Yoga in daily life for the 21st century

By Chiara Julia Pinto, Muscat

YOGA IN DAILY LIFE FOR 21st CENTURY

Yoga- a practice derived from the ancient civilizations of India,is considered a godly gift to mankind and a journey of self-discovery or reinvention. It is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Yuj’ meaning to unite the individual self with the universe.This form of exercise has been recommended as a muscle strengthening and balance activity by national and global physical activity guidelines. Additionally, WHO1recognizes yoga as a traditional therapeutic system that offers disease prevention and stress management benefits.People of all ages regardless of socio – economic background can reap its benefits that are physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

In today’s world, people are giftedwith advances in science and technology, yet many suffer from physical and mental diseases like insomnia, stress and depression. Lack of exercise, unhealthy food habits and a hectic lifestyle are a contributing factor to this. The aim of Yoga is to build a world that is disease free and happy. It helps balance our wellbeing and experience eternal bliss.‘Yujyateanenaitiyogah’ – this phrase means that aman who is bound by false materialistic ego can achieve higher levels of consciousness when he identifies himself with the universe. We must develop our consciousness to achieve wellbeing and happiness. Yogic philosophy identifies 5 types of wellbeing such as physical, emotional, mental, existential and spiritual. In this way, yoga helps a person develop a holistic awareness including purpose of life and the relationship to God. Meditation is an additional method practiced simultaneously with Yoga. This practice has been scientifically proven to influence the person and the people around him with positive vibrations and energy. For centuries, holy men in India have been using meditation to explore nature and the universe. They were able to discover the laws of the universe and energy that have been demonstrated in the ancient book of Vedas. With practice and consistency, meditation can help people increase their focus and self-discipline as well as maintain healthy blood pressure.

Here are some of common yoga practices that can be helpful in our daily lives for better health and mindfulness.

Pranayama

‘Prana’ is the Sanskrit word for vital energy.The art of controlling your breath is referred to Pranayama. Our breath has three phases including inhalation, exhalation and pause in breathing.

Breathing is more essential than food for the body. Understanding the right breathing technique can create a huge impact to a person’s thoughts and actions.A person should practice pranayama by exhaling twice the rate of the inhalation. Further, by consciously controlling the mind, the breath gradually becomes rhythmic. In today’s modern lifestyle, people often suffer from shortness of breath or unintentional holding of breath. It is believed that when the breath starts to wander, so does the mind. Regular and deep breathing is an advantage for our health and has a calming effect on the body and mind. Alternatively, rapid breathing has a negative influence and can create nervousness, fatigue and anxiety.

Pranayama helps a person be consciously aware of his breathing. This can help lessen the rate of breaths per minute. Further it also relaxes the nervous system and reduces the ‘wear and tear’ of internal organs. Moreover, this practice also activates certain parts of the brain that controls the responsive and reflective regions thus resulting in an increased feeling of calmness, conscious behavior and mental flexibility towards life’s challenges.

During yogic exercises, breathing should be practiced slowly and without tension. Breath should be silent and through the nose. A common mistake is drawing the abdomen in as the chest expands but rather should be expanded. Through regular practice and focus, you can lengthen your breath and the full effects of yoga will be felt.Kumbhaka or breath retention is another important part of Pranayama. This practice helps us control our respiratory process as more emphasis is given to the slow movement of breath.Hence, the lungs are strengthened and the nervous system is balanced. Additionally, the best position to sit during pranayama is sukhasana (cross legged), vajrasana (sitting on the heels), ardhapadmasana(half lotus) and Padmasana (Lotus). It is important to note that the upper body should be straight and erect, head, neck and back are in alignment, shoulder and abdominal muscles are relaxed and eyes remain closed.Pranayamaactivates the flow of prana2 in the nadis3bypurifying, regulating and activating them, thereby inducing physical and mental stability.

Mudras

The Sanskrit word ‘mudra’refers to gesture or attitude. Mudras can be described as psychic, emotional, devotional and aesthetic gestures. We can form mudras with our fingers that represent the five elements present in nature. They are Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Space. Each formation stimulates a certain area of the brain depending on the principles the fingers represent and channels an energy flow during meditation. For example, in chin mudra, the tips of the index and thumb fingers are brought together which represent air and fire elements respectively.  This mudra helps in improving concentration and increasing creativity. Constant practice of these mudras form the key to activating electromagneticwaves and rectifying imbalances in the body.

There are no rigid rules or regulations while performing mudras and can be performed at any time of the day. It is more beneficial to use the fingers of both hands and touching the tips of the fingers with very less pressure.

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Asanas

‘Asanas’ is the Sanskrit word for physical posture. In general terms, these postures are held in a relaxed and comfortable manner for a long period of time. Asanas have historically been derived from nature and have a relaxing effect on the body and mind. For example, a cobra stretches for the release of aggression and emotion (Bhujangasasna) and the hare relaxes (shashankasana). Further, asanas are beneficial for muscle strength, joints, cardiovascular system, nervous and lymphatic system.

Asanas are performed in coordination with the breath. Movements that expand the chest and abdominal cavity are always connected with inhalation and vice versa. These movements can typically be held for 10 counts for the effects to be felt.

Conclusion

With one or the combination of these practices, yogabecomes harmonious, the breath is controlled, and the body’s circulation and metabolism is activated. Breathing consciously with awareness greatly enhances muscle relaxation by concentrating on tense areas of the body and relaxing those parts with exhalation. Further, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi demonstrated that collective yoga practice and meditation, at the same time can produce a spirit of unity and collective happiness.

Source: Unsplash.com

Key words

  1. WHO: World health organization
  2. Prana: Sanskrit word for Life giving force
  3. Nadis: Sanskrit word that means channel or tubes where energy travels through the body.

 

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References

Books and Academic papers:

The effect of yoga compared to active and inactive controls on physical function and health related quality of life in older adults- systematic review and meta analysis of randomized controlled trials (Sivaramakrishnan, Divya et al.,2019) link: https://ijbnpa.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12966-019-0789-2

Yoga: Past and present (AK, Pandurangi et al., 2017) link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28040996

The science of Yoga Mudras (Iyengar Rangaraja, K.,2019) link: https://books.google.com.om/books?id=mgOJAwAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=yoga+mudras&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiMpsnFvMDhAhWSGuwKHWSdDj4Q6AEIKDAA#v=onepage&q=yoga%20mudras&f=true

Grade1 Fundamentals of Yoga (Jayanthy, C.V et al., 2019)

Significance of yoga in modern life (Tessema, Abera Teshome, 2017) link: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320086473_Significance_of_yoga_in_modern_life

 

Websites:

https://www.yogaindailylife.org/system/en/(Yoga in daily life: Paramans Swami Maheshwarananda)

www.yogaindailylife.com (The significance of the asanas and Pranayams)

(https://www.yogaindailylife.org/system/en/exercise-levels/the-significance-of-the-asanas-and-pranayamas) (Significance of Asanas and Pranayamas)

https://www.yogaindailylife.org/system/en/exercise-levels/the-full-yoga-breath (The full Yoga breath)

http://www.searo.who.int/mediacentre/features/2015/international-day-of-yoga/en/( First international day of Yoga, Dr Poonam Ketrapal Singh)

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/yoga-practice_n_4762303( Yogic Breathing: The physiology of pranayama Wilson, Angela, 2014)