieving skill which provides health and self-confidence, one may justly raise his self-esteem simply by observing himself living the improved results as an achieved fact.
Knowledge
Yogic theory and practice lead to increased self-knowledge. This knowledge is not merely that of the practical kind relating to techniques, but especially of a spiritual sort pertaining to grasping something about the nature of the self at rest.
Knowing the self at rest, at peace, as a being rather than merely as an agent or doer, is a genuine kind of knowledge which usually gets lost in the rush of activities and push of desires. The value of discovering one`s self and of enjoying one`s self as it is, rather than as it is going to be, is indeed a value as well as a kind of knowledge.
Leena says:
June 8, 2010 at 10:25 am
At the physical level, yoga and its cleansing practices have proven to be extremely effective for various disorders. To get a sampling of how yoga benefits health disorders, please visit the Yoga Therapy section.
More importantly, yoga is extremely effective in: Increasing Flexibility – yoga has positions that act upon the various joints of the body including those joints that are never really on the ‘radar screen’ let alone exercised.
Increasing lubrication of the joints, ligaments and tendons – likewise, the well-researched yoga positions exercise the different tendons and ligaments of the body.
Surprisingly it has been found that the body which may have been quite rigid starts experiencing a remarkable flexibility in even those parts which have not been consciously work upon. Why? It is here that the remarkable research behind yoga positions proves its mettle. Seemingly unrelated “non strenuous” yoga positions act upon certain parts of the body in an interrelated manner. When done together, they work in harmony to create a situation where flexibility is attained relatively easily.
Massaging of ALL Organs of the Body – Yoga is perhaps the only form of activity which massages all the internal glands and organs of the body in a thorough manner, including those – such as the prostate – that hardly get externally stimulated during our entire lifetime. Yoga acts in a wholesome manner on the various body parts. This stimulation and massage of the organs in turn benefits us by keeping away disease and providing a forewarning at the first possible instance of a likely onset of disease or disorder.
One of the far-reaching benefits of yoga is the uncanny sense of awareness that it develops in the practitioner of an impending health disorder or infection. This in turn enables the person to take pre-emptive corrective action
Complete Detoxification – By gently stretching muscles and joints as well as massaging the various organs, yoga ensures the optimum blood supply to various parts of the body. This helps in the flushing out of toxins from every nook and cranny as well as providing nourishment up to the last point. This leads to benefits such as delayed ageing, energy and a remarkable zest for life.
Excellent toning of the muscles – Muscles that have become flaccid, weak or slothy are stimulated repeatedly to shed excess flab and flaccidity.
Benefits of Yoga to Your Bones, Muscles, and Joints:
The physical benefits of yoga are myriad. Yoga keeps your body strong, as it involves all the muscles in your body to hold and balance yoga asanas (poses). The various yoga postures strengthen your feet, legs, hands, abdominals, lower back, legs, and shoulders.
Yoga’s stretching and breathing exercises improve your flexibility, helping joints, tendons, and muscles stay limber. People suffering from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis will see a noticeable improvement in their stiffness, pain, and other arthritic symptoms by practicing yoga poses and postures.
Yoga improves your endurance, especially the more athletic forms of yoga such as ashtanga yoga, power yoga, vinyasa yoga, and Bikram yoga. These rigorous yoga practices follow a specific sequence of poses (asanas) that become more challenging as you progress. Unlike the more gentle hatha yoga, the forms of ashtagna yoga, power yoga, vinyasa yoga, and Bikram yoga require you to keep your body in constant motion between poses, resulting in a strenuous cardiovascular workout and improved core strength.
Hatha yoga can relieve chronic back and neck pain, since the poses and postures gently stretch and strengthen your back and neck muscles.
Yoga is often prescribed to help heal various injuries, including repetitive strain injuries, knee and back injuries, pulled hamstrings, even minor skin burns. Of course, you should consult your physician before using yoga as a treatment for any injury!
Yoga is an excellent weight-bearing exercise that can improve your bone density. This is particularly beneficial for women approaching menopause, since yoga can help ward off osteoporosis, or thinning of the bone.
Benefits of Yoga to the Cardiovascular System:
Yoga has tremendous health benefits for your heart. Most notably:
The gentler forms of yoga lower your blood pressure because the asanas (yoga poses, postures, and yoga positions) keep blood flowing evenly throughout your body while you focus on your breathing.
