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  • An Introduction to Yoga
  • Hatha Yoga
  • Meditative Poses
  • Asanas
    An Introduction to Yoga

    The word Yoga automatically calls to mind Sage "Patanjali" the founder and father of Yoga. He lived around three centuries before Christ, and was a great philosopher and grammarian. he was also a physician and a medical work is attributed to him. However this work is now lost in the pages of time.

    His best known work is Patanjali Yoga Sutras of Aphorisms on Yoga. The path outlined is called Raja Yoga or the sovereign path. It is so called because of the regal, noble method by which the self is united with the overself.

    Patanjali's Yoga has essentially to do with the mind and its modifications. It deals with the training of the mind to achieve oneness with the Universe. Incidental to this objective are the acquisition of siddhis or powers.

    The aim of Patanjali Yoga is to set man free from the cage of matter. Mind is the highest form of matter and man freed from this dragnet of Chitta or Ahankara (mind or ego) becomes a pure being.

    The mind or Chitta is said to operate at two levels-intellectual and emotional. Both these levels of operation must be removed and a dispassionate outlook replace them. Constant Vichara (enquiry) and Viveka (discrimination between the pleasant and the good) are the two means to slay the ego enmeshed in the intellect and emotions. Vairagya or dispassion is said to free one from the pain of opposites love and hate, pleasure and pain, honour and ignominy, happiness and sorrow.

    The easiest path to reach this state of dispassion and undisturbed tranquillity is the path of Bhakti or love. Here, man surrenders his all-mind, soul, ego-to the Divine Being and is only led on by the Divine will. Self-surrender the Diving Name. Such repetition must not be mechanical but one-pointed and full of favor. For this, concentration is necessary. concentration can be there only if man has practiced to fix his attention on a particular object without letting it dwell on anything else.

    Concentration also calls for regulation of conduct if Bhakti must develop. Good cheer, compassion, absence of jealousy, complacence towards the virtuous and consideration towards the wicked must be consciously cultivated.

    There are also methods of regulated breathing which help reach concentration.

    Yoga is an art and takes into purview the mind, the body and the soul of the man in its aim of reaching Divinity. The body must be purified and strengthened through various practices. The mind must be cleansed of all gross and the soul should turn inwards if a man should become a yogic adept. Study purifies the mind and surrender takes the soul towards God.

    The human mind is subject to certain weaknesses which are universal. avidya-wrong notions of the external world, asmita-wrong notions of the external world, asmita-wrong notions of oneself, raga-longing and attachment for sensory objects and affections, dweshad is like and hatred for objects and persons, and abinivesha or the love of life are the five defects of the mind that must be removed. Constant meditation and introspection eradicate these mental flaws.

    The human body is a vehicle for journeying this life. It must be kept in proper form if the mind should function well. For this, there are practices too, but Patanjali does not elucidate on them.

    The Yoga of Patanjali is Ashtanga or comprised of 8 limbs.

    They are :

            1. Yama
            2. Niyama
            3. Asana
            4. Pranayama
            5. Pratyashara
            6. Dharana
            7. Dhyana and
            8. Samadhi.
    

    Ahimsa (non-injury), Satya (truth), Asteya (non-covetousness), Brahmacharya (continence) and Aparagriha (abstinence from avarice) come under Yama.

    These five austerities are universal and absolute. Under no condition should they be deviated from. A Yogi must not cause injury or pain to another in thought, word or deed, One must not hurt even in self-defence. This is Ahimsa.

    Truth is concurrence between thought, word and deed. it must be true to fact and at the same time pleasant. If by speaking the truth, another is hurt it ceases to be truth and becomes himsa. There is a story which illustrates this point.

    In olden days there was a sage renowned for his austerities and observance of the vow of truth. It so happened that once when he was sitting by his little hut, a frightened man with a bundle ran past him and disappeared into a cave nearby. a couple of minutes later there came a band of fierce robbers with gleaming knives, apparently looking for this man. Knowing that the sage would not lie, they asked him where the man with the bundle was hiding. At once, the sage, true to his vow of not uttering falsehood, showed them the cave/ The cruel robbers rushed into it, dragged out the scared man, killed him mercilessly and departed with his bundle. the sage never realised God in spite of his austerities and tenacity for truth for he had been instrumental in the murder of a man. This is not the kind of truth that yoga requires. It would have been better if the sage had remained quiet for that would have saved the poor man. Great care is therefore to be exercised in speaking and each word must be carefully weighed before it is uttered.

