Yoga - Mind Body SoulYoga is a science as well an art of healthy living physically, mentally, morally and spiritually. Beginners of yoga may find it interesting that yoga is a systematic growth from animal level to human level and from there ultimately to the divinity.

It’s in no way limited by race, age, sex, religion, cast or creed and can be practiced by those who seek an education on better living and those who wants to have a more meaningful life.

History Of Yoga

The origins of yoga are shrouded in a mist of time – for yoga is regarded as a divine science of life, revealed to enlightened sages in Meditation. The oldest archaeological evidence of its existence is provided by a number of stone seals showing figures in yoga postures, excavated from the Indus valley and thought to date from around 3000BC. According to mythical tradition, Shiva is said to be the founder of yoga and Paravati (his wife) his first disciple. Yoga is first mentioned in the vast collection of scriptures called the Vedas, portions of which date from at least 2500 BC, but it is the Upanishads – which form the later part of the Vedas – that provide the main foundation of yoga basics.

According to the Indian mythology, Lord Vishnu incarnated as Krishna, instructs the warrior Arjuna in Yoga to help him to achieve liberation by fulfilling one’s duties in Life. In the 6th century BC, Lord Buddha’s influence brought the ideals of meditation, ethics and morality to the fore and the preparatory practices of yoga were ignored. However Indian thinkers soon realized the limitations of the view. Yogi Matsyendranath taught that before taking to the practices of meditation, the body and its elements need purifying, and this is what yoga was designed for. It helps us in living a cleaner, happier, healthier and more fulfilled life.

Meaning of Yoga
Swami Vivekananda defines Yoga as “It’s a means of compressing one’s evolution into a single life or a few months or even a few hours of one’s bodily existence”. By Yoga, Sri Aurobindo, meant a methodological effort towards self-pefection by the development of potentialities latent in the individual. Yoga is not a religion; it’s a philosophy of life based on certain psychological facts and its aim at the development of a perfect balance between the body and the mind that permits union with the divine i.e. a perfect harmony between the individual and the cosmos. Different interpretations of the word Yoga have been handed down over the centuries. One of the classic definitions of Yoga is “to be one with divine.”

Streams of Yoga
There are a large numbers of methods of Yoga catering to the needs of different persons in society. They are broadly classified into four streams. Swami Vivekananda puts them as work, Worship, Philosophy and Psychic control. Karma Yoga, the path of work, karma yoga involves doing action in a skilful way. In other words, karma yoga can be said as a way of enjoying work, doing it effortlessly. The success or failure should not be allowed to cause ripples in the mind. Bhakti Yoga, the path of worship, is a systematic method of engaging the mind in the practice of divine Love. This attitude of Love softens our emotions and tranquilizes our mind. Jnana Yoga, the path of philosophy, associated with karma yoga it is a systematic way of tutoring the mind about the realities of life by contemplation. This will strip off the garb of Avidya (ignorance) from our mind and the mind goes to its natural state of rest. Raj Yoga, the path of psychic control, is a systematic process of culturing the mind. It is based on the 8-limbed Yoga of Patanjali. Yoga is a science as well as an art of healthy living. It is no way limited by race, age, sex, religion, caste, creed and any other boundaries and can be practiced by those who seek an education.

Yoga advocates the eight-fold path, popularly known as “Ashtanga Yoga” for all-round development of human personality. These are – Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana & Samadhi.

These eight limbs are so perfectly designed that there is absolutely no scope for any addition or alteration since these are formulated on the basis of multifarious psychological understanding of human personality. The practice of Yamas – Niyamas i.e. harmlessness towards all living beings, truthfulness, honesty, celibacy, non-hoarding of worldly objects, cleanliness, contentment, austerity, control of lust, anger and infatuation, study of holy books and practice of Japa(rosary) and selfless action – all these pave way for increasing the power of concentration, mental purity and steadiness.

Hatha Yoga Pradeepika. It gives guidelines from the practical point of view for a beginner to begin Yoga, which leads the students gradually from the culture of the body towards the sight of the soul and God-realization. Hatha Yoga Pradeepika is divided into four chapters or prakaranas. The first chapter expounds Asanas, the second is on Pranayama, the third is on Mudras and Bandhas and the fourth is on Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. In between these, the author introduces shatkriyas or the six cleansing processes. As the text begins with Asanas, Svatmarama’s Yoga is called Sadanga Yoga or the six aspects of Yoga beginning with Asanas and ending in Samadhi. A set of Asanas , Mudras and Pranayamas practiced with faith, perseverance and insight rejuvenates the brain, heart, lungs, liver, pancreas, kidneys, bowels, nerves, muscles, tissues & glands of the body by ensuring oxygenated and balanced blood supply, kindles up the appetite, bestows control over seminal fluid, senses & mind and imparts increased vitality, vigor & longevity to the practitioner.

