You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection. ~ Buddha
LET’S TALK ABOUT YOGA…
The word Yoga in Sanskrit means “to unite”… to bring harmony within the body, mind and spirit with the aim of achieving a state of Oneness with the Universe. It is a wholly practical science based on certain immutable laws of nature and geometry and the ancients had no doubt that it contains the master key that unlocks the realms of Peace and Freedom. When Yogis developed the asanas (postures) more than five thousand years ago, they lived close to nature using animals and plants for guidance and inspiration.
Through a series of asanas, breathing and relaxation techniques, you learn to shift mental perceptions and self-limiting beliefs, enabling you to develop the physical body and consciousness. You learn to listen to, and observe the mind and body, rather than trying to force or control it towards reaching a goal. The focus is on the process rather than the goal, and in this way you learn to become ‘present’ or ‘live in the now’ discovering the perfection within yourself and situations. As you open your mind, letting go of limitations, so are you able to release and transform blockages in the body, thereby opening yourself up to healing the body. You learn to cope with demands and situations that life presents, instilling a sense of equanimity and inner calm. Yoga teaches you to find a way through your challenges and to be compassionate and patient with yourself.
On a physical level, it strengthens the body ‘from the inside out’, improving strength, co-ordination, flexibility and concentration. The breathing involved improves lung capacity and as a result blood circulation; it strengthens immunity, balances the internal organs, improves posture, optimizes body functions and boosts the energy flow in the body. The stretches and bends involved ensure a well-toned, fit body helping to instill a positive self-image, both mentally and physically. It provides a deeper understanding of the mind-body connection, along with healthy living and self-nourishment.
Yoga is as beneficial for active sports people. It helps to prevent and heal injuries by loosening up tight muscles, improving total mobility and flexibility. It brings in greater range of motion, which can improve performance and helps to even-out muscle imbalances that often occur in athletes. The breathing techniques help to oxygenate the muscles and it creates a better sense of body awareness and control, which also elevates performance.
The Sanskrit term ‘NAMASTÉ’ is commonly said at the beginning and end of a Yoga class, which means ‘the divine light in me honors the divine light in you’. It fosters a sense of unconditional love and respect for oneself and all living beings. Yogic philosophies teach us about bringing peace into the world, and we can only achieve that when we find Peace within ourselves. This is the aim of Yoga.
The Five Principles of Yoga
Yoga is truly one of the most effective techniques of healing and rejuvenation, but one needs to follow some age-old principles in order to really get the best results. It is a spiritual life-style that can be embraced by all and incorporated into any belief system. The principles of Yoga are timeless, holding true today as much as they did centuries ago. There is so much more to Yoga than just joining a class once a week. Earlier, people may have been aware of the benefits, but didn’t always have the deeper knowledge. A deeper understanding of the practice allows you to maximize the benefits. These are called the five principles of Yoga, namely: proper exercise, proper breathing, proper relaxation, proper diet and Self-Knowledge & Meditation.
1. Asanas (proper exercise)
Our physical bodies are meant to move and exercise otherwise they literally cease up, become imbalanced and inevitably develop all sorts of ailments and dis-eases, particularly later on in life. However, it is your choice as to how you live this life and how healthy you choose to be. Your body is the vehicle of your soul, and only through the body can you fulfill your purpose here on earth, so it makes a lot of sense to take care of it, nurture it and treat it as if it were the most precious gem you have (or will) ever possess! Nowadays, much emphasis is placed on physical fitness; however, Yoga focuses on physical as well as mental fitness. It is very important to move, flex and flow to keep the muscles and joints active. If your body is not healthy, it becomes a lot more difficult to meditate, and meditation is essential for a healthy mind and body.
2. Pranayama (proper breathing)
Yoga teaches us how to use our lungs to the maximum capacity and how to control our breath. The secret to LIVING is learning how to breeeeeathe… properly! Our breath guides and increases our Prana (life force). It has the amazing ability to melt away inner and external “edges”, clears away emotional blockages, enables us to remain equanimous, oxygenates the cells, energizes and heals the body… why on earth would we NOT want to breathe properly? Proper breathing should be deep, slow and rhythmical… and we should aim at breathing into our abdomen as opposed to clavicle breathing (upper chest and lung area) which is how most of us currently breathe. Breathing properly slows down the mind and increases vitality and mental clarity. It is the key that opens the golden doorway to meditation, ultimately revealing the Self. It has a masterful way of keeping us “present” during meditation and cultivates the awareness that beyond the limitations of mind and body, we are at one with the Absolute.
3. Shavasana (proper relaxation)
Long before the invention of modern technology such as planes and computers, the Rishis (sages) and Yogis devised very powerful techniques for deep relaxation. They understood that every successful decision in life was birthed from a space of inner peace and clarity. In fact, many modern stress-management and relaxation techniques borrow heavily from this tradition. Relaxing is vital to our health and well-being which is why Shavasana is the most important asanas in Yoga. A body in a constant state of stress or arousal eventually becomes exhausted and a myriad of issues such as digestive problems, faulty joints, ulcers, cholesterol and goodness-knows-what other dis-eases find a home in the body. During deep relaxation, significant changes occur in the body: blood to the heart and skeletal muscles decreases and is re-distributed to inactive organs; metabolism and respiration slow down while digestion speeds up and the immune system is restored. The body is recharged with positive energy, allowing a sense of internal serenity. So, Breathe… Relax… Revive…
4. Proper Diet
Besides being responsible for building our physical body, what we consume profoundly affects our complete system, including our mental and spiritual progress. This means that everything we eat and drink has an effect on our body and mind. According to Yoga, sattvic (pure, vegetarian) food is the best form of food as it is easily digestible and gives proper nourishment to the body. In fact, this is an integral part of the Yogic life-style. Today more and more people appreciate the benefits of a vegetarian diet, but in places like India and China vegetarian food has been the tradition since the ages. Throughout history there have been those who have defended animal rights and followed a meat-free diet: Gandhi, Einstein, Newton, Plato, Pythagoras, Leonardo da Vinci, and George Bernard Shaw…. However, vegetarianism can be quite a touchy topic, so it is best left to you, the individual, to research and make an educated choice. There are usually 3 reasons why people become vegetarians: health, environmental and spiritual, and with so much literature available on the subject, it is best to research it yourself.
5. Vedanta (Self-Knowledge) and Dhyana (Meditation)
It is most important to gain Self-Knowledge, i.e. knowledge about oneself. With this knowledge the void created by our current educational and social systems, which emphasize objective knowledge, then fills up. Self-Knowledge is the total solution for universally common human problems. By learning and applying these teachings and philosophies to our lives, life becomes a meditation through recognizing the Self. Meditation is the path that leads to Self-Knowledge. It shows us how to maintain a positive outlook in life and increases our mental ability to think and to make clear decisions. Our personality depends upon our thinking and so we should always think in a positive, productive and solution-orientated way. Meditation provides us the ultimate peace of mind and soul. Regular meditation removes negative thoughts, patterning and pre-programming from our mind and guides us in a positive direction.