The Yoga System
One basic assumption of the Yoga Sutras is that the body and the mind are part of one continuum of existence, the mind being more subtle than the body. This is the foundation of the yogic view of health. The interaction of body and mind is the central concern of the entire science. It is believed that as the body and mind are brought into balance and health, the individual will be able to perceive his true nature; this will allow life to be lived through him more freely and spontaneously.
Yoga first attempts to reach the mind, where health begins, for mental choices strongly affect the health of the body. Choices of food, types of exercise, which thoughts to think, etc. all affect the body. As practiced traditionally in India, yoga includes a set of ethical imperatives and moral precepts, including diet, exercise, and meditative aspects. In the West, yoga focuses primarily on postures (gentle stretching exercises), breathing exercises, and meditation. Yoga is frequently used in Western medicine to enhance health and treat chronic disease as well as stress.
Yoga therapy begins with relaxation. Living in an age of anxiety, we are often unconscious of our tensions. We are often depressed, tired, and an easy victim of diseases. There are a number of reasons for our stressful life. Often it is lack of rest, anxiety, tension and fatigue. These are constantly draining our health energies continuously. Thus, the first priority is to get us into a relaxed state. Yoga employs asanas, pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation and/or visualization.
Asanas (postures): Postures are gentle stretching movements designed to help balance the mind and body. The yoga postures are designed to rejuvenate the brain, spine, glands and internal organs. They work by increasing the blood and prana supply to these areas and by stimulating them with a gentle squeezing action
The asanas were designed with economy of time and effort in mind. Most of them work on more than one aspect of the body at the same time. For example, the twist asana benefits the spine, adrenal glands, liver, pancreas and kidneys.
The yoga asanas produce their beneficial effect on the organs and glands in three ways.:
Yoga's effect on the spine is to increase its flexibility. This ensures a good nerve supply to all parts of the body, since the nerves from the spine go to all the organs and glands.
Pranayama: Pranayamas are specially developed breathing techniques. Yoga breathing produces a huge storage of energy in the solar plexus area. This will cause the body to radiate vitality and, if any sickness is developing, the body can call upon some of this energy reserve to combat the disease.
Yoga breathing also improves brain function (intelligence and memory), as well as increasing the elimination of toxins from the system.
The total effect of yoga asanas and breathing is to produce a state of high vitality and rejuvenation.
Concentration/Meditation practices: The benefits of the postures are greater if you concentrate the healing action where it is needed. You can incorporate a variety of affirmations, meditation/concentration practices and visualization. Meditation and concentration is covered in detail elsewhere. Many times focusing on an object or sound (like clicking of a clock) can help us concentrate and leave our distracting thoughts away.
An affirmation is a declaratory statement of yourself. They are inner-self
conditioners. Our inner mind will believe everything we say with conviction and emotional
force. It take some persistent repetitions to get the desired result. Typical affirmations
that can be used are:
Even more powerful technique than affirmation is visualization. Here, we show our subconscious mind a picture of what we are talking about. Forming such picture inside your mind is called visualization.
To be effective, visualization should involve all senses, not just sight. Imagine the state or thing we want. How does it feel when we have it? What will you be with it? What does it feel? What does it look like? How does it sound? How does it taste? How does it smell? For healing therapy, visualize the state without the condition. For example, for those trying to lose weight, visualize yourself in the desired weight and physical condition and imagine the life in the new state.
In other words, you should mentally see the affected area as it receives fresh blood circulation, oxygen and physical massage. A diabetic should visualize the healing energies flowing into the pancreas, near the stomach. A rheumatic can concentrate on the release of synovial fluid. Synovial fluid is a lubricant and also disperses waste matter which can cause stiffness at joints.
Thus, most effective yoga therapy involves a three-pronged attack. When you practice yoga postures, you are strengthening the body. When you control your breathing, you are creating a chemical and emotional balance. And when you concentrate your mind on affirmations, you are practicing the power of prayer. But when all three approaches are synthesized, you are entering the most powerful mystery of healing: the basic harmony of life.
Next Topic: Yoga's View Of Disease
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