People suffering from hypertension can benefit from yoga tremendously, as hatha yoga can lower your heart rate and blood pressure.
Many practitioners claim that yoga has also lowered their cholesterol.
Power yoga is an excellent form of cardio conditioning, which strengthens core muscles while it keeps blood and oxygen circulating throughout your body.
Benefits of Yoga on Mental Health:
Yoga benefits anyone’s mental health by helping him or her relax, and it is an effective form of psychological therapy. Yoga reduces anxiety and stress, resulting in better health, better mood, and better concentration throughout the day. Yoga has been used to help treat a wide variety of emotional and mental disorders, including acute anxiety, depression, and mood swings.
Even children can benefit from yoga. Those with attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity can learn to relax and get control by using yoga breathing and yoga asanas.
Because yoga is a form of meditation, it results in a sense of inner peace and purpose, which has far-reaching health benefits.
Yoga has been used to help heal victims of torture or other trauma.
Benefits of Yoga on Other Health Conditions
Do you have frequent headaches? Yoga can rid you of tension headaches and migraines because yoga circulates blood and oxygen to your head, which can often prevent headaches from starting.
A regular yoga practice helps boost antioxidants throughout your body, resulting in a stronger immune system and improved ability to heal quickly from disease or injury.
Yoga can help you lose weight and maintain a healthy weight throughout your life. Power yoga is a vigorous form of yoga that burns calories, resulting in weight loss.
Many women going through menopause report an easing of symptoms when they begin practicing yoga.
Benefits of Yoga in Everyday Life:
Yoga can help cure insomnia, as regular yoga practice leads to better and deeper sleep.
Yoga can help fight fatigue and maintain your energy throughout the day.
Yoga is an effective treatment for a variety of autoimmune diseases because it can reduce the symptoms these diseases often cause, such as stiffness, malaise, fatigue, and weakness.
Regular yoga practice will create multiple and noticeable benefits to your health. Try some yoga postures today! And as your instructor will no doubt tell you at the end of your practice: Namaste.
Krish says:
June 8, 2010 at 10:36 am
The benefits of Yoga are numerous. In terms of energy Yoga is like a universe in itself. Some of the important Yoga benefits include anti-ageing, balance and flexibility of body, increase in knowledge and wealth, improvement in mental health and development of personal and social values. This is not the end of story; Yoga also helps in improving strength, sexual life and reducing weight. Yoga makes you feel good. Yoga is relaxing. It’s energizing. It’s strengthening.
Healing benefits of Yoga are so great that you feel better at the end of every Yoga session than before you began and life runs effortlessly when you keep up a steady discipline than when you don’t. Yoga enhances your understanding of life. Yoga changes an individual’s perspective about life. After coming in the fold of Yoga a person finds himself taking up a broader view of life. Yoga helps a person to know who he is, how life works, who is God and so on. One starts looking at things differently, with less confusion. It helps in more peace of mind, better health, more keenness for life, and an ever-growing sense of internal well-being.
As one practices Yoga, positive effects of Yoga begin to show. The sense of feeling good envelops around the individual. This feeling is so natural and so genuine that it goes entirely in an individual’s life. In this way it helps clarify deepest cravings, motivations and aspirations, thereby restoring confidence, hope, meaning and rationale to life. We all like feeling good, peace of mind, being joyful, peaceful, animated and calm. There can’t be two opinions about this. But the sad part is that most of us know that we are not feeling as good as we should.
The driving force of yoga is aimed at the monumental, life-changing discovery of who and what you actually are. This is precisely how yoga works, how it makes you feel good. Yoga helps you experience the truth. The truth- which, you discover is goodness. The implications of knowing the truth is massive. Thus Yoga gives you the strength to unravel the truth with which you will begin to live with security, confidence and inner psychological peace. Such great are the benefits and properties of Yoga. Yoga changes your life.
Anti Aging
In the present times, very few people retain their strength and vitality till the middle age. More and more people we come across look much older than they actually are.
Balance
Most of us suffer from problems of asymmetry and imbalance. The irregularity and imbalance create a lot of stress and strain in our body. At times, it also leads to injury, pain, or just simple discomfort.
Flexibility
What comes to your mind when you think of Yoga? Stretching, isn’t it? Half of you must have run away from the yoga, with the thought that your body is unfit, too old or maybe too inflexible to perform Yoga.
