“The Yogi regards the physical body as an instrument for his journey toward perfection.” Swami Vishnu-Devananda
Yoga is a science of Health – unlike modern Western medicine which is largely a science of disease and treatment. The teachings of Yoga are based on intricate and precise understanding of the healthy functioning of the human body and mind. Its techniques are designed to maximize your own potential for good health, vitality and lasting youthfulness. This section describes the functioning of our body, looking in particular at the three major functions: the body’s strong, flexible frame of muscles, bones and ligaments; the nutrient cycles of digestion, respiration and circulation which nourishes every cell and tissue; and the vital messenger systems of nerves and hormones which balance and regulate our physical, emotional and mental responses.
The Five Principles of Yoga are the basis of attaining a healthy body and mind through the Practice of Yoga. In this section, we give you detailed information on these Five Principles:
Principle 1: Proper Relaxation
By releasing the tension in the muscles and putting the whole body at rest, you revitalize your Nervous System and achieve inner peace, making you feel relaxed and refreshed. This relaxed feeling is carried over into all your activities and helps you conserve your energy and let go of all worries and fears.
Principle 2: Proper Exercise
This principle revolves around the idea that our physical body is meant to move and exercise. Proper Exercise is achieved through the Yoga Postures or Asana which systematically works on all parts of the body – stretches and tones the Muscles and Ligaments, enhances the flexibility of the spine and the joints, and improves Blood Circulation. The asanas are designed to regulate the physical and physiological functions of the body. Practicing these Yoga Poses makes your body relaxed, gives you more strength and energy, and rejuvenates the various systems of the body. The Yoga Posture goes together with Proper Breathing. Each movement and stretch should be guided by your breath, making your movement and your breath coordinated and feel like one and the same. The execution of the Asana is beneficial to the body, and at the same time contributes to spiritual and Mental growth.
Principle 3: Proper Breathing
This means breathing fully and rhythmically, making use of all the parts of your Lungs to increase your oxygen intake. Proper Breathing should be deep, slow and rhythmical. To achieve this, you need to be able to regulate the length and duration of your inhalation, exhalation, and the retention of air in your lungs or the pauses between breath. Yoga Breathing Exercises or Pranayama teaches you on how you can recharge your body and control your mental state by regulating the flow of Prana – the life force. This helps you achieve a calmer and more focused mind, and increases your energy level.
Principle 4: Proper Diet
What you eat extremely affects your mind. Improper diet results to mental inefficiency and blocks spiritual awareness. Proper Diet is one that nourishes both mind and body. It should be well balanced and based on natural foods. Proper Diet in Yoga also means eating in moderation and eating only when you are hungry. We sometimes tend to eat when we are upset, using food to fill the gap or the emptiness that we feel. Bad eating habits will cause our senses to be dull that we won’t even notice how much we eat or how it tastes and may result to diet related ailments like Obesity and Diabetes. Food should sustain our body. It should keep the body light and supple, the mind calm, and it should also help in keeping a strong immune system.
Principle 5: Positive Thinking and Meditation
The way we think highly affects our way of life. Practice keeping a positive outlook in life, this will facilitate in having a peaceful mind. Positive thinking and Meditation helps you remove negative thoughts and puts your mind under perfect control.
The Different Styles of Hatha Yoga
Yoga continues to evolve through the years to meet the needs of every individual – from self-realization to Curing of Various Ailments.. Hatha Yoga is the Branch of Yoga that focuses on the physical well-being of a person and believes that the body is the vehicle of the spirit. A lot of different Yoga Styles rooted from Hatha Yoga. All these styles aim to balance the mind, the body, and the spirit through the Asanas or poses; however, the emphasis varies. Some puts emphasis on the strict alignment of the body while some focuses on the coordination of breath and movement.
All these Yoga Styles have common roots. In fact, the founders of three major styles — Astanga, Iyengar and Viniyoga — were all students of Krishnamacharya, a famous teacher at the Yoga Institute at the Mysore Palace in India. Two other styles, Integral and Sivananda, were created by disciples of the famous guru Sivananda. No style is better than the other. The Style you use is a matter of personal preference or a matter of need.
Ananda Yoga is a classical style of Hatha Yoga that uses Asana and Pranayama to awaken, experience, and begin to control the subtle energies within oneself, especially the energies of the Chakras. Its object is to use those energies to harmonize body, mind, and emotions, and above all to attune oneself with higher levels of awareness. One unique feature of this system is the use of silent affirmations while in the Asanas as a means of working more directly and consciously with the subtle energies to achieve this attunement. Ananda Yoga is a relatively gentle, inward experience not an athletic or aerobic practice. It was developed by Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, author of the spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi.
Anusara (a-nu-SAR-a) means: “to step into the current of Divine Will”, “following your heart”, “flowing with Grace”, “to move with the current of divine will.” A new style developed by John Friend, Anusara Yoga is described as heart-oriented and spiritually inspiring, yet grounded in a deep knowledge of outer and inner body alignment. It is a combination of Hatha Yoga and biochemical principles. Each student’s various abilities and limitations are deeply respected and honored. In practicing Anasura Yoga, you must keep your heart open and flow with grace as you do the postures. Anasura Yoga practice is based on three principles: attitude, action and alignment, making it different from Hatha Yoga.
For those who want a serious workout, Ashtanga may be the perfect Yoga. Developed by K. Pattabhi Jois, Ashtanga is physically demanding. Participants move through a series of flows, jumping from one posture to another in order to build strength, flexibility and stamina. It is not for beginners or anyone who’s been taking a leisurely approach to fitness. Ashtanga Yoga Practice involves performing challenging sequence of poses with Ujjayi Breathing and vinyasas (a flow of postures). This Yoga Style uses a system based on six series of increasing difficulty. Ashtanga Yoga practice will help you achieve increased strength, flexibility and stamina. The so-called Power Yoga is based on Ashtanga.
Bikram Yoga is named after its founder – Bikram Choudhury, who studied Yoga with Bishnu Ghosh, brother of ParamahansaYogananda. Bikram Choudhury’s Yoga is practiced in a room with a temperature of up to 100 degrees, thus be prepared to sweat a lot. Bikram Yoga enthusiasts crank the thermostat to high temperature then perform a series of 26 Asanas. Each posture is usually performed twice and held for a certain period of time. Their Yoga Sessions start from Standing Postures, then the Backbends, Forward Bends, and Twists. The poses are accompanied by Kapalabhati Breath or the “breath of fire”.