Yoga is one of the most prominent fitness regime that applies to mind and the body and practised by people all over the world today. Though it has deep roots in India, it only became popular after it was widely accepted in the West. It's now the most significant cultural export of India.
Popularisation of Yoga
Among the luminaries who contributed towards making Yoga popular in the West the names of Swami Vivekananda and BKS Iyengar stand out prominently. The practice of Yoga by film stars and politicians both in India and abroad has also accorded sort of stardom to it and its health benefits are also being spread through social media. But Yoga is way beyond what meets the eye.
Is Yoga all about physical exercises?
One of the oldest Yogic texts supposedly compiled 1700 years back called Patanjali's Yoga Sutra and the Sutra 1.2 states 'Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodha' which means Yoga is the cessation of all mental fluctuations. In this Sutra, Patanjali who was a sage who compiled the Yoga Sutras establishes that the aim of Yoga is mental clarity and purity.
The eight limbs of Yoga
In Yoga Sutra 2.29 the path and the eight limbs of Yoga are specified which are Yama (restraints), Niyamah (observance), Asana (posture), Pranayama (control of bioenergy), Pratyahaar (abstraction), Dharna (concentration), Dhyan (meditation) and Samadhi (trans consciousness).
Yamas are the self-regulations of non-violence, truthfulness, righteousness, continence and non-covetousness. All these have to put into practice by the person who practices Yoga. For example, as regards non-violence, one has to be non-violent in the thinking process, speech, dealings with others and in even in regarding your own self (body or mind).
Learning under a qualified trainer
Would you watch a YouTube video for a self-diagnosis and treat yourself? No, you would go to a qualified doctor for treatment. In the same way, it is very important to approach a qualified trainer so that you can understand the philosophy and the methods correctly. Reading ancient texts can also be helpful. Merely looking at someone on the net and trying to copy them can do more harm than good. Yoga has to be followed methodically and once someone understands the basics and the philosophy, the internet is a good source to continue learning more about it. Unlike any other exercise, Yoga incorporates the mind, body and breath. So it is better to learn under someone who does not just sell Yoga as a mere body workout but practices it as a passionate advocate of health and well being.
(Priyamvada Mangal is a Freelance Yoga coach and journalist)