Personal Values
With an ever-increasing cut throat competition in the present times, personal values seem to be inexistent. People are so engrossed in attaining material success that they fail to realize the host of inappropriate values and principles that have made home in both the mind and heart.
Love
Yoga can play a definitive role in fine-tuning our love life. Our emotional well-being depends on how we interpret various events of life and react to them. In other words, feelings and emotions manifest in one form or the other in our body and life.
Mental Health
Yoga has tremendous positive effect on our mental health. Before moving ahead to describe the benefits Yoga bring, let us define what mental health is.
Social Values
Yoga and social values are two sides of the same coin and go side by side. Social values are a set of philosophy that an individual carries throughout his life.
Strength
Yoga is a like a blessing for those who love to have fit body. It is extremely beneficial in strength and endurance building. Sages and saints from centuries in India have performed this miraculous art to achieve a stress free temper and disease free body.
Yoga & Beauty
Yoga is the art of meditation aimed at training a human soul the consciousness for a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility. It is basically achieved through the three paths- the path of actions, knowledge and devotion.
Yoga Healing
Yoga is an ancient art of meditation in India. It is considered that a regular practice of Yoga is very beneficial for achieving healthy body and sound mind.
Yoga & Sex
According to Yoga philosophy, sex is a very natural function, extremely necessary in an affectionate relationship and also vital for the persistence of the human race on the earth.
Yoga & Knowledge
Yoga is an ancient art that focuses on the spiritual enlightenment and physical fitness of a human being. This art has derived its principles from the ‘Patanjali Shastra’ and focuses on the concept of healthy being and healthy living.
Weight Reduction
Yoga is an effective way to gain and maintain a healthy body. This ancient Indian meditation art is a great way to get rid of extra flab from the body.
Krish says:
June 8, 2010 at 10:37 am
Yoga Benefits
The most important benefit of yoga is physical and mental therapy. The aging process, which is largely an artificial condition, caused mainly by autointoxication or self-poisoning, can be slowed down by practicing yoga. By keeping the body clean, flexible and well lubricated, we can significantly reduce the catabolic process of cell deterioration. To get the maximum benefits of yoga one has to combine the practices of yogasanas, pranayama and meditation.
Regular practice of asanas, pranayama and meditation can help such diverse ailments such as diabetes, blood pressure, digestive disorders, arthritis, arteriosclerosis, chronic fatigue, asthma, varicose veins and heart conditions. Laboratory tests have proved the yogi`s increased abilities of consciously controlling autonomic or involuntary functions, such as temperature, heartbeat and blood pressure. Research into the effects of yogic practices on HIV is currently underway with promising results.
According to medical scientists, yoga therapy is successful because of the balance created in the nervous and endocrine systems which directly influences all the other systems and organs of the body. Yoga acts both as a curative and preventive therapy. The very essence of yoga lies in attaining mental peace, improved concentration powers, a relaxed state of living and harmony in relationships.
Through the practice of yoga, we become aware of the interconnectedness between our emotional, mental and physical levels. Gradually this awareness leads to an understanding of the more subtle areas of existence. The ultimate goal of yoga is to make it possible for you to be able to fuse together the gross material (annamaya), physical (pranamaya), mental (manomaya), intellectual (vijnanamaya) and spiritual (anandamaya) levels within your being.
Physiological Benefits
Physicians and scientists are discovering brand new health benefits of yoga everyday. Studies show it can relieve the symptoms of several common and potentially life-threatening illnesses such as arthritis, arteriosclerosis, chronic fatigue, diabetes, AIDS, asthma and obesity.
Asthma
Studies conducted at yoga institutions in India have reported impressive success in improving asthma. It has also been proved that asthma attacks can usually be prevented by yoga methods without resorting to drugs.
Physicians have found that the addition of improved concentration abilities and yogic meditation together with the practice of simple postures and pranayama makes treatment more effective. Yoga practice also results in greater reduction in anxiety scores than drug therapy. Doctors believe that yoga practice helps patients by enabling them to gain access to their own internal experience and increased self-awareness.
Respiration Problems
Patients who practice yoga have a better chance of gaining the ability to control their breathing problems. With the help of yogic breathing exercises, it is possible to control an attack of severe shortness of breath without having to seek medical help. Various studies have confirmed the beneficial effects of yoga for patients with respiratory problems.
