In Hinduism, God is about experience, not just belief. Yoga is a means through which one can experience God. Yoga is a very ancient system that originated in India. Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word ‘Yuj’, meaning to join together, i.e. become one with God. Ultimately, Yoga is a system of meditation devised by Rushi’s many thousands of years ago, but based on the teachings of the Puranas, Upanishads and Vedas with the aim of finding God. Yogic traditions go back to The Bhagavad Gita, Vedic sages such as Yajnavalkya and Swaminarayan Bhagwan himself, who learnt Yoga whilst on Pilgrimage (van vichran). There are many levels and stages of Yoga and it is an exact science like mathematics or physics, but one of the most complex. Many of you may have heard the word ‘SAMADHI’, which is like achieving the ‘black-belt’ in Yoga, i.e. the highest Yoga level. When you are in SAMADHI it is believed that your heart rate falls and your body almost switches off, i.e. you may appear externally to be ‘dead like’, but your mind is in full focus of Maharaj and his abode.
Benefits of Yoga
Yoga is becoming increasingly popular as more are realizing that Yoga not only helps physically, but also emotionally and mentally. When stress, anxiety, panic and tension arises, the mind takes over, emotions rise, breathing goes out of control depleting energy levels, which all impacts the physical body too. The body has many powers, cures and abilities of concentration. The key to Yoga is to tap this hidden energy in the body.
The different Yoga positions have many therapeutic values, from stress and insomnia relief to strengthening the abdomen, hips and spine, while stimulating the kidneys, thyroid and intestines. This is because the hips, shoulders, chest and throat are primary places where emotional tension resides in our bodies. Medical research estimates that 90% of illness and disease is stress related.
Breathing exercises is a big part of practicing Yoga. This helps to relax the muscles and focus the mind. The more relaxed the mind and body, the longer one can hold a posture. Making sounds while holding a Yoga posture opens the throat chakra, and can allow tension and emotions to release from the body. Uttering ‘OM’ (a prayer to God) helps develop, and through practice, improve memory and concentration.
Before doing Yogasanas, you may need to do some warming up exercises like slow-jogging, ankle-joint movements, knee-joints movement, hip movement, arm movement, neck rotation, waist movement etc. Your eyes and eyelids should be relaxed and gaze should be soft.
In performing Yogasanas one should not over strain. Continuous practice every day is vital in perfecting postures. Asanas are best performed in the morning on an empty stomach, or at least 3 hours after the last meal. In the Bhagavad Gita it is stated that Yoga should be performed in a secluded and sacred place, on ‘Kusa-Grass’ or on the floor laid with deer-skin or soft cloth.
Whilst there are postures that are very beneficial to certain ailments, other postures can do more damage than good if care is not taken. For example:
- People suffering from hypertension, headaches and migraines should not be doing any inverted postures as this could lead to black-outs; instead these persons would greatly benefit from alternative nostril breathing and meditation.
- People suffering from low blood pressure should not be practicing forward bends with crown or face down, instead they should look forward.
- Practicing Yoga should never be competitive, especially the postures. Each person has to become aware of his/her limits and stop before they reach the point where damage can take place.
- Pregnant women must discontinue the practice of Yoga after the 3rd Month. Listen carefully to your body. If you feel discomfort, stop. You will probably need to adapt most postures to your body’s physical changes.
Women must refrain from practicing Yoga during the days of menstruation each month.
• Yogic exercises make us become active, disciplined and capable of withstanding strain
• Yoga help us become strong and healthy
• Yoga make us happy while doing Yogic exercises and also afterwards
• Deep inhaling and slow exhaling of breath (uttering ‘OM’) helps develop concentration
• Breathing exercises give strength to our lungs and also remove impurities from our bodies
• Relaxing exercises makes us fresh and fit to work
But we must always remember that the purpose of Yoga, of any kind, is the evolution of the soul. In the physical case, it involves different sitting positions to untangle the soul from the material atmosphere encircling it.