, Research Paper
Over recent years, Yoga has become more and more popular in Western society. I first learned about Yoga while I was in high school. One of my best friends, Ashley, began suffering from anxiety. She had a tough time coping with her panic attacks so her doctor suggested that she in role in yoga classes for relaxation purposes. She took classes once a week in addition to medication and counseling. She really enjoyed her classes and in joking around she would show me the stretches she had learned in class. After about a month of classes she noticed that she was becoming more flexible and calmer in her daily life. At first I though it was a bit funny because you have to hold awkward and strange stretching positions for long periods of time, but I also found it interesting that such small exercises could have such a large impact on one’s body and mind. The positive benefits of practicing Yoga are widely recognized by those who practice it.
The principles of Yoga have been around since the second century BC. The word yoga comes fro the Sanskrit root “yuj” meaning to bind, join, attach, and yoke, to direct and concentrate one’s attention to, and to use and apply. The word also means to union or communion. Some people believe that it is the true union of one’s spirit with God. Mahadev Desai talks of yoga in his introduction to the Gita. He says that yoga is, “the yoking of all the powers of the body, mind, and soul to God; it means the disciplining of the intellect, the mind, the emotions, the will, which that Yoga presupposes; it means a poise of the soul which enables one to look at life in all aspects evenly.” The Kathopanishad describes yoga as, “When the senses are stilled, when the mind is at rest, when the intellect wavers not-then, say the wise, is reached the highest stage. This steady control of the senses and mind has been defined as Yoga. He who attains it is free from delusion.” In today’s stressful lifestyle, people have used Yoga to find a level of peace and harmony in an otherwise chaotic world.
Modern day practices of Yoga are usually practiced in classes. One should wear comfortable clothing, bare feet, and you need a floor mat. Each session usually begins with slow deep breaths and relaxing breathing exercises. After the breathing, the teacher will move on to different Yoga postures. Some postures are usual stretches such as touching your toes. Others, however, are awkward and confusing and will take practice to get better at them. While doing the postures, slow movement is important to maintain the harmony of the exercise and breathing techniques also remain important through out. The goal of a Yoga exercise session is to stretch each muscle group of the body while squeezing your internal organs and focusing on deep breathing.
There are many different variations of Yoga methods. The Yoga Sutra is the oldest form of Yoga from India and mainly focuses on meditation and a system of values. Others include Iyengar’s Yoga, which gives attention to one’s individual body shape in doing the exercises, and Yoga Swami Svatmarama, which looks at one’s life as a whole and uses Yoga as a structure in everyday life and beliefs. In my research, I became fascinated by the teachings of Patanjali and his Yoga Sutras so I decided to make that the main focus of my paper.
Yoga Sutras is the oldest written text on Yoga by the Indian philosopher, Patanjali, in the second century BC. It consisted of 185 proverbs of practicing Yoga. In Indian thought, everything is a part of the Universal Spirit (Paramatma) of which makes the human spirit (jivatma). Yoga is the joining of the human spirit to be in communion with God. The goal is to feel freedom in one’s spirit in the world of nature. This type of Yoga is mostly psychological rather than physical.
There are eight parts to the psychological beliefs of Yoga Sutras. The first is restraint. Restraint teaches nonviolence, truthfulness, to not steal, not lusting and not possessing. The next is called observance. Observance focuses on cleanliness, contentment, discipline, self-study, and faith in God. The other six are more straightforward and apply to the actual practicing of Yoga. They are posture/physical, well-being, breath control, withdrawal from senses, attention, concentration, and meditation. These eight elements are the basic fundamentals or rules to practicing the ancient form of Yoga Sutras.
There are also four components in correct execution of Yoga Sutras. They are broken down into four sections to ensure that all aspects of the Yoga Sutras experience are fully understood and experienced. They are meditation, practice, powers, and freedom.
Meditation is the control, modification, and purification of thought and knowledge for small periods in time. Though the practice of Yoga, one can learn to detach themselves from their surroundings and take themselves to another world with their imagination. In Union Threads, Patanjali stated that meditation is, “ cultivating the feelings of friendship, compassion, joy, and equanimity toward those who are happy, suffering, worthy, and unworthy, purifies consciousness, as does the expelling and retaining of the breath.”
Practice is the discipline and self study of one’s life for the purpose of bringing out meditation to get through life’s obstacles. It talks about the level of integrity and dignity one maintains in living their life. The peaceful and serene feelings of practice are at the core of meditation.
With the tools of meditation and practice, they lead into the next facet, which is Power. Power is gained though the acceptance and growth through these teachings. It is gained over time. It is extremely complex, especially to people who have never experienced what Patanjali describes.
The final segment is Freedom. Freedom teaches that ultimately, each of us is in charge of our own actions and decisions in life. With this practice of Yoga Sutras and the value system it provides, it can be a guide to healthy living.
The Yoga of today has definitely changed a lot from it’s initial beginnings of Yoga Sutras. Although I believe that the mental exploration involved in Yoga Sutras in deeper than in today’s Yoga, it does not include as much physical movement that is also beneficial to one’s health. I found it so interesting because, although I definitely consider myself a spiritual person, I have drifted from the religious background of my family’s upbringing. I have noticed, however, that sometimes I lack the fundamentals that religion provides as a guide. With these teachings, it provides the spirituality of religion and the fundamentals of living a good honorable life with out a lot of the other stuff that pushed me away from religion.
Yoga is considered a significant form of therapy in helping to combat a number of health problems by slowing breathing, improving overall fitness, lowering blood pressure, promoting relaxation, and reducing stress. Research shows that because Yoga is a mind-body exercise, it produces a positive psychological change in the body, including the alteration of brain activity reflected by relaxation. Yoga is also known to improve coordination, posture, flexibility, concentration, sleep, and digestion. Yoga is known to also improve circulation and memory in some people. It can also be used as a supplementary therapy to help patients suffering form cancer, diabetes, arthritis, asthma, migraine, and AIDS. It has also been said that it can help fight additions such as smoking. Although there are already some unquestionable benefits to practicing Yoga, a lot is still unknown about it so there will be more research in the future.
Overall, I think the practice of Yoga is great. The breathing, meditation and stretching provide for healthy improvement in one’s lifestyle. I know that meditation is beneficial to get centered and be best prepared for each day and I also believe that physical exercise is important as well. Yoga seems to provide both of these at once. No matter what type of Yoga you practice, each is a great addition to a healthy lifestyle.