What is yoga?
Benefits of yoga
Advantages of yoga
Important instructions for yoga practice
Yoga for children
What is Yoga?

A recent definition of Health by W.H.O. is "a state of complete physical, mental and social well - being and not merely absence of diseases or infirmity" So health is not just physical. It is physical, mental, emotional, psychological, spiritual and moral. It is the pre-requisite for every kind of happiness.

It is only yoga, the most ancient sacred tradition known to humanity which can show the way to perfect health, perfect mind control and perfect peace with one's self, the world, nature and God. Its roots go back at least 5000 years, far longer than any other religion or spiritual path. It is India's greatest gift to mankind.

The great sage Thirumoolar systematized the science of yoga which till then was being handed down by word of mouth from one generation to another. Traditionally it said that Lord Siva as the innovator of yoga. Yoga is explained vividly in the great scriptures like Vedas, Upanishads, Gita and Ramayana.

Bhagavad Gita says
"Yoga is equanimity in success and failure (2/48), Yoga is skill and efficiency in action (2/50), Yoga is supreme success of life (4/3), Yoga is the giver of untold happiness (5/2), Yoga is serenity (6/3) and Yoga is the destroyer of pain (6/17)"

The word Yoga is derived from the sanskrit root "yuj" which means to "join" "unite"or "merge" The practice of Yoga integrates the body with the mind and the mind with the soul.

Swami Sivananda has explained that "Yoga is integration and harmony between thoughts, words and deeds, or integration between head, heart and hands"

Yoga is a science and an art. It can be practiced by all irrespective of race, colour, caste, creed, sex and age.

Yoga is a way of life. It is training of the body breath and mind. We can proudly say that Yoga originated in India. Yoga was introduced to the world by the great rishi Thirumoolar and the other rishis who came in the later years like Nathamuni and Agathiar, systematized and developed yoga into what it is presently today, an art.

Yoga stands first in enhancing an individual"s potential in terms of his body, life force and mind. Yoga has eight limbs, namely.

a) Yama
b) Niyama
c) Asana
d) Pranayama
e) Prathyahara
f)  Dharana
g) Dhyana and
h) Samadhi

If one masters all these properly, understands and practices then, the inherent power emerges out and multiplies. Due to this, he and the society in which he lives get benefited.

The systematized and continuous practice of asana and pranayama will develop good appetite, proper digestion and assimilation. Because of this, it can be noticed that the function of systems in the body improves, the energy required is met out and the toxic wastes, etc. are cleared; the defense mechanism improved manifold.

The common indications in the starting of the practice of yoga are:
a) Lightness of body
b) Freshness and instant energy
c) Calmness of mind
d) Good and sound sleep
e) Removal of constipation
f) Improvement in appetite
g) Removal of gastritis
h) Enhancement in the performance of the sense organs
i) Immunity against common cold

In the long run with proper diet, the following diseases are cleared / controlled :-
a) Asthma
b) High / low Blood pressure
c) Headache, Migraine
d) Sinusitis
e) Diabetes
f) Impotency
g) Obesity
h) Back pain
i) Spondylosis
j) Myopia in the initial age
k) Thyroid / parathyroid
l) Menstrual problems
m) Piles
n) Arthritis
o) Ulcer

The health of a person who has been practicing yoga for a long time is tempered against all seasons and climates. Ageing is postponed; he looks and feels younger than his age. Yoga has come to represent good health, improved vigour and independence from medicines for his entire lifetime.

Is Yoga difficult to learn" Not at all. Anybody can learn yoga at any with a little perseverance. Even a person weighing 75 kgs or a person 65 years old can begin and master yoga. Man dies only due accident or old age. According to the principles of yoga, a person dying of disease is not considered a reality. Only health is Truth.

