The Gist of Yojana: September 2015

The Gist of Yojana: September 2015

Yoga: Right Path to Health and Wellnes

Yoga is a spiritual discipline based on an extremely subtle science, which focuses on bringing harmony between mind and body. It is an art and science of healthy living. The holistic approach of Yoga is well established and it brings harmony in all walks of life and thus, known for disease prevention, health promotion and management of many lifestyle -related disorders. The term ‘Yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘Yuj’, meaning ‘to join’ or ‘to yoke’ or ‘to unite’. As per Yogic scriptures, the practice of Yoga leads to the union of individual consciousness with that of the Universal Consciousness, indicating a perfect harmony between the mind and body, man and nature. The aim of yoga is self-realization, to overcome all kinds of sufferings leading to ‘the state of liberation’ (Moksha) or ‘freedom’(Kaivalya). Living with freedom in all walks oflife, health and harmony are the main objectives of yoga practice.

The number of seals and fossil remains of Indus Saraswati Valley civilization with yogic motives and figures performing Yoga Sadhana suggest the presence of yoga in ancient India. The phallic symbols, seals of idols of mother Goddess are suggestive of Tantra Yoga. Presence of yoga is available in folk traditions, Indus Saraswati valley civilization, Vedic and Upanishadic heritage, Buddhist and Jain traditions, Darsh anas, epics of Mahabharat including Bhagavadgeeta and Ramayana, theistic traditions of Shaivas, Vaishnavas, and Tantric traditions. Though yoga was being practiced in the pre-Vedic period, the great Sage Maharshi Patanjali systematized and codified the then existing practices of Yoga, its meaning and its related knowledge through his Yoga Sutras. After Patanjali, many Sages and Yoga Masters contributed greatly for the preservation and development of the field through their well documented practices and literature.

The widely practiced Yoga Sadhanas (Practices) are: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana (Meditation), Samadhi /Samyama, Bandhas & Mudras, Shat-karmas, Yukta-ahara, Yukta karma, Mantra japa, etc.

Yamas are restraints and Niyamas are observances. These are considered to be pre-requisites for the Yoga Sadhanas (practices). Asanas, capable of bringing about stability of body and - mind , consists in adopting various body (psycho-physical) patterns, giving ability to maintain a body position (a stable awareness of one’s structural existence) for a considerable length and period of time as well. Asanas are widely practiced Yogic practices for healthy living.

Pranayama consists of developing awareness of one’s breathing followed by willful regulation of respiration as the functional or vital basis of one’s existence. It helps in developing· awareness of one’s mind and helps . to establish control over the mind. In the initial stages, this is done by developing awareness of the ‘flow of in-breath and out-breath’ (svasa-prasvasa) through nostrils, mouth and other body openings, its internal and external pathways and destinations. Later, this phenomenan is modified, through regulated, controlled and monitored inhalation (svasa) leading to the awareness of the body space/s getting filled (puraka), the space/s remaning in a filled state (kumbhaka) and it’s getting emptied (rechaka) during regulated, controlled and monitored exhalation (prasvasa). Pratyhara indicates dissociation of one’s consciousness (withdrawal) from the sense organs which help one .to remain connected with the external objects. Dharana indicates broad based field of attetion (inside the body and mind) which is usually understood as concentration. Dhyana (Meditation) is contemplation (focussed attention inside the body and mind) and Samadhi - integration.

Bandhas and Mudras are practices associated with pranayama. They are viewed as (the) higher Yogic practices mainly consisting on adopting certain body (psycho-physical) patterns along with (as well as) control over respiration. This further facilitates control over mind and paves the way for higher yogic attainment. Shat-karmas are de-toxification procedures, help to remove the toxins acumalated in the body and are clinical in nature.
Yuktahara (Right Food and other inputs) advocates appropriate food and food habits for healthy living. However, practice of Dhyana (Meditation) helping in self-realization leading to transcendence is considered as the esssence of Yoga Sadhana. However, ‘a judicious combination of practice of asana, pranayama and dhyana daily, keep individuals healthy and disease free.

Using Yogic principles and practices for healing is called “Yoga Therapy”. Use of Yoga practices for therapeutic purposes is a ‘by-product’ of Yoga. Yogic Practices are mind centric and if we examine different references of Yoga, e.g. Upanishads, Gita, Yoga Sutra, classical Hatha Yoga texts or any other yogic texts, it is clear that Yoga is a discipline aimed for freedom of mind and its different faculties. The Mind, which is an instrument of perception, is used to ‘transcend’ itself to give the perceiver clarity about its position. Though, there is no reference of yogic tools available directly dealing with illness in the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, the word “Vyadhi” which means illness is given as one of the “antardya-s” (obstacles) (Chapter 1 Sutra 30). There are of course, direct references available to show how Kriyas, Asanas, Pranayamas and Mudras can be used to cure illnesses in Hatha Yoga Texts such as Hatha-yoga pradipika, GherandaSamhita, Yoga Yajnavalkya Samhita, Yoga Rahasya, etc. It is over the years, Yogdcdrya-s have developed the systems of Yoga for therapy purposes. They are passed on to their disciple and practiced as ‘Traditions of Yoga Therapy’.