High Blood Pressure
The relaxation and exercise components of yoga have a major role to play in the treatment and prevention of high blood pressure (hypertension). A combination of biofeedback and yogic breathing and relaxation techniques has been found to lower blood pressure and reduce the need for high blood pressure medication in people suffering from it.
Pain Management
Yoga is believed to reduce pain by helping the brain`s pain center regulate the gate-controlling mechanism located in the spinal cord and the secretion of natural painkillers in the body. Breathing exercises used in yoga can also reduce pain. Because muscles tend to relax when you exhale, lengthening the time of exhalation can help produce relaxation and reduce tension. Awareness of breathing helps to achieve calmer, slower respiration and aid in relaxation and pain management.
Yoga`s inclusion of relaxation techniques and meditation can also help reduce pain. Part of the effectiveness of yoga in reducing pain is due to its focus on self-awareness. This self-awareness can have a protective effect and allow for early preventive action.
Back Pain
Back pain is the most common reason to seek medical attention. Yoga has consistently been used to cure and prevent back pain by enhancing strength and flexibility. Both acute and long-term stress can lead to muscle tension and exacerbate back problems.
Arthritis
Yoga`s gentle exercises designed to provide relief to needed joints had been Yoga`s slow-motion movements and gentle pressures reach deep into troubled joints. In addition, the easy stretches in conjunction with deep breathing exercises relieve the tension that binds up the muscles and further tightens the joints. Yoga is exercise and relaxation rolled into one – the perfect anti-arthritis formula.
Weight Reduction
Regular yoga practice can help in weight management. Firstly, some of the asanas stimulate sluggish glands to increase their hormonal secretions. The thyroid gland, especially, has a big effect on our weight because it affects body metabolism. There are several asanas, such as the shoulder stand and the fish posture, which are specific for the thyroid gland. Fat metabolism is also increased, so fat is converted to muscle and energy. This means that, as well as losing fat, you will have better muscle tone and a higher vitality level.
Yogic practices that reduce anxiety tend to reduce anxious eating. In addition, yoga deep breathing increases the oxygen intake to the body cells, including the fat cells. This causes increased oxidation or burning up of fat cells. Yogic exercises induce more continuous and deeper breathing which gradually burns, sometimes forcefully, many of the calories already ingested.
Psychological Benefits
Regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness, increases body awareness, relieves chronic stress patterns, relaxes the mind, centers attention and sharpens concentration.
Self-Awareness
Yoga strives to increase self-awareness on both a physical and psychological level. Patients who study yoga learn to induce relaxation and then to use the technique whenever pain appears. Practicing yoga can provide chronic pain sufferers with useful tools to actively cope with their pain and help counter feelings of helplessness and depression.
Mental Performance
A common technique used in yoga is breathing through one nostril at a time. Electroencephalogram (EEG) studies of the electrical impulses of the brain have shown that breathing through one nostril results in increased activity on the opposite side of the brain. Some experts suggest that the regular practice of breathing through one nostril may help improve communication between the right and left side of the brain. Studies have also shown that this increased brain activity is associated with better performance and doctors even suggest that yoga can enhance cognitive performance.
Mood Change And Vitality
Mental health and physical energy are difficult to quantify, but virtually everyone who participates in yoga over a period of time reports a positive effect on outlook and energy level. Yogic stretching and breathing exercises have been seen to result in an invigorating effect on both mental and physical energy and improved mood.
Spiritual Benefits
When you achieve the yogic spirit, you can begin knowing yourself at peace. The value of discovering one`s self and of enjoying one`s self as is, begins a journey into being rather than doing. Life can then be lived practicing “yoga off the mat”.
Pride
Pride, and especially anxiety about pride, is something which Hatha Yoga seeks to diminish or eliminate. To one who has been dejected because he cannot do his work properly when he becomes tired, irritable, or haggard, any degree of refreshment may be accompanied by additional degrees of self-respect. Furthermore, one who has benefited from yoga may be moved to help his friends who are obviously in need, he may instruct others and be rewarded with appreciation due a to teacher.
But if one succeeds in achieving skill which provides health and self-confidence, one may justly raise his self-esteem simply by observing himself living the improved results as an achieved fact.
Knowledge
Yogic theory and practice lead to increased self-knowledge. This knowledge is not merely that of the practical kind relating to techniques, but especially of a spiritual sort pertaining to grasping something about the nature of the self at rest.