The most important benefit of yoga is physical and mental therapy. Aging is largely an artificial condition, caused mainly by autointoxication or self-poisoning. By keeping the body parts clean and well lubricated, we can significantly reduce the catabolic process of cell deterioration. Regular practice of Asanas helps to keep our body fit, controls cholesterol level, reduces weight; normalizes blood pressure and improves heart performance. Physical fitness thus achieved leads to reduction of physical stress and greater vitality. Asanas harmonize our pranic ability and mental energy flow by clearing any blockages in the subtle body; leading to mental equilibrium and calmness. They make the mind strong thus enabling our human body to suffer pain and unhappiness stoically and with fortitude. The practices of pranayama- the correct breathing technique -helps to manipulate our energies. Most of us breathe incorrectly (only thoracically not using our abdomen, thereby utilizing only half of our lung capacity). Pranayama is a technique wherein it re-educates our breathing process, helps to release tensions and develop a relaxed state of mind. It balances our nervous system reducing the need for sleep and encourage creative thinking. Further it increases the amount of oxygen to our brain, thereby improving mental clarity, alertness and physical well-being.

Yoga Nidra is a wonderful relaxation meditation, done while lying on our back in Shavasana. It relaxes the whole of our physiological /psychological system, thus completely rejuvenating the body /mind complex. A relaxed mind allows us to relate better to people and things around us, giving us a sense of well-being. A tense body/mind is the cause of most diseases. According to medical scientists, yoga therapy is successful because of the balance created in the nervous and endocrine systems which directly influences all the other systems and organs of the body. Through the practice of yoga, one develops awareness of the inter-relation between the emotional, mental and physical levels, and how a disturbance in any one of these affects the others. Gradually this awareness leads to an understanding of the more subtle areas of existence. The Ultimate goal of yoga is to expand your consciousness, to open your eyes to vast number of things around you, of which at present you are unaware.

Stress and tension are universal. They do not discriminate, as they affect people of all ages and from all walks of life. In today’s society, often we cannot prevent stressful situations; however, we can learn to manage and overcome them. One of the most significant is the role it plays in stress management and reduction. There are several yoga techniques that can be used to alleviate stress in life as well as to rejuvenate the body, mind, and spirit. Taking ten to fifteen minutes out of your schedule can prove to be extremely refreshing and helpful. This is especially beneficial to busy people who often find themselves pressed for time. Yoga’s several benefits can be seen by first examining the effects of stress on the body and mind, and then describing the breathing exercises and postures that can be utilized to overcome stress. When we are confronted with stressful situations, our mind shifts towards the situation and away from the body’s natural balanced state. Breathing becomes rapid and short, while normal breathing is overlooked. This causes a deficiency of oxygen, which is needed to maintain general health, as well as to balance our emotional and mental states. This results in muscular tension, causing increased irritability and anxiousness.

There are various breathing yoga exercises and yoga postures that can be utilized to relieve built-up tension and stress. Breathing yoga is something we all do, but practicing it correctly and consciously is entirely another matter. Practicing controlled yogic breathing, or pranayama is a very valuable technique that will lead to a better and healthier lifestyle. There are several pranayama techniques that can be utilized to relax your body and mind. These include Simple breathing Alternate nostril breathing Complete breathing. These techniques will improve oxygen intake and circulation, thereby relaxing both the mind and body. Simple breathing is a great technique to start out with because it is the base of all the other breathing techniques. In simple breathing you take the time to observe your natural breathing because this allows you to become more aware of your breath. Increased awareness of your breathing leads to your peace of mind and purifies all the breathing channels. It also allows you to be more alert and relaxed in stressful situations. Doing just one to two minutes of this simple breathing will make you more relaxed and will alleviate some of the stress you encounter in a day. Alternate nostril breathing – you close one nostril with a finger and breathe only through the other nostril and the same process should be alternated and can be utilized to attain tranquility and to have a balanced peace of mind. After practicing a couple of rounds of this, your breathing will naturally get deeper and smoother, thereby improving the quality of blood circulating to all areas of the body. Practicing postures with steady relaxed breathing can alleviate the physical effects of stress and accumulated tension as well. Some quick, but effective yoga exercises that can be practiced are neck movements and shoulder socket rotation which relax the neck and upper back. Several stretches including palm and feet, double angle, and triangle stretch can improve your circulation.

Having good circulation is extremely important because our life fluids are blood and oxygen. By encouraging a good supply of both, it revitalizes the body and allows you to be more focused and concentrate clearly. Other factors that also cause stress are suppressing emotions and worrying needlessly. Instead of suppressing your feelings, try to gain a better understanding of them, by meditating and focusing on your breath. It is also very crucial to understand that worrying about the future does not produce a favorable outcome and in fact detracts from your performance.

There are many therapies for curing diseases and one of them is Yoga, which is becoming popular all over the world. Along with yoga postures of Yog Mudras are also practiced, since the curative aspects of these are well known. These mudras are believed to direct latent potencies of each bodily and finger postures to be channeling them together along particular paths. The hand is the focus of immense power and certain gestures are recognized as having almost magical qualities. Ritual gestures by hands are found in all cultures, they too are methods of circulating and generating energy through meridians.

