An Introduction to Yoga and Asanas

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Yoga

With the advancement in human civilization, many factors got involved, which might make our lives more accessible than before but adversely affected the purity of the environment, reduced natural resources, and hampered lives on the Earth in several ways. The involvement of technologies, workload, and mental instability has made our lives harder to live over time.


To find a way out, scientists have emphasized self-evaluation, self-nurture, and the ability to control our minds and emotions in all positive or negative life situations. In this process, the age-old discipline of ancient India- YOGA, has been proved to create a satisfactory impact on human lives and helped them live a healthy, peaceful lifestyle accepting the challenges, hurdles, and negative aspects of life.

SO, WHAT IS YOGA AND ITS BELONGINGS? 

The word “yoga”  lies in the Sanskrit vocabulary “Yuj”, which means to unite/ to join. In simple words, yoga connects the mind with our body and thus creates harmony between the both. It helps to attain Moksha or salvation leading to self-realization to overcome sufferings.  Patanjali, who is considered the pioneer of Yoga, described it in his book yoga sutra as “the cessation of modification of mind”. 

Archaeological evidence showed the age-old practice of yoga from the pre-Vedic times and it got its full expression in India. Over the course of time, yoga became a discipline for the people of India. Though, the knowledge of yoga is also prevalent in other parts of eastern and south-eastern Asia associated with many mythological and historical importance. 

Patanjali classified classical yoga into 8 ways or as we call it “The Eight Limbs of Yoga” or Ashtanga Yoga. These are the 8 rules or guides to living a meaningful healthy life. The one who attains all the 8 paths is termed as YOGI.  These are as follows.  

  1. YAMA: Deals with one’s ethics and sense of integrity. It includes nonviolence, truthfulness, no covetousness, and continence.
  2. NIYAMA: The second limb deals with self-discipline and spiritual sense. It includes cleanliness, contentment, spiritual austerities, knowing sacred sculptures, surrender to the almighty.
  3. ASANA: These are different yogic postures that integrate our mind and body and remove toxins and rejuvenate the system. 
  4. PRANAYAMA: The fourth stage is about rejuvenating the body with practice and refining one’s personality, gaining mastery on oneself. 
  5. PRATYAHARA: This means self-reflection and detachment from the outer world.
  6. DHARANA: This stage is not easy to achieve and deals with slowing down our thought process and focus on a single mental object. 
  7. DHYANA: This stage takes quite a long time and energy to reach, but it’s not difficult to attain the stage. In this stage, our mind attains a stillness and gets keenly aware without a focus. 
  8. SAMADHI: The last and the foremost stage of the eight limbs of yoga is a stage of ecstasy. The yogi at this stage merges with their point of focus and realizes a divine connection. 

In recent years, the western world has shown a holistic approach towards health to lead a calm and well-being lifestyle. They performed several types of research to know the beneficial effect of yoga from the physiological aspects and concluded it influences our aggressive nervous system by calming it down and increasing oxygen intake and blood supply to vital organs of the body so that they can perform in an optimal state. 

HOW IT WORKS ON OUR SYSTEMS:

Several studies have been conducted to understand the therapeutic effect of yoga and the physiological changes on its regular practice. The Human body is a holistic entity made up of muscles, neurons, and several complex connections. Several pieces of evidence prove yoga promotes endurance and improves physical and mental health.

  • It improves muscular strength and flexibility of body, respiratory, cardiovascular, neural functions. It promotes recovery from addiction, stress, anxiety, etc., and improves appetite, sleep cycle. According to Buddhist Philosophy, the root of addiction is in the mind, and practicing mindfulness can help to do away with the problem. 
  • It works on our sympathetic nervous system(SNS) and the flight-fight reflex to shift the balance on the parasympathetic nervous system(PNS) which helps us to relax and calm ourselves.
  • It decreases blood pressure, lowers heart rate by lowering cortisol, and increased blood flow to various organs of our body.
  • Regular practice of yoga balances out the energy that is important for our immune system’s optimal functioning.
  • Yoga inhibits the posterior sympathetic area of the hypothalamus, thus optimizes the body’s sympathetic responses towards stress by restoring an autonomic regulatory mechanism associated with stress.
  • It works on our area of fear, stress, aggressiveness, rage by stimulating the rewarding pleasure centers in the median of the forebrain and other areas and gives a sense of bliss and pleasure.
  • Several studies have shown the regular practice of yoga increases serotonin, decreases monoamine oxidase enzyme which breaks down neurotransmitters and cortisol.
  • It also improves muscle strength and body flexibility by loosening muscle and connective tissues. Also helps to build muscle mass, maintain strength and protect against osteoporosis, arthritis, etc.
  • The lung ventilation and lung ratio improve. This has led to increased output by about 20% and has resulted in improved respiratory efficiency.
  • During exercise, the upward pulling of the peritoneal muscles keeps the thoracic diaphragm pushed to a high level and reduces the dead space volume of the lungs.
  • Following a few Pranayamic breathing, the carbon dioxide tension in the exhaled air and the alveolar air increases. The rise gradually helps the person to get accustomed to a higher concentration of carbon dioxide in the blood. The higher level of carbon dioxide stimulates cerebral and cardiac circulation.
  • A form of yoga is meditation which is a unique state of rest specially for ANS (Autonomous Nervous System). 
  • Yoga also implies eating the right healthy food and drinks (Yuktahara).

