What is Yoga

Yoga is an ancient art based on a harmonizing system of development for the body, mind and spirit. It is a practical aid, not a religion. The continued practice of yoga will lead one to a sense of peace and well being and also a feeling of being in harmony with one's environment.

The word' yoga 'comes from the Sanskrit root "yuj", which means "to join" or "to yoke". Yoga is one of the six systems of the Indian philosophy. The classical form of yoga, based on the text attributed to Patanjali, became known in the middle ages as Raja yoga or" Royal yoga". Other forms of yoga are also developed, which might be followed together with, or independently of, the classical yoga. Among these, the practices of Hatha yoga have become famous throughout the world.

THE CONCEPT OF YOGA

Yoga is an ancient discipline. It is recognized as one of the most important and valuable gifts. The modern era, with the development of science and technology provides man more comforts for his basic necessities. But even among these comforts, man faces a lot of problems which cannot be solved easily. Today the world is looking for solutions to solve the menacing problems of unhappiness, restlessness, emotional imbalance, hyper activity, tension, stress etc.

Now the time has come to think of a change in attitude and take a new dimension to solve these problems. There is the importance of yoga and the spiritual lore. Yoga, the gift of our Rishi culture, is a science and art of pure lifestyle. Yoga offers man a conscious process to solve his problems. Yoga helps him to evoke his hidden potentialities in a systematic and scientific way so that he develops to a fuller individual. All his faculties- physical, mental, intellectual and emotional develop in a harmonious and integrated fashion to meet the all round challenges of this modern technological era with its hectic speed. The specialty of the yogic processes is that the faculties get sharpened in tune with the spiritual progress of man.

AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF YOGA

YOGA improves posture, increases the intake of oxygen, and enhances the functioning of the respiratory, digestive, endocrine, reproductive and excretory systems. Its effects on the emotions are equally beneficial by calming the mind, attuning us to the environment and diminishing insomnia caused by mental restlessness. Yoga is highly recommended for people in competitive, stressful working environments, for those who suffer from headaches, back and shoulder aches , allergies, and asthma. Yoga also cures behavioral disorders, nervous breakdown and manic depression. The regular practice of yoga helps us to accept whatever physical or mental conditions we might be suffering from by increasing our immediate sense of well-being, concentration, and calmness. Much healing can be done, but it t needs consistent practice.

We all have the capacity to self-destruct, particularly if things go wrong. The yogic mentality is that, life is a tremendous gift and we have to take responsibility for it. Yoga gives you the capacity to face up the challenges of life. Similarly, when you respect your body, you tend to do things that will enhance its vitality. Part of yoga practice is deep breathing, which helps to make the body more alkaline, as the acid-alkaline ratio is crucial to good health. There should be 80 per cent alkaline and 20 percent acid. Over acidity can be harmful for bones and tissues, leading to fatigue, dulled mentality, headaches, depression and arthritis. Refined carbohydrates, animal proteins, coffee and alcohol, as well as stress and pollution are all the causes for acid formation. Yoga works on psychological level too. In a yoga position, one should concentrate on a total awareness of our energy and how it flows. One should learn how body and mind works together. Almost all exercises can be beneficial, depending on the intent and body condition. Practice of yoga ultimately leads towards long-term health and well-being.

YOGA FOR EVERY ONE

Industrial revolution initiated the degeneration of the health of man. New inventions that proved beneficial and poised to give immediate benefit have invaded human life. Technology has tried to overcome nature's limitations. As we experience today, it has not and could not change the nature totally to our advantage. A feet achieved in one field has worsely effected some other area. Take for e.g. Fluoro carbon commonly used in refrigerators and air conditioners have created holes in the ozone. Research and development will not be stopped. Change is the way of life. But whether the new inventions are good is something that we are unable to conclude immediately. At the passage of time, one invention is proved wrong or some finer one takes its place. Now- a- days people want to make and use materials that are not harmful to the environment. Unwittingly individual's benefits are indirectly affecting the society. Like this, in most of the spheres of life we are damaging the environment knowingly or unknowingly.

Money has become the most important aspect in our life. Lifetime is being spent on earning, nurturing and accumulating it. The cyclic chain in earning makes him keep going after the money and forget the rest. The pursuit for money and money only is too dangerous for him, and in turn to society. Life is not just money alone; there is something beyond that. Awakening of mankind within you on why he is born will make him realize that there is something beyond making money in life. Most of our activities are centered on money.