Knowing the self at rest, at peace, as a being rather than merely as an agent or doer, is a genuine kind of knowledge which usually gets lost in the rush of activities and push of desires. The value of discovering one`s self and of enjoying one`s self as it is, rather than as it is going to be, is indeed a value as well as a kind of knowledge.
Krish says:
June 8, 2010 at 10:38 am
Benefits of Yoga to Your Bones, Muscles, and Joints
The physical benefits of yoga are myriad. Yoga keeps your body strong, as it involves all the muscles in your body to hold and balance yoga asanas (poses). The various yoga postures strengthen your feet, legs, hands, abdominals, lower back, legs, and shoulders.
Yoga’s stretching and breathing exercises improve your flexibility, helping joints, tendons, and muscles stay limber. People suffering from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis will see a noticeable improvement in their stiffness, pain, and other arthritic symptoms by practicing yoga poses and postures.
Yoga improves your endurance, especially the more athletic forms of yoga such as ashtanga yoga, power yoga, vinyasa yoga, and Bikram yoga. These rigorous yoga practices follow a specific sequence of poses (asanas) that become more challenging as you progress. Unlike the more gentle hatha yoga, the forms of ashtagna yoga, power yoga, vinyasa yoga, and Bikram yoga require you to keep your body in constant motion between poses, resulting in a strenuous cardiovascular workout and improved core strength.
Hatha yoga can relieve chronic back and neck pain, since the poses and postures gently stretch and strengthen your back and neck muscles.
Yoga is often prescribed to help heal various injuries, including repetitive strain injuries, knee and back injuries, pulled hamstrings, even minor skin burns. Of course, you should consult your physician before using yoga as a treatment for any injury!
Yoga is an excellent weight-bearing exercise that can improve your bone density. This is particularly beneficial for women approaching menopause, since yoga can help ward off osteoporosis, or thinning of the bone.
Benefits of Yoga to the Cardiovascular System
Yoga has tremendous health benefits for your heart. Most notably:
The gentler forms of yoga lower your blood pressure because the asanas (yoga poses, postures, and yoga positions) keep blood flowing evenly throughout your body while you focus on your breathing.
People suffering from hypertension can benefit from yoga tremendously, as hatha yoga can lower your heart rate and blood pressure.
Many practitioners claim that yoga has also lowered their cholesterol.
Power yoga is an excellent form of cardio conditioning, which strengthens core muscles while it keeps blood and oxygen circulating throughout your body.
Benefits of Yoga on Mental Health
Yoga benefits anyone’s mental health by helping him or her relax, and it is an effective form of psychological therapy. Yoga reduces anxiety and stress, resulting in better health, better mood, and better concentration throughout the day. Yoga has been used to help treat a wide variety of emotional and mental disorders, including acute anxiety, depression, and mood swings.
Even children can benefit from yoga. Those with attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity can learn to relax and get control by using yoga breathing and yoga asanas.
Because yoga is a form of meditation, it results in a sense of inner peace and purpose, which has far-reaching health benefits.
Yoga has been used to help heal victims of torture or other trauma.
Benefits of Yoga on Other Health Conditions
Do you have frequent headaches? Yoga can rid you of tension headaches and migraines because yoga circulates blood and oxygen to your head, which can often prevent headaches from starting.
A regular yoga practice helps boost antioxidants throughout your body, resulting in a stronger immune system and improved ability to heal quickly from disease or injury.
Yoga can help you lose weight and maintain a healthy weight throughout your life. Power yoga is a vigorous form of yoga that burns calories, resulting in weight loss.
Many women going through menopause report an easing of symptoms when they begin practicing yoga.
Benefits of Yoga in Everyday Life
Yoga can help cure insomnia, as regular yoga practice leads to better and deeper sleep.
Yoga can help fight fatigue and maintain your energy throughout the day.
Yoga is an effective treatment for a variety of autoimmune diseases because it can reduce the symptoms these diseases often cause, such as stiffness, malaise, fatigue, and weakness.
Regular yoga practice will create multiple and noticeable benefits to your health. Try some yoga postures today! And as your instructor will no doubt tell you at the end of your practice: Namaste.
knee pain treatment says:
August 6, 2010 at 6:27 pm
Hi buddy would it be ok if we used some info from here to use on one of our websites? cheers mate
priya says:
November 6, 2010 at 11:24 pm
I see yoga and hindism as a whole .. Like the article ..
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