Yoga is so often misunderstood by individuals ignorant of the concept, it is one of the most enjoyable, relaxing and therapeutic disciplines ever designed.
It has been practised for thousands of years and the principles as laid down by the ancients are simply to use the vehicle we inhabit (the body) combined with the power that controls them (the mind) to re-unite ourselves with the entire universe of which we are an integral part.
By looking after, exercising and disciplining the body and mind we discover our birthright. All the yearnings, cravings and desires of the temporal cloak we feel is the ‘real us’ will be satisfied once we surrender to our ultimate destiny- the eternal consciousness that pervades the universe and connects all to each other and every sentient being.
It is not necessary to follow any particular ideology or creed: nor is it mandatory to practice unrealistic and unhealthy culinary deprivations to partake of and benefit fully from yoga practice. The word yoga means union. We all know that it makes sense to take stock of our lifestyles and aim to take care of our bodies by eating nutritional foods and removing harmful behaviours such as smoking and excessive alcohol intake.
Regular yoga practice is a key factor in removing stress, improving flexibility and circulation, enhancing the quality of sleep, improving respiratory complaints and promoting confidence, stamina and general health. Yoga is also suitable for all ages, does not require expensive equipment or much space and can be learned and practiced by those unfortunate to be suffering from any illness or disability. It also affects both internal and external bodily health due to the massaging effects the various postures induce within the organs and systems of our bodies.
The key to benefiting right from day one is to concentrate and enjoy each session however limited or adapted they may be for the practitioner. Once a few basic techniques have been mastered it is surprising how useful the various components of yogic practice are in almost any life situation we encounter. The ability to instantly relax, control respiration, de-stress body and mind at any time is perhaps the best accomplishment anyone could ask for. Regular practice also helps keep skin, hair, eyes and body in maximum condition as we age.
A good routine will incorporate relaxation (Savasana) to start and end each session. Typically the ‘corpse’ pose for 10 minutes will start each session and the frontal ‘corpse’ pose will terminate for 5 minutes.
At least one breathing exercise (Pranayama) should follow to fill the tissues with oxygen and energise the cells. It is surprising how exhilarating this basic process is. This is followed, as with all exercise routines with a short warm-up session to stretch all the muscles and ligaments such as the ‘sun salutation’ (Surya Namaskar), which prepares the body for the main part of the workout.
Then between five and ten of any of the hundreds of postures (Asanas) will be selected according to individual needs and flexibility. No one should attempt to force his or her bodies beyond a natural, comforting but challenging stretch at any time. It is completely counter productive to do so and no good teacher will allow this to happen. The most important part of this routine is to work logically pairing each movement with a counter one to balance all the movements performed.
After sufficient postures have been completed a short period of meditation adds a special dimension to the session. A good teacher will tailor the meditation to the individual ensuring ease of practice and maximum benefit and pleasure from it. Meditation is scientifically recognised to reduce blood pressure and promote the release of many natural, beneficial and healing chemicals. Its principles are widely used in pain clinics and many other medical settings.
So when the stresses and strains of everyday life all get too much; when all seems hopeless and pointless and you no longer know where to turn to for release and comfort – consider giving yoga a try. You have nothing to lose but your negativity and tension.
Any discipline that continues to attract millions daily after more than 5000 years must be doing something right.