SOME ASANAS FOR SPECIFIC SYSTEMS OF OUR BODY: 

RESPIRATORY SYSTEM

The present situation has depicted the first and foremost warrior is our body. So, we need to prepare our body by enhancing its tolerance power, healthy eating habits, detox, and boost our immunity. Our respiratory system is the most vulnerable portion which gets affected by the SAR COVID19. By regular practice of these asanas, we can ensure good respiratory health with ample blood and oxygen supply to the lungs. 

Nadishodhan Pranayama:  

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The word nadishodhana comes from the words nadi meaning channel, shodhana meaning purification, and pranayama meaning breathing technique. This technique is for clearing out the channels(like air passage) in our body which gets blocked for toxins, stress, unhealthy habits, etc. 

                PROCEDURE: 

  • Seat in a comfortable position, spine & shoulder straight, legs criss crossed. 
  • Place the left hand on the left knee with the palm facing upward and join the thumb and index finger.
  • Place your thumb of the right hand on the right nostril and take a deep inhale-exhale with the left one. 
  • Similarly, do the same procedure with the left nostril and deep breathe with the right one. 

                     BENEFITS:

  • Purifies the body with an ample supply of environmental oxygen
  • Clears the channels and help for blood and airflow
  • This exercise is good for cardiac and respiratory problems. 

Matsyasana: 

The word Matsyasana is derived from a Sanskrit word as it looks like a fish. According to Hindu Mythology, Matsya denotes one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu. This practice helps us to instil focus and balance stability. 

               PROCEDURE:

  • Lay flat on your back with legs close to each other and arms straight on both sides of the body.
  • Keep both the hands under the buttock facing on the ground and keep the elbows together towards the waist.
  • Cross the legs by touching the torso and the thighs. Knees should be placed flat on the ground.
  • Uplift your chest steadily along with your head while taking a deep inhale.
  • Ensure the entire body weight rests on your elbows but not on your head.
  • Hold the position till the time you’re comfortable.
  • Exhale when you let off the position. Lift your head, drop your chest on the ground, separate the legs and the arms to restore to the resting position.’’

                    BENEFITS:   

  • Helps to stimulate the organs of our belly and throat
  • Relieves stress and anxiety.
  •  Advised for patients with asthma, bronchial disturbances, and other respiratory issues. 
  • Contradictions: not for people with migraine, serious lower or back injury, high or low blood pressure.

Bhujangasana: 

Also well known as cobra pose which derived from the Sanskrit word “bhujanga”  meaning snake. This pose is a very powerful way to tone the abdominal muscles, intercostal muscles. 

                  PROCEDURE: 

  • Lie upside, Keep the palms flat on the ground and bend the elbows straight back.
  • pause, and then look down the mat and steadily bend your back, lift your chest, inhale, anchor the pubic bone.
  • The neck should be kept in a neutral pose and the vision should be straight. 

                       BENEFITS: 

  •  Gives flexibility
  • Reduces stiffness of the lower back
  • Revitalizes heart   
  • Infuses oxygen and blood flow through the pelvic and spinal sections.
  • Unlocks channels of heart and lungs. 
  • Seek expert advice if you have a back injury or chest injury.

                 DIGESTIVE SYSTEM:

For a healthy lifestyle, the optimal functioning of our gut is crucial to generate proper energy and absorb maximum nutrients from the foods and drinks. These are some poses one can try to enhance their gut metabolism for healthy living. 

Vajrasana

Also known as the thunderbolt pose or the diamond pose. It is named after its pose which looks like a diamond. In Sanskrit, vajra means thunderbolt or diamond-shaped, and asana meaning posture. This a very easy-to-do pose with lots of benefits. 

              PROCEDURE:

  •  Sit in a comfortable place with legs stretched in front 
  • Fold the legs and sit in a kneeling position keeping the hips on the heels, toes pointed behind.
  • Keep the head, neck, and spine in a straight position while the palms on the thighs facing upward.
  • Keep the pose minimum for 15 mins. And take long breaths. 
  • Free the pose by exhaling and straightening your legs. 

                  BENEFITS:

  • Improves blood circulation and enhances digestion.
  • Strengthens nerves in the knees and toes.
  • Enables energy flow through the channels. 
  • Do not practice if one has acute foot, ankle, or knee injury or slipped disc. 

Pawanmuktasana:

As the name gets its origin from the Sanskrit vocabulary where pawan means air, mukta means to release and asana means posture. Those who suffer from gastritis are advised to practice this posture to get relief from excess gas. It relieves the entire digestive tract and makes it easier to perform other asanas. 

               PROCEDURE: 

  • Lay in a comfortable position with legs and hand straight position.
  • Lift your legs at a 90 degree upright position while keeping your hand beside your body in a resting position.
  • Bend the legs and bring on the abdomen.
  • Encircle the knees with both the arms in an entangled position.
  • Bend the neck and bring the chin to the knees while breathing normally. 

                     BENEFITS:

  • Increased blood circulation as the organs get compressed. Stimulates nerves leading to the efficiency of the organs. 
  • Relieves constipation.
  • The pressure helps to release any in-trapped air in the intestines. 

CONCLUSION:

Yoga is an age-old discipline of our Indian culture. It is not only a way of physical fitness but a process of living a sustainable healthy life. Misconceptions regarding the religious links to yoga are vague and one should consider the knowledge of yogic science as a holistic approach towards health.

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