The Yoga Therapy: Doctrines and Concepts

  • Doctrine of “Chitta-vrittinirodha”, “Kriyayoga” and “Astanga” as found in Patanjal’s Yoga Sutras.
  • Doctrine of “Panch ako sh a” (five sheathslbodies) as found in Upanishads.
  • Doctrine of various kinds of “Shuddhi” found in Patanjali Yoga Sutra and Hathayoga.
  • Doctrine of opening blocked channels of vayus and prana (nadishuddhi), opening of lotuses and chakras, pranayamas, mudras and dristis as found in Hathayoga and Kundalini Yoga.
  • Working with the mind on the lines of Patanjali Yoga Sutra, Mantra Yoga and Hathayoga.
  • Working on the lines of “Karm a-Jn ana-Bhakti” from Bhagawadgita.
  • Certain aspects of Tantra Yoga also get integrated in various Yoga practices.

Yoga therapy is being practiced now as an alternative healthcare practice in many parts of the world. The number of Yoga practitioners continues to rise tremendously. Of the many benefits ascribed to Yoga practice, blood pressure control is among the most studied. Yoga therapy has also been found to improve indices of risk in adults with type 2 diabetes, including glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, lipid profiles, anthropometric characteristics and blood pressure. It also leads to a reduction in oxidative damage; improve coagulation profiles and pulmonary function, and decreases sympathetic activation in adults with diabetes and related chronic disorders. Yoga may also be useful in reducing medication requirements in patients with diabetes and could help prevent and manage cardiovascular complications in this population.

How Yoga Works:

The following are just a few of the mechanisms through which Yoga works as an integrated mind-body medicine:

1. Cleanses the accumulated toxins through various shuddikriyas and generates a sense of relaxed lightness through Yogic sukshmavyayama (simple micro movements for all joints and ligaments of body ).
2. Adoption of a Yogic lifestyle with proper nourishing diet, creates positive antioxidant enhancement thus neutralizing free radicals while enabling a rejuvenative storehouse of nutrients packed with life energy to work on anabolic, reparative and healing processes.
3. Improves control over autonomic respiratory mechanisms through breathing patterns that generate energy and enhance emotional stability. The mind and emotions are related to our breathing pattern and rate and hence the slowing down of the breathing process influences autonomic functioning, metabolic processes as well as emotional responeses.
4. Integrates body movements with the breath creates psychosomatic harmony. In Yoga, the physical body is related to annamayakosha (our anatomical existence) and the mind to manomayakosha (our psychological existence).
5. Relaxes the body-emotion-mind complex through physical and mental techniques that enhance our pain threshold and coping ability in responding to external and internal stressors. This enhances the quality of life as seen in so many terminal cases where other therapies are not able to offer any solace.
6. Yoga works towards restoration of normalcy in all systems of the human body with special emphasis on the psycho-neuro-immuno-endocrine axis. In addition to its preventive and restorative capabilities, Yoga also aims at promoting positive health that will help us to tide over health challenges that occur during our lifetime.

Yoga and Ayurveda are inseparable sisters. Both originate as part of a great system of Vedic knowledge. Both Yoga and Ayurveda are based upon the principles of trigunas (sattva, rajas and tam as) and the panchamahabuthas (earth, air, fire, water, space). Yoga and Ayurveda also encompass an understanding of how the body works (Dosha-Dhatu- Mala/humor-tissue-waste material theory) and the effect that food and medicines have on the body (Rasa- Veerya- Vipaka/taste-energy-post digestive effect concept). Yoga and Ayurveda are complimentary to each other and holistic in nature. The two have a common understanding of health of the body being dependent on the health and balance of the mind.

At present global healthcare is dominated by modern medicine. Cost of such medicine is going beyond the reach of poor and middle class people. On the other hand, communities need safe, effective, affordable and accessible healthcare. The holistic wisdom of Yoga and other ancient health systems offer the necessary wisdom, experience and capabilities that are crucial for such transformational change. The increasing use of alternative medicine not only in developing nations but also in industrialized and presumable advanced Western nations presents itself as something of an enigma. As a social phenomenon, Yoga is not well understood as a therapy or indeed much researched in terms of modern medicine. It is curious that its growth is occurring in countries where Western science and scientific method generally has accepted as the major foundations for healthcare, and “evidence-based” practice is the dominant paradigm. As medicine experiences an explosion in its knowledge base, genomic medicine opens a whole new approach to medical care.

There seems to be an insatiable desire for ancient philosophies and approaches to medical care by the general public. One reason for the popularity of complementary and traditional medicine is the spiraling cost of modern allopathic medical care and associated adverse effects. New technologies have been developed at a record pace, producing many medical, surgical and diagnostic innovations, most of which are unquestionable improvements but are also very expensive that have placed them out of reach of a large segment of the’ population. One consequence appears to be the creation of a strong public desire for a wide range of complementary modalities to prevent and treat the full gamut of human illness, particularly non-communicable diseases. Yoga is proving to be the most desirable complimentary and traditional system of health care in the present scenario.

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