Yoga is a product of the perennial wisdom of India. One can trace the origin of Yoga back to the period of Indus Valley civilisation i.e. at least three thousand years before Christ. All through the last five thousand years it has remained as one of the most important facets of the Indian Culture, remaining vibrant and responsive to the changing times all through this period.
As it came to be developed in Indian it came to be associated with the development of Hinduism and its philosophy. But in its essence it has always remained separate from any religious doctrines or dogmas and never demanded acceptance of any specific belief system. It has always remained as a pathway open for all the people professing different faiths belonging to different religions and different races. In essence it is a path of spiritual enquiry, awakened by the earnest desire for having a deeper understanding of the Life and the entire phenomenon associated with it.
The literal meaning of the word Yoga in Sanskrit is INTEGRATION. In this sense Yoga represents a process through which one can learn how to live in the most integrated way. It involves therefore the process of identification and then elimination of all that would contribute in disintegration. When taken in this sense it becomes a continuous process, requiring constant vigilance and involving all the aspects of life. In this integrated way of living, the process of identification of all the elements causing ill health and the use of appropriate techniques to neutralise their ill effects became one of the primary concerns of Yoga.
Thus Yoga which essentially is a Science of personal growth for spiritual experiences has simultaneously become a Science of Health and Healing.
When Yoga is used as a Science of Health and Healing, all its techniques and methods which are basically meant for the spiritual experiences, automatically get geared to do their job for the promotion of the Health and for bringing the Healing touch to the body and mind suffering from ill-health. For this purpose, the approach, which Yoga advocates, does have three main components :
First is the practical discipline, which involves the practices of Asanas, Pranayama and Meditation. Asanas involve the increased awareness of various physical and physiological processes influenced by controlled stretching contraction and relaxation of various muscles, their co-ordination in balancing and during maintenance of Posture etc.
Pranayama practices similarly involve the manipulation of breathing mechanism alongwith the increased awareness of the pressure changes inside the cavity of chest and abdomen. Dhyana or the Meditation practices increase the awareness of one’s mental processes including the thoughts, emotions, memory etc. It can make one aware how the constant restlessness at the level of mind contributes in the feeling of emotional stress feeling of constant fear and Insecurity. This increased awareness combined with the manipulative techniques of Dhyana practices gradually restore the psycho-physiological functions back to its healthy, harmonious and balanced state.
Second component concerns with the regulation of Diet as well as regulation of daily habits involving the pattern of sleep recreational activities and working habits. This helps in removing all those irritants, which are responsible for the imbalance in the functioning of body-mind complex.
Third component concerns itself with changes in one’s attitude, behaviour and life-style, which would help in inducing the feeling of sharing, feeling of warmth in friendship and concern, love and respect for the whole beautiful world. This acts as an antidote for the feeling of hopelessness, and loneliness, which may come in the absence of proper relationship with the world around.
Many times when the people talk about yoga they focus their attention only on the first component involving varieties of Asanas, pranayama and meditational techniques. Thus they confine Yoga to a small period of their daily life as if rest of the day has nothing to do with Yoga. But really speaking the Yogic way of living in, the rest of the day is not only equally but more important from the healing point of view. Whatever skills one has learnt from the Yogic practices need to be used throughout the day. In this sense the UPAYOGA i.e. the use of the Yogic skills through the day needs to be given proper attention. The last two components attend to this Upayoga aspect of Yoga.
If you undertake Yoga in this spirit kept in mind and comply with all the instructions given to you; you would find that Yoga not only gives you relief from your problems but opens up a new way of enjoying your life.