What is Yoga?
In practice, yoga is an applied science of the mind and
body. It comes from the Hindu vedas (scriptures). Practice and study
of it help to bring about a natural balance of body and mind in
which the state of health can manifest itself. Yoga itself does not
create health; rather, it creates an internal environment that
allows the individual to come to his own state of dynamic balance,
or health. Basically, yoga teaches that a healthy person is a
harmoniously integrated unit of body, mind and spirit. Therefore,
good health requires a simple, natural diet, exercise in fresh air,
a serene and untroubled mind and the awareness that main's deepest
and highest self is identical with the spirit of God. As a result,
to many devotees, yoga becomes a philosophy that offers instruction
and insight into every aspect of life: the spiritual, the mental and
the physical. Of course, because it is all-encompassing, people who
want to pick and choose from its smorgasbord can do so without being
disappointed. Yoga is equally satisfying as a physical therapy
Yoga works on the mind and the body at the same time, as
well as exploiting their interdependence. No other system does this.
Western psychology studies the mind, western exercise physiology
studies the effect of exercise on the body, but there is no emphasis
on the interrelationship of the mind and the body. Yoga asanas
(postures) and breathing deal with the physical body, but due to
their effect on the brain, they also affect the mind. All the
wonders of modern science will not bring happiness, peace of mind,
health or a long life. Although wonders have been achieved in our
external environment – space travel, computers, etc.- our internal
environment has been neglected. Thousands of years ago the ancient
yogis turned their minds inwards and discovered their true nature.
This allowed them to work out a system of body and breathing
exercises which results in vitality, rejuvenation and peace of mind.
The Yoga System
One basic assumption of the Yoga Sutras is that the body
and the mind are part of one continuum of existence, the mind being
more subtle than the body. This is the foundation of the yogic view
of health. The interaction of body and mind is the central concern
of the entire science.
It is believed that as the body and mind
are brought into balance and health, the individual will be able to
perceive his true nature; this will allow life to be lived through
him more freely and spontaneously.
Yoga first attempts to reach the mind, where health begins, for
mental choices strongly affect the health of the body. Choices of
food, types of exercise, which thoughts to think, etc. all affect
the body. As practiced traditionally in India, yoga includes a set
of ethical imperatives and moral precepts, including diet, exercise,
and meditative aspects. In the West, yoga focuses primarily on
postures (gentle stretching exercises), breathing exercises, and
meditation. Yoga is frequently used in Western medicine to enhance
health and treat chronic disease as well as stress.
Yoga therapy begins with relaxation. Living in an age of anxiety,
we are often unconscious of our tensions. We are often depressed,
tired, and an easy victim of diseases. There are a number of reasons
for our stressful life. Often it is lack of rest, anxiety, tension
and fatigue. These are constantly draining our health energies
continuously. Thus, the first priority is to get us into a relaxed
state. Yoga employs asanas, pranayama (breathing exercises) and
meditation and/or visualization.