    Yoga shows us all happiness is within our selves and trying to quench desires is like pouring ghee on fire which only makes it blaze more instead of putting it out. So with desire, It is never satisfied. yoga shows us that happiness for which we are eternally searching can be obtained through non-desire.

    To achieve a state of non-desire, the mind must be trained to think clearly. A healthy mind requires a healthy body. This is where Hatha Yoga comes in.


    Hatha Yoga

    Yoga,as we have already seen,is the process of attaining self-relation.However,we are concerned solely with Hatha Yoga with its object of purifying the body.

    Hatha is derived from Ha meaning the Sun and Ta meaning the Moon.Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit term 'Yug' which means "yoke"or' unite'.The two terms together denote the unification of the Sun and the Moon or the union of the Prana and Apana Vayus.This is a physical process regulating the inflow of breath in the two nostrils.But we must always remember that the purpose of Yoga,of any kind,is the evolution of the soul.

    Hatha Yoga as known to us today is drawn mostly from Gheranda Samhita and Hathayoga pradipika.These two works seem to be from the same source since many lines from each repeat in the other.

    Hatha Yoga can be divided into 7 heads:

    1. Bodily purification 
    2. Asanas
    3. Musras
    4. Pratyahara
    5. Pranayama
    6. Dhyana
    7. Samadhi
    

    Anyone above 14 years of age can do Yogasanas.Sick people may also do them.Pregnant women must discontinue the practice after the 3rd month.Women must refrain from practice during the 4 days of menstruation each month.People suffering from heart disease must be careful and take up yogic practices only under expert supervision.Generally too,these asanas are best learnt from an able and competent teacher.

    Asanas are best performed in the morning on an empty stomach.Where time does not permit they can be done in the evening,but not permit they can be done in the evening,but at least 3 hours should elapse after the last meal.Regular practice at the same place and time gives good results soon.

    Diet must also be regulated.Vegetarians can carry on with their usual food but excessively spicy,oily and rich foods should be reduced gradually,and wherever possible eliminated.Meat,eggs,fish are to be avoided.So also hard drinks.Freshly cooked food,fresh vegetables,plenty of fruits and greens and milk are the best foods for practitioners of Yoga subject,of course,to one's resources.Canned,refined and processed foods are best avoided since they can cause faulty elimination.

    If Hatha Yoga is faithfully practiced,benefits will start showing in the form of a youthful face and figure,graceful posture and carriage,clear complexion,improved blood circulation and all-round general health.


  • "Prophylactic and Therapeutic Effects of Yogic Exercises"

    "Academy of Research in Physical Culture,Warsaw,conducted studies on physiological and psychological aspects of Yoga system of exercises engaging the services of Romanowaski, Pasek and other to see if these could counteract the noxious effects of the contemporary environment on the ontogenesis of man(36,42-48).

    "Their results show that the ailments of the patients of Psychosomatic disorders of circulatory and digestive systems disapproved while their general considerable nervousness alleviated relatively slow pulse rate of 56-62 mim.And low arterial pressure 104-63-120/72 mim.Hg,were also noted.The examination of basal metabolism showed very low values of ventilation-4,76% mint,on the average.The respiratory rhythm amounted to 4,2/1/mim.the oxygen consumption to 1/mim. of the air inhaled,i.e.,20% grater than normal.The R.Q in all the investigated in the resting position have been very low 0,5-0,7.This fact showed that the Oxygen utilization by the tissues was larger than the average.Corresponding elimination of CO2 had been increased.The EEG investigations indicated improved state of calmness in comparison to the control group with obvious symptoms of fatigue.Rorschach method proved that the experimental group represented the well balanced type of normal emotional reactivity as compared with their rather intensive background.

