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19/04/2014
Shree Swaminarayan Bhaghwan
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Yoga In the Modern World
Date Added: 30/09/2005
 
Table of contents
1. Yoga in the Modern World - The Truth about Yoga
2. Benefits of Yoga
3. Doing Yoga
4. Standing Yogasanas 5. Sitting Yogasanas
  1. Shavasana
  2. Ardha kati chakrasana
  3. Pada Hastasana
  4. Pavana Muktasana
  5. Dhaurasana
  1. Paschimottanasana:
  2. Gaumukhasana
  3. Sukhasana
  4. Padmasana
  5. Vajrasana
6. Caution  
7. Key Points  
 
 
1. Yoga in the Modern World - The Truth about Yoga
 

Vegetarianism in the Modern World

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.

 

Unfortunately, today many have simplified Yoga as consisting of physical and mental disciplines that make us healthy, alert and happy. It is popularly assumed that Britain’s Yoga community is dominated by trendy West London types with more time and money than sense. The reality is that in its truest form, even before practicing physical Yoga (in the form of asanas) you need to observe certain basic Disciplines (‘Yam’) and Observances (‘Neam’) in your daily life. This includes things like ‘Satya’ upholding the truth, celibacy, non-violence (ahimsa) and not accepting gifts.

 

Don’t get me wrong, Yoga is not just for the few. The beauty of Yoga is that you can dip as far as you like into the pond and still receive some benefits. However, the deeper you go, the more profound the changes. Anyone can practice the outer or physical aspects of Yoga regardless of religious orientation. However, one who does not accept the basics of Sanatan Dharma, i.e. karma, rebirth, bhakti etc. cannot practice the higher levels of Yoga, which assumes this knowledge. We must be wary of the overuse and westernisation of the word ‘Yoga’. The West, due to lack of understanding, have a tendency to corrupt our words (both in definition and usage), with ‘Guru’ being such an example over the last 5 to 10 years. Some westerners have started creating their own Yoga paths, cults and schools without full knowledge of the Yoga System, whilst others have commercialised Yoga in order to make it profitable! Watch out for western variations of Yoga under names like ‘Pilates’.

Ashtang Yoga is one approach. Others include Jnana Yoga – the Yoga of Wisdom, consisting of four steps to become liberated from Maya, and Bhakti Yoga – the Yoga of Devotion, consists of nine steps and is widely considered to be the easiest yogic path to Maharaj. In brief the nine steps include; listening, singing, remembering, service to God, rituals (i.e. puja), prostration, devotion, friendship and self-offering.

“Of all the Yogas, he who always abides on Me with greatest faith, is the highest Yoga of all” i.e. Bhakti Yoga (Bhagavad Gita Ch. 6.47). ‘In the age of Kali, people will worship God by performance of “Sankirtana-Yajna” – chanting of names of Bhagwan. (Bhagavad Gita Ch. 11.5.29).

2. Benefits of Yoga

 

Yoga is becoming increasingly popular as more are realising 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 practising 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.

The western world is only recently catching on. For those scientists reading this article, be rest assured that the benefits of Yoga has been scientifically proved with statistically significant results, not that that matters since Yoga has been advocated in all our main scriptures. In any case, for those interested refer to studies performed by The Academy of Research in Physical Culture, Warsaw and the Psychiatric Department at K.E.H, Hospital, Mumbai. The very fact Yoga has survived over all these centuries is sufficient defence and proof of the amazing results it can provide.

3. Doing Yoga

 

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 everyday is vital in perfecting postures. We give some basic Yogasanas below to get you started, the beauty is you can practice all of these everyday in just 10-15 minutes. 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.

4. Standing Yogasanas

 
In all the Asanas of standing posture, one should first stand in sama sthiti (standing erect with heels and big toes joined together, hands open and kept by the sides and looking forward).
 
1. Shavasana:
  1. From Sama Shiti, lie flat on your back (on a carpet) with arms and legs straight slightly apart and completely loose.
  2. Close the eyes, breathe slowly, relax all muscles of the body one by one, feel all the internal organs relax too (i.e. heart, lungs and brain). Repeat ‘OM’ mentally.
  3. Remain like this motionless and calm for 5 minutes.

Benefits: Removes tension from the nerves and the muscles. It gives complete rest not only to the body but also to the mind.

2. Ardha kati chakrasana:

 

  1. Inhale and slowly raise the right arm sideways up above the head until the arm touches the ear, palm facing left. The arm should not be bent.
  2. Bend slowly sideways to the left, keeping the right arm straight touching the ear and left arm straight along the left leg. Don’t bend forward. Exhale as you bend. Keep knees straight. Stay thus for about a minute.
  3. With inhalation, come back to position 1.
  4. With exhalation come back to Sama sthiti.