They are potent Yantras, consciously created forms that act to concentrate forces in specific ways. The inexpressible can at times be transmitted quite directly through mystic gestures, which concentrate and focus energy and reach areas of consciousness outside. The human hand has been called the second brain and the visible part of mind. While taking many people gesture with hands and fingers, benedictions are bestowed by hands. Gestures, anger, appeal, supplication and commands are familiar throughout the world. Diseases are healed and strength communicated by hands. In Indian classical dances, the dancers perform various Mudras (Finger and hand postures), while dancing. They drive great strength and power through these gestures. They can perform for hours without getting tired and sometimes perform for the whole day or night. This is a very vast subject. But I am taking only Therapeutic finger Postures now, for general well being. A hand gestures not only articulates the internal forces and directs them upwards, but also receives power from the invisible world. It is a channel of communication between the tow worlds. We are healthy, when the above elements are in balance in our body. However, if there is an imbalance of any elements, we suffer corresponding ailments.

These are curable through the practice of Yog Mudras. These mudras can be practiced till the disease is cured. Some mudras like Gyan, Pran and Prithvi mudras can be practiced even by a healthy person to keep one-self free from ailment. Each requisite mudra should be practiced for at least 30 to 45 minutes at a stretch twice a day. However, in the beginning , one can not do at a stretch, starting with a 5/10 minutes duration will also help. In these few lines we have listed and drawn some important Mudras:

  1. Gyan or Mudras (Meditation) – to put the tips of the index finger and thumb together. This is useful in ailments connected with brain, sleeplessness, loss of memory and lack or concentration. It also leads to attaining spiritual uplift. Even a healthy person this mudra. Many idols and statures in India have displayed this mudra.

  2. Prithvi Mudra (Earth Mudra) – This consists in putting the tips of thumb and ring finger together. This helps in curing weakness of the body and mind. It gives peace of mind and injects chetana (Lifetrones-forces) in the body. It gives new life to an ailing person further strengthens healthy persons.

  3. Vayu Mudra (Air Mudra) – To press the index finger on the base of thumb (mount of venus) and keep the thumb on the finger. That helps in curing Rheumatism, Arthiritis, gout, Paralysis, Parkinson’s diseases and blood circulatory defects. It gives results if practiced alongwith Pran Mudra. Even while under medical treatment, this mudras can be practiced for quicker relief.

  4. Shunya Mudra (Zero or Sky Mudra)- This is similar to Vayu mudra, but consists by putting middle finger on the base of thumb pressing the thumb on. This helps in curing diseases connected with the ears i.e. earache, deafness, puss in the ear and ear infection. This should be practiced for atleast for 45 minutes at a stretch for optimum results.

  5. Varun Mudra (Water Mudra)- Put the tips of little finger and the thumb together. This helps in curing diseases connected with shortage or excess of water, like blood impurities, skin diseases, dry skin problems etc. This mudra brings Lustre to the skin and makes it smooth. It helps in (to some extent Acne and Pimples.

  6. Hriday mudraa (Heart Mudra) – Put the index finger between the point on the edge of the thumb and index finger, keeping the tips of middle and ring fingers on the tips of thumb. This helps in Heart problems, heart palpitation. Angina pain, blockage of Arteries and valves etc. also in breathing and asthama problems.

  7. Pran Mudra (Life mudra) – Touch the tips of little and ring finger on the tips of thumb, keeping the other two fingers straight. This helps in curing physical and mental weakness, eye infection and shortage of life forces in the body. This mudra brings luster to the eyes, face and body.

  8. Ling Mudra (Regeneration-mudra) – To interlock the finger of both hands together, keeping the left thumb up (encircled by right thumb and index finger i.e. thumb should be vertically straight and right thumb around it. This is a very good remedy for lung congestion, colds, fevers, phlegm in chest and lungs. This also gives resistant power against ailment, which occurs with seasonal changes, this mudra brings warmth to the body. In short this is personal generator of body.

  9. Surya Mudra (Sun Mudra)– Put the ring finger at the base of the thumb with the thumb pressing gently. This helps in reducing excess fat in body and also reduces excess cholesterol in blood.

  10. Apan Mudra (Digestion Mudra)- Put the thumb, middle finger and ring finger together touching the tips. Other fingers being straight. This cures constipation, indigestion and helps movement of bowels free.

  11. Sakat Mudra – Touch the tips of thumbs together, keeping the index fingers straight without touching each other and other fingers half bent. This helps in calming the mind and curbing anger and hypertension. These mudras are connected with Yogic Sciences and are very easy to perform. They have no side effects. These mudras can be practiced in any easy position (no particular sitting position is required). These can be practiced anywhere, any place. If a little time is spent practicing mudras, then all the ailments could be controlled leading to healthy and cheerful life.

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