Three basic components of human beings are the body, the mind and the soul. Corresponding to these, there are three needs — health, knowledge and inner peace. Health is a physical need, knowledge is our psychological need and inner peace and tranquillity are spiritual needs. When all three are present, there is harmony.
Yoga gives us relief from countless physical ailments. The practice of the asanas (postures) strengthens the body and generates a feeling of well-being. From the psychological point of view, Yoga strengthens the intellect and aids in concentration. It also steadies emotions and encourages caring for others.
Pranayam (breathing exercise) calms the mind. Spiritually, Yoga brings awareness and the ability to be still. Through meditation, inner peace is experienced. Thus, Yoga is a practical philosophy involving every aspect of a person’s being.
It teaches the evolution of the individual by the development of self-discipline and self-awareness. Anyone, irrespective of age, health circumstance or religion, can practise Yoga.
If we count the benefits of Yoga, they are numerous. It improves physical fitness, stress, controls general well-being, provides mental clarity and greater self-understanding. People of all ages can do Yoga and it can also be adapted for people with disabilities. The asanas enhance muscle strength, coordination, flexibility and can help to keep our body fit, control cholesterol level, reduce weight and rigidity, normalise blood pressure and improve cardiovascular performance.
Apart from these, people can actively seek to reduce the stress in their lives by consoling the mind. The body often works to heal itself. In this sense, Yoga can be seen not only as a way to get into shape but also as a tool for self-healing.
In today’s world of information, most people find it difficult to devote time towards their health and fitness. This has led to a drastic increase in health problems and health-related stress. Unlike the early part of the century, when infectious diseases were the leading killers, today’s health problems are mostly related to lifestyle.
Cardiovascular diseases, strokes, arteriosclerosis, chronic lung diseases, diabetes, cirrhosis of liver, suicides and several forms of cancer are all related to unhealthy lifestyle and behaviour. At one point of time or another, a doctor comes into the scene in every individual’s life.
Yoga is also about self-healing and maintenance. Although it is not a replacement for one’s doctor, it has been practised safely and successfully by millions of people who’ve never had doctors, for thousands of years. With the help of Yoga, the doctor and the individual can both monitor progress and the doctor will definitely learn from the individual how beneficial Yoga really is.
Yoga postures and exercises can be easily performed, and that too with minimal possible effort. The magic of Yoga is that as we begin the basic stretches, we can immediately discover where our deficiencies are. If we are really up to the task, then we should not be discouraged by this.
We can do Yoga with a modest amount of care and patience. Yoga triggers our body’s natural adaptive and rejuvenating powers. Unless we use them, we will lose them. If we start using them again, we can get most of it back. Some people even claim that Yoga gave them more vitality than they had before in their lives. Even those who begin later in life, benefit by practising it.
As for athletes or sports persons, Yoga can be a powerful enhancement to regular training exercises. Adding Yoga in a routine training programme helps develop strength, flexibility, a range of motion, concentration and cardiovascular health. It reduces stress, tension and tightness. The most significant benefit of adding Yoga to a training programme is its effect on performance. It allows an athlete to train harder and at a higher level with less fear of injuries.
Some people think it is divine, others find it positively addictive and a powerfully effective substitute for negative habits. Whether borne out by inspiration or by trial and error, Yoga techniques substitute for the kinds of activities our early human ancestors must have done in the course of their arboreal lives.
Obviously, it takes time for our body to adjust to Yoga. Some tissues have to grow and others need to shrink. This is why it is important to drink lots of water and eat wholesome food, along with exercising moderately. In challenging those muscles to remodel themselves, we are literally clearing out lots of junk from our tissues.
The essence of Yoga is to make life as efficient and enjoyable as possible. In the beginning, it is essential that we learn not only what the stretches are, but how to stretch, how to relax, how to breathe etc. Then we will be ready to work out safely. Yoga instils within us the qualities of genuineness, wholesomeness and compassion. It teaches us that love heals the giver as much as it heals the recipient. Through this, Yoga teaches us the sacred power of community, unity, harmony and a free and fair civilisation. It is our birthright to have access to this information. It is a sign of our wisdom if we use it, and our enlightenment if we share it.
As we start practising simple asanas, we will immediately find out what needs our attention the most. Then we can give it the attention it calls for. The effects are immediate and the results keep becoming more apparent. The longer and more often we engage in the healing art of Yoga, the more it will have a healing effect on us. Yoga unlocks life’s wonders and unleashes the hidden energies.
Through this art, everyone can experience the divine and enjoy the ecstasy of freedom from pain and ignorance. There are also other gracious rewards like longevity and happiness. It has taken time for us to wind ourselves into a knot. Naturally, it will take us time to unravel. If we are still breathing, it is never too soon or late to start Yoga.