    "Datey and others studied 86 subjects (68 male and 18 females) of ages between 20 to 64 years.Their systolic blood pressure ranged between 160-270 and diastolic between 90-120 mm.H. There were 62 cases with essential,19 with renal and 5 with arterio-sclerotic hypertension.They divided the whole population into 3 categories of (i) who had never received anti hypertension drug,(ii) adequately controlled with drugs,(iii) inadequately controlled with drugs.In addition to blood p reassure pulse rate, respiration, common symptoms were recorded and electromyographs were taken before and periodically during the study and after practice. "A group of hundred patients showing symptoms of psychoneurosis and psychosomatic disorders including cases of anxiety, anxiety depression,hysteria etc.,and comprising of 66 males and 34 females whose ages ranged from 16 to 64 years was taken for pilot study for the treatment by a therapeutic technique based upon some concepts of Patanjali by Dr Vahia and his co-worker of the Psychiatric Department at K.E.H. Hospital,Bombay.After the practice of two months duration the improvement in the condition of the patients,relatives and the team of doctors engaged in the project.It was observed that the improvement rate was statistically significant......

    "In his recent article on prevention and treatment of cancer by Yoga,Dr.Karambelkar,an eminent biochemist of Kaivalyadhama,Yoga Institute,quoting Dr.Poret's view that aerological factors of cancer were physiological,psychical and spiritual on the basis of the findings of Prof.Vincene who found that the PH1,RH2 and RO of the venous blood of patients of cancer and neurosis fell into the same zone,believes that it is reversible were alkaline PH and oxidation rH2 were below certain degree and successfully preventable by yogic exercises....

    "The result of these investigations lead us to the conclusion that the judicious and progressive follow-up of yogic practices brings about higher and higher conditioning of limbic system which is thought to be responsible for regulation of ANS,endocrinal system and the practitioners gradually begin experiencing greater and greater volitional control over the metabolic and the autonomic functions of the body which leads to the recovery of homeostatic sysfunction in the case of the sick and towards perfection of biological equilibrium in the case of normal persons.How such changes are brought about is still not so very clear and requires further investigations regarding the mechanism through which yogic exercises produce physiological and mental effects."

    Many people somehow have the notion that if they stop practicing Yoga,they put on weight.Frankly,I should like to point out this is an unfair charge.The very reasons they start on the Yoga course is their overweight problem.

    The very fact Yoga has survived such slandering over the centuries is sufficient defence and proof of the amazing results it can give.

    (Courtesy HATHA YOGA FOR ALL by Rajeshwari Raman)


    MEDITATIVE POSES

    These poses are so designed by the ancient sages who discovered them,that enable one to sit in the same pose for hours together at a stretch steadily and without jerks.This steady posture enables one to attain one-pointedness of mind.

    Padmasana is the famous lotus-pose commonly known as the Buddha pose.Siddhasana is another pose generally used for meditation.

    Practice each pose starting with a few seconds in the beginning and gradually increase the period to 15 minutes an more.

    Padmasana (lotus pose)

    This is the best pose for meditation and japa.The sole of the two feet upturned and resting on the thighs resemble the petals of lotus and hence,the name.

    (1) Spread a blanket or carpet on the floor. If available , a deer skin can also be used and is always highly recommended if i for dhyana or japa.
    (2) Sit erect on it with the two legs out stretched.
    (3) Take hold of the right foot and bending it at the knee,place it high on the thigh,the sole upturned.
    (4) Now, catch the left foot and place it symmetrically across the right ankle so that the foot rests on the right thigh.
    (5) Adjust the feet high up against the thigh so that the upturned heels are as near the abdomen as possible.
    (6) Place the palms one on top of the other over the upturned soles.
    (7) Make sure the head,the neck and the trunk are in one straight line and the back is straight.
    (8) Also make sure both the thighs and knees are pressed against the floor.You will find in the beginning one of the thighs slightly off the ground.Slowly and carefully press the thigh against the ground and retain the pose for a few seconds.

    Benefits : Padmasana is an excellent posture for all meditative and pranayamic practices.It loosens the joint in the lower parts of the body and removes rheumatism.It tones up the three humours (wind,phlegm and bile)in the system harmonising their functions.It strengthens the nerve and muscles of the legs and thighs.