The most important stress is for time. Compared to those days when people worked during daytime after sunrise, now we are working round the clock. Those days people worked in sunlight and on the field. Now we are working in closed air conditioned environment. Normal activities of a person take more than 16 hours. A routine life style starts with the morning chores, and then the activities at the work place. The time taken for travelling is too much. Science has helped him to travels longer distances in a shorter time. People living in metropolitan cities travel an average of 150 to 300 kilometers every week to their workplace. Unless a person reduces the sleep time or the time taken for leisure, he cannot do the exercises or other practices to remain healthy.

Inventions and innovations have made people to believe that happiness can be found in material things. The happiness derived from material things make people long for still better and enjoyable things. People spend their time running after happiness. As a result of this mad rush, they lose health and their path in life. The air is polluted, ozone is damaged, rain comes when we do not want it and it does not rain when required and the climate is worse; we are facing extreme hot and cold conditions. Food and water are contaminated with chemical residues. Automobiles and factories have spoiled the air and increased the noise pollution. The health of people is being eroded, without their knowledge about it.

Scientific and technological developments replaced man with machines in day to day life. Against all these obstacles, if mankind should come to the right path, their mind and body should be healthy. To keep a person fit and healthy in the present day's, yoga can play the most important role. Yoga is the best form of exercise to stimulate the whole of body. It can be practiced in a room with good ventilation. Perfect practice relaxes the body and mind. After a good practice of yoga, the mind becomes vibrant. Yoga relieves the stress of the present days more effectively and successfully and even for many ailments yoga is advocated. Today, the focus is more on practical benefits of yoga. There is a definite difference between yoga and a normal stretching exercise. Traditional exercises such as the doing a number of sit ups or pushups are oriented towards certain goals. Yoga on the other hand, is a process. It teaches the concept of focusing your awareness while performing specific postures.

The benefits of yoga are numerous including improved physical fitness, stress control, general well being, mental clarity, and greater self understanding. People of all ages can do yoga, and it can also be adapted for people with disabilities or special needs. The poses enhance muscle strength, coordination, flexibility and agility, and can help a bad back feel better.

Regular practice of yoga helps to keep our body fit, control cholesterol level, reduce weight, normalize blood pressure and improve the functioning of heart. According to the National Institutes of Health, when people actively seek to reduce the stress in their lives by quieting the mind the body often works to heal itself. In this sense, yoga can be seen not only as a way to get into shape on several levels, but also as a tool for self healing. Other studies show that patients with heart problems who followed a stress reduction program that include yoga did better than patients who exercised or did nothing. Further, preliminary studies in the United States and India suggest that yoga may be helpful for specific conditions, such as asthma, anxiety stress and others.

As for athletes, yoga can be a powerful enhancement in regular training exercise. Adding yoga in a routine training program helps to develop strength , flexibility, a range of motions ,concentration, cardiovascular health, and the shedding of stress, tension and tightness. The most significant benefit of adding yoga to a training program is its explicit and immediate results. Yoga allows an athlete to train himself harder and at a higher level because the range of motion is greater and the fear of injury is lessened.

YOGA IN NEW MILLENNIUM

Yoga will be the most advisable and easy way to keep good health of a person in the modern times where time, stress and bad environment have made life miserable.

To understand the importance and necessity of yoga in the present circumstances, we should take into consideration the socio- economic condition of people in the olden days. Way back in olden days people's daily activities were mostly physical, requiring hard labor. Except for the few who were traders, physicians and administrators, others were engaged in activities that required hard labor. The daily activities of people started at sunrise and ended by sun set. Life was harmonious, peaceful, with no place for stress and anguish. Except the kings who fought for kingdom, most people lived in peace and the life went at a normal and peaceful pace. People believed in God and Dharma. The system of work was without competition. There was security in life. People lived together, i e, family members lived under one roof. Members shared the work among them and also their income. The population of the world as a whole was limited. Availability of resources like water, food, forest, and land were abundant. People's expectation and requirements were limited to food, clothing, shelter, and land for the production of food. Hence the urge for more money to augment material wealth was negligible.

Saints and rishis living during those days guided people and helped them to lead a healthy and peaceful life. The material joys of those days were limited and hence people had nothing to long for. Moreover they were guided and advised by wise men that material benefits are short lived and eternal joy lied in peace and happiness. People's understandings were limited to their area. Their knowledge was limited, because communication depended on people. Civilization spread through travellers. To learn, students had to go in search of teacher. Written communications was not developed. Teachers handed down knowledge to the next generation. In spite of these difficulties the wealth of knowledge regarding the aspects like environment, weather, planets, food and health that we now have is the greatest contribution to the mankind by our ancestors. Now we are proving or reinventing most of that was said by them in a scientific way.