Yoga - Your Way To A Stress Free Life

What is Yoga? Even after the existence of Yoga for thousands of years, chances are that more than 80 per cent of the people will answer that it is a form of exercise or, at the most, a form of meditation.

Actually, Yoga involves synchronization of a healthy and strong body with a pure and strong mind, resulting in the fulfillment of the objective of 'Moksha' or enlightenment. Ancient Hinduism laid down strict principles to attain control of the mind and body through several branches of Yoga, which also included spiritual fulfillment. Out of these, the western world has adopted, modified and elaborated basically two, those pertaining to the mind and the body.

The sage Patanjali is widely believed to have laid down the principles of RajaYoga, also called AstangaYoga, referring to the eight paths which one must attend as a Yogi (the person practicing Yoga).

To know what Yoga is, one must understand the basic principle of Hinduism which guides it. Hinduism generally addresses a psycho-physical structure where an individual's existence is the sum total of his physical being (pertaining to the body) and his psychological being (pertaining to the mind, spirit etc).Traditionally, the philosophy considers the psychological being as the superior entity, and the body must do its bidding.

To attain this, the body must be primed and tamed through various means and self discipline. These are the elements of Hatha Yoga. General healthy state of the body and psychological integration are prerequisites to attain the deeper aspects of Yoga. Hatha Yoga begins with asanas or postures and pranayama or breathing control. A Raja Yogi, on the other hand, begins with the mind, although certain asanas are meant to prepare you for meditation. The basics of Yoga for both schools remain the same; postures, breathing and meditation, only the importance of each element is different.

The eight aspects of RajaYoga detailed in Yoga books and scriptures are Yama (self-restraint), Niyam (religious practices), Asanas (physical activity to integrate mind and body), Pranayama (literally translated, it means suspending breath. Also implies controlling life force), Pratyahara (withdrawing sense organs from receiving external stimulus), Dharan (concentrating on a single object), Dhyan (Meditation with absolute concentration) and Samadhi (Liberation attained by merging consciousness with object of meditation).

Now that we know what Yoga is, let us discover its relevance today. The basic reason Yoga has become a rage in the modern world is that it involves simple stretches and gentle movements which can be done by almost anybody. The asanas involve stretching the body to its comfortable limit every day, or regularly, and trying to extend the limit gradually. People who are not allowed strenuous exercises or even those who dislike huffing and puffing their way to good health prefer this form of exercise.

Also, simple Yoga techniques, along with the body, have a profound effect on the psychological aspect. Lifestyle and stress-related problems respond very well to yogic cures. It has been proved to be very effective in curing hypertension, stress, cholesterol, obesity and disorders of the GI system, nerves and even some forms of cancer.

Next time when someone asks you what Yoga is, you know that it not just a form of exercise!