The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit word ‘yuj’ which means ‘to yoke’ or to ‘unite’, common meaning includes ‘joining’ or ‘uniting’. Yoga is also defined as the union of mind, body and soul. Yoga focuses on bringing harmony between mind and body. It is an art and science of healthy living.
Maharshi Patanjali ( known as the father of yoga), the founder of yoga philosophy says yoga is concentration. He also defines yoga as “Yogah Chittavritti Nirodh”, which means stoppage of fluctuation and flickering of mind is yoga.
Yoga is also known as Samadhi state. Samadhi is the highest level of concentration where the mind gets completely disassociated with the external world and gets established in the highest reality. And even when the mind is at complete rest that state is also known as yoga.
Now the question may arise in our minds – why yoga and how yoga is different than any other physical activity like going to a gym, cycling or running which are quite popular too?
Yoga is commonly misunderstood as a form of physical exercise. Yoga is much more than physical exercise; yoga works on our mental health and spiritual health too. Yoga helps to develop muscles evenly over the bone surface, thereby increasing flexibility. Yoga is also an energy efficient activity. Other exercise routines usually focus on increasing muscle mass. As a result, the length of the muscle shortens and flexibility decreases and when we exercise we use a lot of energy too.
There are numerous benefits of yoga besides the commonly known ones like enhancement of flexibility and reduction of body. The other benefits of Yoga include –
Increases blood flow
Yoga can help your circulation, especially in your hands and feet. Yoga also gets more oxygen to your cells. Twisting poses are thought to wring out venous blood from internal organs and allow oxygenated blood to flow in once the yoga gets your blood flowing.
Drains your lymphs and builds immunity
When you contract and stretch muscles, more organs around come in and out of yoga postures, you increase the drainage of lymph ( a viscous fluid rich in immune cells). This helps the lymphatic system fight infection, destroy cancerous cells, and dispose of the toxic waste products of cellular functioning.
Helps you focus
An important component of yoga is focusing on the present and being in the present moment. Practicing yoga regularly improves concentration, memory, calms your mind and brings clarity to your thoughts.
Relaxes your system
Yoga encourages you to relax, slow your breath and focus on the present, shifting the balance from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system. The latter is calming and restorative, it lowers breathing and heart rate, decreases blood pressure and increases blood flow to the intestines and reproductive organs.
Give your lungs to breathe
Yoga also promotes breathing through the nose, which filters the air, warms it and humidifies it, removing pollen and dirt and other things you would rather not take into your lungs.
Prevents ibs (irritable bowel syndrome) and other digestive problems
Ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, all of these can be exacerbated by stress. So, if you stress less you will suffer less. Yoga can ease constipation and lowers the risk of colon cancer because moving the body facilitates more rapid transport of food and waste products through the bowels.
Gives you peace of mind
Yoga, help to slow down the mental loops of frustration, regret, anger, fear and desire that can cause stress and since stress is impacted in so many health problems, like migraine, insomnia, high blood pressure, eczema and heart attacks, if you learn to quiet your mind, you’ll live longer and healthier.
BUSTING THE MYTHS
In the mind of the people there are several myths about yoga. We will try to demystify some of them here –
Myth #1: Yoga is only for Flexible Folks
Many people wrongly assume that yoga is only for flexible people which is not true. Yoga can be done by everyone. Each and every person has some extent of flexibility and with regular practice the body will become more flexible. So, most importantly one should have the willingness to perform asanas to the best of his ability.
Myth #2: Yoga is only for Young People
When we think of doing asanas, this misconception does arise in our mind is that yoga is only for young people. But yoga for everyone irrespective of age and gender. It just requires dedication and regular practice. Anybody can start practicing at any age under the guidance of a certified yoga teacher.
Myth #3: Yoga is panacea for all ailments
It is also believed yoga is panacea for all forms of illness. Yoga can and does help to improve functional ailments but does not cure organic defects, however it can assist with a person’s adjustment to live with such defects.
Myth #4: Yoga is Complicated
One of the popular misconceptions about Yoga is that doing more advanced poses means you are a better yogi. A simple yoga pose can be beneficial too, as asanas essentially work on our joints, ligaments, spine and other parts of the body which helps to increase circulation and flexibility. Each asana works on different parts of the body irrespective of being easy or tough. One of the most important aspects of practicing yoga is to relax yourself and discover joy.
Myth #5: Yoga is just another exercise
Practicing yoga can help us to be physically fit like any other form of exercise, which is just absurd to believe. In any other form of exercise you burn out calories, focus on boosting your cardiovascular health and tones your body which help you to be physically fit but yoga works on your internal organs and helps to detox the body from within. This leads to a feeling of balance, inner peace and mental relaxation which is important for those leading a hectic life.
Also read the article – The ‘10 Minute Yoga’ – Easy Yoga Routines for Everyone by the same author.
About the Author
Smritikana Chakraborty is born and brought up in Guwahati, India. She did her schooling from Guwahati and is currently pursuing B.Sc. in Nutrition and Dietician from Nagpur university. She won the title of All Assam Yoga Championship consecutively in the years 2009 & 2010. She was a participant in the National Yoga Championship in 2010 and 2013. Smritikana has completed her teachers training course in Yoga and is now an International registered yoga trainer. The sole purpose of her life is to teach yoga and spread the positivity and magic of yoga all over the world.