    If you are used to eating on the floor as we do in India,Padmasana will be easy to assume.Otherwise,do not force yourself as this can injure you. By gradual practice,train the legs to assume the pose. However,three months should be enough even for one with very stiff legs to assume Padmasana properly.

    Siddhasana (Pose of the Adept)

    Siddha means an adept. Siddhasana is the pose of an adept.

    (1) Sit erect on the carpet with the legs outstretched as in the previous pose.
    (2) Take hold of the left foot,behind it at the keen and place the heel such that it presses against the anal aperture.
    (3) Next,bending the right foot also at the keen,place the right heel against the root of the reproductive organ taking care to see no pressure is felt on the delicate organs.
    (4) Place the hands with the palms one on top of the other on the feet as in Padmasana.
    (5) Make sure the head,neck and trunk are in one straight line.

    Benefits : Siddhasana is also one of the best postures for meditation and concentration.It is supposed to help one get established in Brahmacharya or celibacy.

    Siddhasana is easier to assume than Padmasana.Novices can Practice this first before attempting Padmasana particularly if they are not used to squatting on the floor.


    ASANAS

    The asanas are poses mainly for health and strength.There are innumerable asanas, but not all of them are really necessary, I shall deal with only such asanas as are useful in curing ailments and maintaining good health.

    The following points are important while practising Yoga:
    (1) Always do asanas in a well-lit, clean and ventilated room.If you are one of those lucky few who can di it in the open in the privacy of your compound or terrace, so much the better.As far as possible, close the door of your room so that you are left undisturbed by people walking in and out of it.
    (2) Wear minimum clothing, preferably cotton so that it dose not interfere with breathing and perspiration.Discard all tightfitting under-garments like corsets, belts and brassiers. Remove all footwear.
    (3) Do the asanas on a blanket folded twice spread over a carper.Use a bed-sheet over the blanket so that the woolen fibers do not stick to your lips or nose when you have to do the asanas that require you to lie on your stomach.It should not be too soft nor too hard.
    (4) Tie your hair simply.Remove all pins and broaches and if you wear a bun , make sure it dose not protrude unduly as to come in the way of your lying flat on the carpet.
    (5) Always perform asanas early in the morning.If this is possible,the next best time would be evening around dusk.
    (6) Never do asanas on a full stomach immediately after a meal.

    Bhujangasana (Snake pose)

    The asana derives its name because it resembles a snake with its hood raised.The head and chest raised represent the hood while the rest of the body lying flat,the body of the snake.

    1. Lie down on the carpet on your stomach,face down.
    2. Relax all your muscles.
    3. Place the palms of the hand on the floor in line with the sholders, each plam facing down and about 1 inch away from the tip of the shoulder.
    4. Keep your feet together with the toes touching the ground.
    5. Now slowly raise the head off the ground and take it up gradually so that the spine curves beautifully backwards.Do not exert force or do it suddenly.Each movement should be slow,continuous and without jerks.
    6. Raise the spine little by little so that each vertebrate is gradually loosened.
    7. Keep the body from the naval downwards touching the ground.
    8. Retain the pose for a few seconds.
    9. Gradually bring down the back to the original position of lying flat on your stomach.
    10. Repeat the asana 6 times.
    Once you have learnt the procedure of pose step-by-step,practice doing it with breathing.

    Breathing : (a) Exhale completely when lying flat.
    (b) Inhale slowly as you gradually raise the head and spine to form the hood.
    (c) Retain the breath so long as you remain in the pose.
    (d) Exhale slowly as you come down to your original position.

    Benefits : Bhujangasana is one of the best asanas for all spinal and back-ache problems.The health and youth of a person depend upon the elasticity and suppleness of his back-bone.Most of us have noticed how as old age sets in,the back begins to stiffen.Bhujangasana tones up the entire spinal column pulling at the same time, the abdominal muscles.The pressure on these muscles gives relief from constipation.This asana is of particular help in toning up sluggish uterine muscles and overies.It is a powerful antidote against wet-dreams and leucorrhoea.It develops the chest and firms the bust.

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