Benefits of yoga

* General health is developed.
* Memory power is enhanced and eye sight is improved.
* Reduces excess fat and gives good shape to the body.
* Brings emotions under control.
* Increases the power of concentration in the work.
* Reduces depression and anxiety.
* Increases flexibility of the spine.
* Improves blood circulation to all parts of the body.
* The vital organs of the body are activated.
* Maintains flexibility of the limbs.
* Neuro - muscular and Neuro - glanduar systems are re-conditioned.
* Helps one to withstand greater stress and strain.
* Tones up the abdominal organs and muscles.
* Helps in the elimination of accumulated toxins in the body.
* Makes one feel fresh throughout the day.
* Body resistance is increased.
* Prevents all the diseases.
* All the endocrine glands are activated. Hormonal balance is maintained.
* Gives one a feeling of health and harmony.
* Increases will power and alertness.
* Paves way for success in life.
* Helps in cultivation of correct mental attitude.
* Lowers the triglycerides and blood sugar level.
* Digestion and excretion are improved.
* Keeps the skin supple, soft and glowing.
* Delays aging process and reduces physical fatigue.
* Helps in getting rid of bad habits.
* Power of thinking and creativity are increased.
* Also cures all the diseases and improves longevity.
* Teaches you to accept life as it is and adjust to the surroundings
* Helps us to lead a happy, healthy and long life with positive attitude and many more...

Advantages of yoga

* Yoga refreshes while others exhaust.
* There is no age bar for practice of yoga. Young and even very old can do yoga.
* Patients with Heart disease or High Blood pressure should not do other forms. But yoga can be practised by sick and weak also.
* Yoga achieves voluntary control of autonomous system. Other systems achieve involuntary control.
* Range of movement is greater in yoga than any other system.
* There is no wear and tear even with prolonged practice of yoga
* There is no depletion of hormone or electrolyte imbalances in yoga as in other forms of exercise.
* Improves blood circulation to all parts of the body.
* Energy is conserved in yoga. Energy is wasted in other exercise.
* Yoga balances the function of the organs. The organs is stimulated if it is under working. It is suppressed if it is over working. No other exercise does this.
* Mind is calmed in yoga. It does not occur in other systems.

Important instructions for yoga practice

A word of warning and caution. There are certain "dos"and dont's?here which should be adhered to at any cost, to derive maximum benefits and avoid harmful result by the practice of Yoga.

* Yoga postures are best done in a quiet, well - ventilated room, free of dust, insects and moisture.
* Practice on a rug, mat or blanket.
* Bladder should be emptied and bowels should be evacuated.
* Asanas should be done on an empty stomach.
* If coffee or tea is taken, allow at least half an hour before starting the practice.
* Wear loose, minimum clothes.
* Keep mouth closed during exercise. Exhale and inhale only through the nose.
* The mind must be calm and undisturbed.
* Practise alone and in silence, at the same place and preferably at the same time.
* The best time of exercise is in the early morning. If morning hours are not convenient, it can be done in the evening before dinner.
* you are tired, take relaxation first.
* Avoid strain. In the early stages, start by practising lightly, always stopping short of actual fatigue.
* Ladies should not do Asanas during Menstrual Period.Any how if there is over bleeding one must do Vipareetha Karani to get cured. Shanthi asana, Nadi Suddhi Pranayama and Meditation can be done during periods.
* It can be done four hours after a heavy meal.
* For those who are constipated Matsyasana can be performed first which helps in evacuation of bowels and then continue the other Asanas. Don?t do asanas when you are ill.
* Do a thorough medical check up to rule out any major ailment before starting the practice.
* Close your eyes while doing asanas.
* A minimum of 20 minutes yoga practice daily will provide desired results.
* Patients who have undergone any type of surgery must avoid asanas for six months
* If it is not possible to practise all the Asanas in the mornings, one can do the standing postures and Suryanamaskars followed by Shanthi asana. The remaining Asanas and Pranayama can be practised in the evenings.
* After the practice of Asanas and Pranayama, one must sit in comfortable posture and practise meditation at least for ten minutes.
* Do not wear spectacles or loose ornaments when you do Asanas.They may get damaged and also cause injuries.
* Practice of Asanas for curing diseases must be done under the personal supervision of an experienced yoga therapist.
* If you feel sleepy at the starting, practise standing postures and four to six Surya - namaskaram.
* Regularity is the most important factor if you want to derive the full benefits of the Yogasanas quickly.
* If the practice of Asanas are discontinued due to unavoidable circumstances there is no fear of any adverse reaction. After some days you can again start practising.
* Learn Yoga only from a qualified Guru.

