21 June is being launched as the International Day of Yoga, as declared by the United Nations General Assembly. 6,000 year-old practice is said to have been extensively developed by saints in the Himalayan region of India, who practiced it to maintain an optimum physical and mental state before proceeding on to their spiritual attainment through meditation.
Key facts of Yoga
Activity or exercise is as important to our bodies as food. Body organs get stronger with usage. There are many types of exercises but yoga stands out as a wholesome exercise that reaches and helps even the remote part of the body. It’s also done slowly, which suits all ages and all physical conditions.
Yoga is not just about exercise but helps to discover the sense of oneness with self, the world and the nature. It transforms to embody unity of mind and body; thought and action and restraint and fulfillment through a holistic approach to health and well-being. Changes to lifestyle that come through yoga create consciousness and can help us deal with bigger environmental issues that affect our lives.
Pranayama, breathing in vital force to throw out toxins
Pranayama or the breathing exercise is an essential pre-cursor to yoga. Pranayama is the control of prana or vital life force through the breath and these techniques rely on deep breathing.
There are eight basic types of Pranayama, which a guru can teach you. Pranayama quiets and calms the entire nervous system, reducing stress and anxiety and improving self-awareness. Thus one’s resilience for adversity increases and the mind remains focused and still.
Pranayama can be practiced once or twice a day, at any time of the day. Early morning hours, before sunrise have Ozone (O3) and give extra benefit than oxygen (O2).
Once enough oxygen is inhaled through pranayama, it’s time to push that essential life saving element to each part of the body. This can be done through Yoga, basic principle of which is to give momentum to every organ of the body, both internal and external and supply extra oxygen to all organs.
Different asanas or poses render benefits to different organs. Practicing some intentional movements help to loosen up the stiff areas of an individual’s body. An intended yoga asana tightens or stretches the intended area, thus drawing blood carrying oxygen when released. Hence, relaxing after every asana is crucial for maximum benefit.
For example, in mandukasana, the pressure is applied on pancreas, which produces insulin in the body. This helps a diabetic. A few warm-up movements and 8 to 10 select asanas according to one’s body requirement practiced atleast 5 days a week makes for a healthy and energetic body.
Early morning, empty stomach is ideal for practicing yoga. If not, anytime after two hours of meal and atleast an hour prior to the next meal is fairly good. Half an hour each for pranayama and yoga in a day is sufficient maintain regular health. Any disease condition may require more practice under a guru’s supervision.
It’s now common for hotels and resorts to incorporate yoga into activities on offer for guests. Continuing practice of yoga during travel helps in getting rid of jet lags, anxiety and physical strain to enjoy the destination better.
Besides being physically engaging, yoga imparts innate powers of reflection, introspection and wisdom.
Written by Anand & Madhura Katti