Yoga is a 5000-year-old philosophical system that originated in India. Maharishi Patanjali is considered as the father of Yoga as he compiled 195 Yoga Sutras, which are the foundation of Yoga philosophy. ‘Yoga’ is derived from the word ‘yuj’, which means ‘union’, and it implies the union of the individual soul with Universal Consciousness. Yoga has gained immense popularity worldwide as it is beneficial for both, physical and mental health. In the year 2015, the United Nations General Assembly declared June 21 as the International Yoga Day.
Yoga is a combination of asanas, pranayama and meditation, based on the recognition that each person is a blend of the body, mind and spirit. According to Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Yoga is not only about exercises and asanas, but also involves emotional integration and spiritual elevation that provides a glimpse of that which is beyond all imagination.
Asanas are a prominent aspect of Yoga. There are myriad asanas or poses for the body and mind. Just to give a flavor of asanas: The Tadasana or Mountain Pose is an elementary asana that improves posture and enhances balance of the body. The Downward Facing Dog Pose rejuvenates the back, chest and upper body, thereby boosting memory power and concentration, and improving eyesight and hearing faculties. Padmasana or the Lotus Pose is a meditative pose that calms the mind and increases awareness. Moreover, these Yogic practices considerably improve our immune system. And yoga accessories of all kinds, ranging from yoga pants and yoga tees to yoga mats are available at every yoga shop to make asanas a painless experience.
Some yoga gurus give more importance to pranayama, compared to asanas. Pranayama is the control of breath, with prana referring to the life force and ayama connoting control. It balances energy and stabilizes moods by calming the nervous system and boosting the energy levels.
Meditation is the summit of Yoga as yoga or union takes place after the mind is made quiet. Meditation is an activity in which the practitioner achieves mental stillness by balancing the mind, body and senses, thereby relaxing the nervous system.
Meditation can take various forms. Mantra Yoga focuses on a sound, phrase or an affirmation. Visualization is a type of meditation, whereby the meditator visualizes an object. Breathing Meditation is the practice of concentrating on or observing the breath as it is, without modifying it in any manner. Meditation has ample benefits. By calming and focusing the mind, meditation heals a person of negativity that may be caused by situations and events in life. Meditation also boosts mental clarity, ensures work-life balance, facilitates better decision-making, and fuels creativity.
Yoga is a key to a healthy life that encompasses the physical, mental and spiritual dimensions. The practice of Yoga can truly help a person to live a happy and healthy life and die majestically, to paraphrase the words of the modern-day legend of Yoga, the late B.K.S. Iyengar.
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