Is Yoga a Therapy or a way of Life?

Today we are all celebrating the yoga day. Why is practicing yoga important? How is it different from gymnasium or other sports activities?  As you all know we desire peace and happiness and nobody can take away that from us.  And happiness is a state of mind. The nature of the human being is shaped by mind, healthy body and environment.  According to His Holiness Sri Sri Bharati Tirtha MahaSwamiji of Sringeri Shankara Mutt, The causes of our problems are due to 3 reasons which are arrogance, greed and being unkind to others that lead to committing mistakes or wrongful actions (Ref: discourses during vijaya yatra 2012 -2013).  In order to prevent them, Yoga plays a very important role. Yoga is derived from the verbal root yuj (Yojayati or yujyate iti yogaha) that which unites thro’ the control of mind. Yogah chitta vrutti nirodhaha - Basically implying controlling of the mind.  “Mind control is gradually achieved thro’ different postures of the body.  This type of posturing is termed as yoga in modern days and is being practiced all over the world”. Says Shri J R S Sastry, noted Sanskrit teacher based in Bangalore.  According to Swami Satyananda Saraswati of Bihar School of Yoga “Yoga means union, harmony.  By practicing Yoga our being becomes in union, in harmony with itself, with the environment and nature.  The more we reach that state of union and harmony, the healthier we become.” 

In order to attain calmness of mind or in order to bring the mind to silent mode, the body needs to be conditioned says Shri Revankar, who teaches yoga therapy for eyes. “First you have to remove all the pains and problems of the body by conditioning with various asanas, breathing and food control”  Infact the concept of yoga is very well described in Astanga Yoga which contains 8 steps including Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dhyana, Dharana and Samadhi.  It may be difficult to achieve all the steps.  However if one or two of them is at least learnt and practiced, it would help in calming the mind to a greater extent which in turn regulates our actions. 

According to Bangalore Yogacharya Sundaram, some Benefits of Yoga are:

1.       Yogic system benefits the vital organs of heart and lungs directly and maintains them in supreme efficiency

2.       It inducts an effective and vigorous blood circulation and completely eliminates all impurities from the system

3.       It purifies the senses and sense organs

4.       Yoga destroys harmful bacteriological invaders and increases the anti bacteriologic power of the blood to a remarkable extent

5.       It keeps the body handsome and increases longevity

6.       It brings about emotional purification and easy control over and elimination of lust, anger, greed, delusion etc

7.       It brings peace and harmony to mind

8.       It stimulates the proper and balanced functioning of the entire nervous system

9.       It enables and gives enough endurance and vitality for carrying out more than the usual quantum of physical and mental work

10.   It enables each individual to excel in his own profession and in his own setting

Keshav kumar  of Bharata Darshana, a well known book publisher in Bangalore who has been practicing yoga for the last 7 years says “Yoga has reduced my anger by nearly 90% and ever since I started yoga it keeps me active the whole day”.  “Yoga helps in the control of involuntary muscles of the internal digestive system” says Koratagere Srinivas Rao Nataraj a devotee of Sri Aurobindo.  A significant point he stresses is what is the use of Yoga? It helps in increasing the lifespan to lead a meaningful life.  “Learning Yoga alone is not enough but channelizing the energy obtained thro’ yoga not only for oneself but also for social happiness such as rendering help to people, plants, animals and nature is very important.” He adds. 

Yoga is practiced in many forms such as Gnana Yoga thro’ learning, Bhakti Yoga by following the bhakti path, Karma Yoga by way of service.  The true yogis live in Himalayas.  We have come across yogis in the form of great saints like His Holiness Sri Sri Chandrashekhara Bharati Mahaswamiji, the 34th Shankaracharya of Sringeri Mutt, Sri Sri Sachidanada Bharati MahaSwamiji, the erstwhile pontiff of Shivaganga Mutt known for their penance or anustana  & avadhoots such as Sridhara Swami Maharaj of Varadapur ashram, and Samartha Narayana Maharaj of Harihar.    

We have seen how the term Yoga has transformed into being a physical therapeutic solution for various ailments.  Right from common cold to Tuberculosis, Yoga has immense role to play in curing diseases.  Some of the common problems that people suffer from these days are proper breathing, asthma and allergies.  In such cases Kapalbhati helps in removing the impure air from lungs and developing resistance of the nasal passage by removing its hyper sensitiveness.  “It very effective especially in cases of people who are sensitive to dust”. Says Sri Revankar.  Confirms Mr. Keshav Kumar “One of the benefits of yoga which I can never forget is proper Breathing.”  He recommends “pranayama is a must for all”.  “Pranayama and Mind have an irrevocable relationship says Sri Revankar. “Slow & systematic breathing exercise leads to calmness and mental stability.  Asanas and Surya Namaskar are the enablers” he adds.  

Some simple asanas that help our daily routine are

Matsyasana – helpful for proper Kidney functions

Nauli Kriya & Basthi – for liver and pancreas & constipation

Pavana Mukthasana – For Digestion

Kapalbhati – Lungs & Breathing

They are also helpful in reducing eyesight problems arising out of refractive errors.  “In these days of life filled with tension and pressure due to activities such as Reading, writing, television watching and computer usage, the eyes get affected with the malfunctioning of Recti & Oblique muscles says Sri. Revankar.  Irish muscles are those which expand when you see a high beam light (especially on highways) regulating the light rays into the eyes and contract while in darkness letting you to get a grasp of the surrounding.  The functioning of these muscles improves with eye exercises. “Blood Circulation to eyes is very important for its proper functioning.  Shashankasana and all asanas where the heart is up and head is down helps in circulation recommends Sri Revankar.

Thus yoga is practiced in many forms to attain good health which in turn leads us to happiness and peace of mind.  One of the pioneers of Yoga is late Bangalore Yogacharya Sundaram of Sri Sundara Yogasala, a healing center started by him with the application of yogic methods of Indian seers to relieve the ailments of the body and mind. Presently this practice is being carried over by one of his disciples thro’ Girinath Yoga Centre based out of Coimbatore.  

Rastrotthana yogic sciences & Research Institute was established in 1972 with the intention of personality and Nation building thro’ yoga.  “We are the first yoga institute established in Bengaluru with the intention of yoga for social unity and peace” says Nagendra Kamath, Director of the Institute.  There are two different streams of learning yoga for juniors and seniors which focus on Pranayama, Asana, Yoganidra, Trataka and Dhyana.  “Besides this we offer yogic therapy for illness related to diabetes and blood pressure.” he adds. The southern branch of Bihar School of Yoga presently offers various short term and long duration courses.  “We are presently offering free yoga classes for children and senior citizens” confirms one of the trustees of the Bangalore Branch.  Sri Revankar recommends that “The PT class in schools and colleges should be converted into Yoga classes.  It helps students in their attention in class room, concentration and grasping which will in turn help in performing better in Exams”.  He further feels that there is plenty of scope for improvement in delivery of yoga therapy results for which the Yoga trainers need to be trained better. Similarly there are many more great individual and institutional stalwarts who both practice and teach yoga.  If yoga can uplift us from all ailments and remove ills from society why not practice it? After all peace of mind is not a commodity!

 

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