Yoga for Children

It is little short of a miracle that modern methods of instruction have not already completely strangled the holy curiosity of enquiry, because what the delicate little plant needs most, apart from initial stimulation, is freedom; without that it is surely destroyed.

- Albert Einstein

?During the last twenty years I have tried to bring yoga into the homes and schools. There was a great misunderstanding about yoga when I was a child. It was thought that yoga was only for those people who were finished with life. If anybody was to practise yoga at a young age; people would remark, ?Yoga, so early??Even now, many people still think that yoga is only a pastime for retired people, but I always felt that yoga has more to do with the evolution of the human mind and the human body.

- Swami Sathyananda Saraswathi.

At what age should children start yoga classes?

At the age of seven teach them surya namaskar, mantra and pranayama. These three practices should be continued for several years until the signs of puberty appear. Then change the practices and give them more asanas and pranayama. If the child starts these three practices at the age of eight, puberty will naturally be delayed for two or three years. Usually puberty takes place between fourteen and sixteen, but if the child practises yoga, puberty will start at fourteen and be established at eighteen. When the signs of puberty appear, the child can take up all major asanas.

Meditation techniques should be taught after the age of twenty-one. This applies to those children who have been practising yoga from the age of eight. Up to the age of twenty-one they should use simple methods of meditation, such as kirtan, chanting and visualization.

Can girls also do them?

It is not correct to say that these practices were not meant for girls. In the vedic age, both boys and girls were initiated into sandhya and Gayatri. It was only later, during the period of our cultural decadence, that this amendment was made. Girls can definitely practise Gayatri mantra.

Should yoga be taught to children, or should it be left to their own choice?

If you are going to leave yoga to the children?s choice then you should leave everything to their choice. Children are pliable, innocent and devoted. They believe in higher realities but they need proper training. It is better to give them an education in spiritual life, discipline and yoga from the very beginning. When both parents and children follow a disciplined and regular lifestyle, it will ultimately reflect in the behaviour and personality of a nation. Your nation, government and family are your pride and that pride is discipline. All the achievements of America, Germany, Russia and China have been brought about through discipline. Give your children discipline but only little by little. If you press a pencil too hard the lead will break. Give your children discipline in the light of a spiritual and yogic education.

When should yoga be integrated into the school?

Yoga can be taught in easily understandable terms from class five to university level, step by step, by teachers who have made a thorough study of the subject and have undergone special training.

Courtesy : Yoga Education for Children, Swami Satyananda Saraswathi, Bihar School of Yoga, Munger.

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  "Little by little, through patience and repeated effort, the mind will become stilled in the Self." l "There is nothing lost or wasted in | Yoga is a philosophical framework and Vedanta later added idealism and logic. | Yoga became an encyclopedic method according to which man"s entire life is a training ground for seeking the truth. | It is the yoga of eight stages which was systematized by ""Astanga yoga"". | Yoga works through peace, stability and relaxation of body and mind. | Yoga unites mind, body and attitude. | Yoga is the wisdom of life, the essence of cumulative experience of many great minds, yet yoga develops specific cultural forms. | Yoga is an esoteric religion. Yoga helps one to complete his basic training to discover the unique path. | Yoga seeks to heighten personality and bring out true individuality, so everyone may become his own saviour. | The first objective of yoga is to train yourself to co-operate harmoniously with others at the highest level. | Yoga teaches us how to strength the vehicle which carries us through life by our own efforts. | Many religious teachers in all parts of the world have given confirmation that all religious discipline stems originally from yoga | Yoga is a life science which stimulates us to full activity, gives us a superior way of living and provides a practical philosophy.  
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