Tuesday, December 28, 2004

YOGA - A System of Physical excercise and Natural Healing

Yoga as a system of physical exercise has been in existence in India since very ancient times. According ot our ancient sages, there are eight stages of Yoga, namely Yama (Social Discipline), Niyama (Individual Discipline), Asana (Postures), Pranayama (Breath Control), Pratyahara (Mental Discipline), Dharana (Concentration), Dhyana (Meditation) and Samadhi (Self-realization). If an aspirant, after observing the disciplines of Yama and Niyama, practises Yogic exercises, his tubular channels are cleansed, he achieves excellent health and his mind becomes alert. This enables him to experience mental ecstasy.

Man has made tremendous progress in almost every walk of life. Objects once considered impossible to be achieved have now been achieved by us. What we have achieved and accomplished today could not have been imagined in their dreams by our past generations. Modern scientists and researchers have absolutely changed our life-style. Science has beenincessantly pouring on us new materials and devices to make our physical life more happy and comfortable.
However, pollution of air, water, body and mind is also the result of science. We witness despair and disappointment on the faces of our young generation. Signs of restlessness are apparently visible in the dry and dull eyes of our young men and women. Sloping shoulders, flat chests and bulging stomachs have become their characteristics. Why?

Today, we can claim that we are moderna nd civilized but cannot claim that we are genuinely happy. We, today, use tranquillizers for sleep, pills for purgative and tonics for vigour. Tranquillizers and sedatives are in vogue in our modern society. Charmed by and then, addicted to intoxicative drugs, our youth is led to the path of disgrace and self-destruction.
Longing for material wealth has hardened our heart. Human values are declining. Work to time, competition and commotion have made us suffer from stress and strain. Mental tension or strain produces undesirable consequences. Stress and strain are the causes of physical as well as psychological diseases such as diabetes, cancer, acidity, ulcer, migraine and hypertension.
How can we prevent ourselves from being strained and degenerated? Should we return to the cave-life and live as the aborigines lived?
As a matter of fact, to do this is neither practical nor necessary. Yoga has the surest remedies for man's physical as well as psychological ailments. Yoga makes the organs of the body active in their functioning and has good effect on internal functioning of the human body. Yoga changes for good man's views on, and attitude to, life.
The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj meaning to bind the yoke. It is the true union of our will with the will of God.
Our ancient sages have suggested eight stages of Yoga to secure purity of body, mind and sould and final communion with God. These eight stages are known as Ashtangayoga.
The eight stages of Yoga are as follows :
1. Yama (Social Discipline): Yama means restraint or abstention. It contains five moral practices. They are:
Non-violence (Ahimsa), Truthfulness (Satya), Non-stealing (Asteya), Celibacy (Brahmacharya) and Non-acquisitiveness (Aparigraha).
2. Niyama (Individual Discipline): Rules of conduct towards oneself consist of certain disciplines which are both physical and mental. These are five in number:
Cleanliness (Shaucha), Contentment (Santosha), Austerity (Tapas), Self-Study (Svadhyaya) and Surrender to God (Ishvara Pranidhana)
3. Asana (Postures): Asana means holding the body in a particular posture to bring stability to the body and poise to the mind. The practice of asana brings purity in tubular channels, firmness to the body and vitality to the body and the mind. There are many asanas, but keeping in view a comman's health, 65 asanas have been in practice and will be soon available at this website.
4. Pranayama (Breath Control): The literal meaning of Pranayama is Breath Control. The aim of practising Pranayama is to stimulate, regulate and harmonize vital energy of the body. Just as a bath is required for purifying the body, so also Pranayama is required for purifying the body. Just as a bath is required to purifying the body, so also Pranayama is required for purifying the mind.
5. Pratyahara (Discipline of the Senses): The extroversion of the sense organs due to their hankering after worldly objects has to be restrained and directed inwards towards the source of all existence. This process of drawing the sense inwards is Pratyahara or putting the sense under restraint.
6. Dharana (Concentration): Dharana means focusing the pure mind on one's personal deity or on the individual self. The practice of Dharana helps the mind to concentrate on a particular object.
7. Dhyana (Meditation): When one sustains and maintains the focus of attention through Dharana unbound by time and space, it becomes Dhyana (Meditation). Deep concentration destroys the Rajas and Tamas Gunas of mind and develops the Satvika Gunas (qualities).
8. Samadhi (Self-Realisation): The eight and final stage of Yoga is Samadhi. At this stage, one's identity becomes both externally and internally immersed in meditation. The meditator, the act of meditation and the object meditated upon, all the three shed their individual characteristics and merge with one single vision of the entire cosmos. Supreme happiness, fee from pleasure, pain or misery, is experienced. Samadhi is the climax of Dhyana.
The group of Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi is called "Samyama" (the internal Yoga) in the Science of Yoga. The first five stages - yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama and Pratyahara - Constitute the External Yoga. If all these five stages are practised and followed in life, virtues like morality, morally sound conduct and good character are develope3d in man. Besides, there is all-round progress in human life, physically, intellectually and spiritually and man attains physical fitness and mental equanimity.
Thus, asanas are only one of the stages of Yoga. Most of the aspirants practising Yoga practise, in fact, these asanas. However, all the eight stages of Yoga are of importance. the practice fo al the stages together and Pranayama bring a good deal of permanent benefits.

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