Repeat the same with the left hand.

Benefits: This gives a good lateral bending to the spine and helps in keeping the body flexible and healthy.

3. Pada Hastasana:

 

  1. From Sama sthiti raise the hands up and inhale while going up. Stretch up the body.
  2. Bend forward and go down slowly till palms rest on the ground. Try to touch the knees with the forehead. Stay in this position for about a minute or as long as you can, without strain.
  3. Come back to position 2
  4. Return to Sama sthiti

Benefits: This helps to remove back pain and prevents constipation.

4. Pavana Muktasana:
 

  1. From Sama Shiti, lie down on a carpet face upwards, heels together, hands straight and touching the sides.
  2. Raise the left leg keeping it straight, making about a 45 degree angle with the ground. Keep the right leg firmly on the ground.
  3. Bend the left leg and press it against the chest holding the leg by both hands, with interlocked fingers.
  4. Lift up your head and touch the knee with your chin.
  5. Rotate the right leg in clockwise direction 5 times and anti-clockwise direction 5 times. Return to the Sthiti position and relax. Repeat the same with the left.

Benefits: Removes the accumulated gases from the stomach. Increases the digestive power and removes constipation.

5. Dhaurasana:
 

  1. From Sama Shiti, lie down on a carpet face downwards, heels together, hands straight and touching the sides.
  2. Bend the knees and lift the legs up till the feet are above the thighs.
  3. Hold the ankles with the hands.
  4. Raise the head, the body and the knees by holding the ankles tight. The weight of the body should rest no the abdomen only.
  5. Arch the spine backwards as much as possible like a bow being stretched.
  6. Remain in this position for 5-10 seconds. Return to the sama sthiti position.

Benefits: Persons suffering from slip disc have obtained relief by the regular practice of Dhurasana. It also cures gastrointestinal disorders.

 
5. Sitting Yogasanas
In all the Asanas of sitting posture, one should sit with legs outstretched, hands kept by the side and spine upright.
 
1. Paschimottanasana:
 

  1. Slowly raise the arms up and keep the body tight
  2. Bend forward and bring the body parallel to the ground. Hold the toes with your hands and touch the knees with your forehead. Remain thus for half a minute.
  3. Come back to position number 1
  4. Bring down the arms and return to sitting posture.

Benefits: This is good for people suffering from Diabetes and piles.

 
2. Gaumukhasana:
 

  1. Bend the left leg and place the left heel under the anus.
  2. Bend the right leg and keep the right knee over the left knee.
  3. Sit erect and take the left hand behind the back from below, palm facing outward and fingers pointing upward.
  4. Take the right hand behind the back from above, catch hold of the left hand and remain so for one minute.
  5. Come back to the original position in the reverse order.
  6. Reverse the position of the hands and legs and do the same.

Benefits: This Asana removes rheumatism in the legs. It also relieves muscular pains in the back.

 
3. Sukhasana:
 

  1. Bend your left leg and keep it under the thigh of your right leg.
  2. Bend your right leg and keep it under the thigh of your left leg.
  3. Straighten your spine, sit erect with hands on the knees.
  4. Stay for one minute, meditating and come back to the original position.

Benefits: This helps to increase the digestive fire and gives good appetite, health and happiness. This is good for children.

 
4. Padmasana:
 

  1. Bend the left leg and bring the left foot on the right thigh.
  2. Bend the right leg and bring the right foot on the left thigh.
  3. Keep your spine vertical in line with the neck.
  4. Keep your arms straight and hands resting on the knees, palms upward and thumbs and forefingers joined. Other fingers outstretched.
  5. Stay like that for a minute in meditation and come back to the original position in the reverse order.

Benefits: This helps develop concentration of mind; gives relaxation and peace of mind.

 
5. Vajrasana:
 

  1. Bend left leg keep the lower portion of it from knee downwards touching ground, with the sole of the foot facing upwards.
  2. Bend the right leg and keep it in the same way as above, the toes of both the feet touching each other. Sit on the soles of the feet comfortably.
  3. Keep the hands on the thighs, keeping arms straight.
  4. Stay in that position for a minute or two and come back to the original position in the reverse order.

Benefits: It helps for easy digestion and relieves constipation. It cures rheumatic pains in the knees; and is ideal remedy for pain in the feet.

 
6. Caution:
 

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.
 
7. Key Points
 

• 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.

 
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