21st June was International Yoga Day. The theme for this year’s Yoga Day was “Yoga for Humanity.
But there is so much more to what meets the eye. Yoga is an ancient practice that has attracted much research in the modern-day.
The scientific community is giving attention to this practice and believes that yoga has a positive impact on physical health and mental well-being.
If you are as curious as we are now, let us hop on to that train and learn more about yoga.
Unprecedented times of the global pandemic have put our focus on suffering and mental health problems. It has highlighted an urgent need to address mental illnesses along with physical health aspects.
People have embraced yoga as a lifestyle to stay healthy and fight social isolation and bring comfort and discipline to mental illnesses, such as anxiety. It is important to remember that yoga does not cure any mental illnesses.
But it does teach us a way to face our fears, embrace the issue at hand and be mindful. It is a technique only to bring comfort and solace rather than cure.
Yoga is an ancient art of physical, mental, and spiritual practice that originated in India over 5000 years back. The word “yoga” is noted to be mentioned first in the ancient Hindu sacred text, the Rig Veda.
Yoga has been refined and developed by sages across the centuries and their practices have been documented in the Upanishads. It is one of the six schools of philosophy in Hinduism and a major part of Buddhist meditational practices.
Yoga history is obscure and uncertain due to oral transmission and the secretive nature of its teaching. Its long rich history is divided into four main periods.
Pre-classical period: The beginning of yoga is known to have developed in the Indus-Sarasvati civilization 5000 years ago. The most renowned yogic scripture Bhagwat Gita, composed in 500 BCE, teaches about the sacrifice of the ego through self-knowledge. The Upanishads took this idea and internalized it into action (karma yoga) and wisdom (jnana yoga).
Classical yoga: This period is defined by Patanjali’s Yoga -Sutra, the first-ever systematic presentation of yoga. Written around the second century, the yoga sutra describes Raja Yoga.
Post-classical yoga: After Patanjali, a few yoga masters designed a system of practices to rejuvenate the body and prolong life. Rejecting the teachings of ancient Vedas and embracing the physical body, they developed Tantra yoga, a technique to cleanse the mind and body. These body-centered physical-spiritual practices lead to the creation of Hatha Yoga.
Modern period: The modern period of yoga is mostly an influenced version of East meeting West. T. Krishnamacharya, Swami Sivananda, and other yogis practicing the Hatha yoga popularised the practice and gain more followers.
As of today, the six main schools of yoga are:
Hatha Yoga: The yoga of the postures
Raja Yoga: The yoga of self-control
Kundalini Yoga: The yoga of energy
Karma Yoga: The yoga of mind
Jnana yoga: The yoga of mind
Bhakti yoga: The yoga of devotion
Yoga offers physical and mental health benefits to people of all ages. It helps support the healing process and helps the person experiencing their symptoms with more centeredness and less distress.
Improve strength, balance, and flexibility: Deep breathing and slow body movements help increase blood flow and warm up muscles.
Relieves back pain: Just like basic stretching, yoga helps reduce chronic low back pain.
Eases arthritis symptoms: John Hopkins Review shows that gentle yoga eases some discomfort to tender, swollen joints for people with arthritis.
Improves heart health: Practising yoga regularly reduces stress levels and body inflammation. It also controls blood pressure and excess weight, both of which improve the heart’s health.
Improves sleep: Consistent bedtime yoga routine helps prepare your body to fall and stay asleep, says John Hopkins Research.
Improves mood: It increases physical and mental energy and boosts alertness.
Manages stress: Yoga supports stress management, mindfulness, healthy eating, weight, and quality sleep.
Boosts immunity: Regularly practicing yoga helps and improves immunity and its functioning.
Promotes body posture: Yoga’s focus on mobility and flexibility contributes to the alignment and better body postures. It releases the tightness in the muscles and improves the mobility of the spine.
Helps with burnout: Excessive exhaustion affects our health. Yoga-based meditation interventions effectively reduce the effects of burnout.
Yoga is known as one of the most successful examples of Globalisation in the Modern Age.
Yoga was first introduced to the West in 1893: Swami Vivekananda gave an address to the Parliament of Religions in Chicago 1893. This address has catapulted yoga’s presence in America.
The Beatles also helped bring Yoga to the West: George Harrison was a pioneer in bringing sitar into rock music.
The Swastika is a yoga symbol: The symbol comes from the Sanskrit term Svastik denoting association with well-being.
Om is an important chant for yoga: Om is one of the primordial sounds of the universe.
Tirumalai Krishnamacharya is known as the father of modern yoga: T. Krishnamacharya was trained in hatha yoga by his guru Ramamohana Brahmacharya for seven years. His approach included the incorporation of movements through a series of poses coordinated with breathing, now more famously known as vinyasa yoga.
Carl Jung studied yoga in-depth: Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist, was one of the first westerners to study yoga in depth.
There are 84 classic Yoga Asanas.
According to Hindu mythology, Shiva is the Supreme Lord of yoga.
Paramahansa Yogananda was the Indian yogi who taught Kriya yoga to the world.
Yoga is not just a physical activity.
It is a way to cultivate and maintain a balance in life and gives us the necessary skills to perform our actions.
Keeping its impact in mind, the UN has urged its member states to help the citizens reduce physical inactivity and bring a more holistic approach to everybody’s well-being.
It is a practice to discover oneself, the world around us, and our role in harmony with nature.
That’s all I have for now,
I will write to you soon.