One of the six systems of ancient Indian or vedic philosophy, yoga is considered one of the foremost practices for our overall holistic development. Yoga combines spiritual growth with specific benefits for the mind, body and consciousness.
There are broadly five popular types of Yoga each with different but overlapping goals. Yoga of Wisdom deals with the intelligent and spiritual quotients. Yoga of devotion focuses on the Emotional and spiritual. Yoga of Action emphasizes stress-free and efficient work cultures. Hatha Yoga concentrates on postures and breathing exercises. Astanga yoga is the most comprehensive, holistic and balanced form of yoga and works on all areas of the mind, body and spirit.
Yoga ‘ Elements ’ are, in essence, eight steps to reach the ultimate goal of a higher consciousness or ‘ transcendence’. The first two steps advocate ten ‘ Universal Qualities ‘ or modes of behavior that are common to many great religions such as non-violence, truthfulness, restraint, study, cleanliness and on. The next rung is yoga postures or Asanas. This is the step most people are familiar with but they are not an end in themselves – their true purpose is to help people reach the next rungs through better health. The next step is yogic Breathing Exercises that bring fresh energy and vitality to the body enabling regulatory influence on the nervous system. ‘ Interiorization ’ comes next and are breathing exercises that enable withdrawal from sensory experiences so concentration can become pin-sharp. Success at this level leads to ‘ Focus ’ where the mind can fall into deep concentration with ease for short periods of time. The penultimate ‘ Meditation ’ rung is a strategic step in which the mind is able to focus for long periods of time. The final step is Higher Consciousness or Yogic Trance which leads to transcendence of ‘ self ’.
From beginning to end these disciplines combine and converge to bring multiple health benefits – physical, mental and spiritual. Improvements will be found in mental relaxation and de-stressing, in concentration and focus, in functioning of the immune system, in metabolism, in the heart and lungs and in lightness and energy.
• Do not see yoga, as many Westerners do, as simply a series of awkward poses – take a broader view of the philosophy that underpins it. Being able to get your leg behind your ear is nothing more than a party trick if you disregard the spiritual and moral dimension or remain profoundly stressed at work.
• Do not be put off by concerns you can’t do the moves. Good yogis and instructors will only work within your body’s comfort zone of flexibility and posture. They know everybody is different.
• Check out your local health center for yoga classes or inquire around,
• If you find yourself in a class where many can do impossible positions don’t try and copy them unless you are blessed with natural suppleness in the first place, otherwise you could do yourself injury.
• You cannot by definition rush Yoga. It’s a long-term and steady commitment. Properly followed it is a life-style choice.