Yoga means 'to combine'. It means to combine our soul with the supreme soul. Yoga is part of the Indian Hindu culture that is now popular through out the world. In yoga, we have to purify our body and mind by doing certain practices. Surya namaskaaras help to strengthen our body. Praanaayaama is useful to control our mind. This can be done by controlling the breath. Similarly meditation or dhyaana helps to clean our mind. Transcendental Meditation is a technique where meditation is combined with a mantra sound.
'Patanjali', the first exponent of Yoga, says 'Yogah Chittavritti nirodhakah' which means : Yoga is one that controls wavering of mind and frees it from all tensions. Yoga has got its roots in Vedas of ancient India, lakhs of years ago. Indians have always tried to master their senses and there by their mind and soul. They used yoga as a tool for this eternal purpose.
Yoga is of two types: External yoga and Internal yoga. External yoga is for purifying the body. This will take care of health and keeps your body fit always. Internal yoga is for purifying the mind. This will take care of mental health and frees one from any kind of stress, strain, and mental conflictions.
Extenal yoga is also called 'Hatha yoga', which comprises of Kriyas(purification techniques) and Asanaas(postures). A lot of postures are discussed in standard works. Every one can not practise those postures, since they are very difficult to follow and should be practised under strict supervision of a guide. In all the postures, 'Surya Namaskaaras' (Bow of greeting to Lord Surya) are famous, which are 12 in number. They are very useful in preventing the ailments and shaping up the body. We are presenting those postures here. These postures should be practised with empty stomach, either at dawn or dusk. They should be practised smoothly with a relaxed mind and body, by staying at least 2 minutes in each posture. The first 6 postures will be repeated again thus forming 12 postures.
|1. Pranamaasanam: Stand before the Sun, close your eyes, fold both the hands near your chest as in namaskaara.
|2. Utthitahastaasanam: Get both of your hands up as much as possible, bending your trunk slightly and bend your neck back and see up.
|3. Paadahastaasanam: Exhaling slowly, bend your body down and touch your knees with forehead. Place your hands at the side of feet.
|4. Aswasanchalanaasanam- Right: Get your left leg back, and bend your right leg forward. Right leg knee should be in between two hands. Look up and inhale slowly. Put your head back as much as possible.
|5. Dandaasanam: While inhaling, take the right leg back and bring the whole body in a straight line. While doing this, Keep your arms perpendicular to the floor.
|6. Saashtanganamaskaarasanam: Lie down, and place your chin, chest and palms on the ground and shoot up your trunk. Breath normally.
|7. Bhujangaasanam: Straight your legs horizontally on the ground, lift up your head and trunk.
|8. Parvathaasanam: Exhale slowly and lift up your trunk in the form of a bow.
|9. Aswasanchalanaasanam- Left: Get your right leg back, bend your left leg forward. (This is like posture 4, but doing with left leg).
|10. Paadahastaasanam: Exhale slowly when bending down and touch your knees. (See posture 3).
|11. Utthitahastaasanam: Stretch your hands up and look at top. (See posture 2).
|12. Pranamaasanam: Stand straight in namaskaara pose. (See posture 1).
Internal yoga comprises of desciplined life, mastering the mind and soul and liberating the human soul from all these worldly sorrows. There are various stages in Internal yoga, but the most important are: Praanaayaama(controlling the life force), Dhyaana(meditation) and Samaadhi(spiritual absorption).
Praanaayaama or breath control
Every breath is composed of life force entering our body. People generally breath from the chest. This is not full breathing. We should breath fully from the belly. Then only we can get the complete life force. When you are inhaling, see that your stomach should come up and when you exhale, see that your stomach should go in. Inhale and exhale like this for atleast 15 minutes a day. This is called 'diaphragmetic breath'. Use your right hand thumb to close the right nostril and the little finger to close the left nostril. First of all exhale through left nostril fully and slowly (close right nostril) and slowly inhale through the same nostril. Do this for 3 times. Then close the left nostril. Now exahale and inhale with right nostril for 3 times. Then close the right nostril. Do it with left nostril. Like this do for atleast 15 minutes. This is called 'alternate nostril breathing'. See that every time, the duration of exhale is equal to the duration of inhale.
Dhyaana or meditation
Dhyaana means focussing our mind on a target, and thus controlling its distortions. Sit calmly in a relaxed posture like Padmaasana (See below), keep your back and neck straight, look straight horizontally, and close your eyes. Rest your hands on your knees. Just relax your body parts, dont feel any tension in any part of your body and start observing how your breath is entering your nostrils and how it is going out. You can observe your breath may enter and leave from the same nostril or it may enter from one nostril and leave from the other. Watch from which nostril it is entering and from which nostril it is leaving. How long your breath is or how short it is. How depth it is or how shallow it is. How hot it is or how cool it is. Your concentration should be on your breath at your nose tip only. When it is going into your stomach, where it is ending, and again where it is starting. Do it for at least 20 to 30 minutes.
After this, start visualizing your big toe of right foot in your mind. Visualize all the toes of that foot one by one. In the same way, get the picture of all the toes of the left foot starting from its big toe. Slowly move from the toes to calves, and then knee joints. Then mentally visualize thighs, trunk, inner parts of stomach, chest, shoulder joints, hands, neck, throat, chin, mouth, nose, ears, eyes, mid point of eyebrows, fore head and finally imagine the top mid point on your head. This location is called the seat of God. Do this visualization slowly and one by one from bottom to top of head. Then proceed in the same way but in reverse order from head to toes of your legs. When you do this, you will often feel a sort of tingling sensation in your body parts. Do this for at least 3 times a day. This observation leads your mind to forget the external world and increases your concentration. You will feel tranquility of mind.
This technique is practised by millions of people all over the world. In Transcendental Meditation, the meditator sits quietly with closed eyes and focuses his mind on a mantra (sacred sound) and repeats it for 20 minutes once in the morning and once again in the evening. When distractions come to his mind, he simply observes them and gently return his mental focus to repeating his mantra.
This is the ultimate goal of a yogi. A person who practises praanaayaama and dhyaana properly for some time, will get greater awareness that he and the world is one and the only one. He feels his presence in every atom of the external world. He sees sorrow and happiness are nothing but same. His soul is elevated from all these worldly affairs. This state is called Samaadhi.
A person who properly practises both External yoga and Internal yoga techniques will attain purification of body, mind and soul and finally attain Moksha(liberation) which is the ultimate goal of any human being's life. And this is the reason the word: 'yoga' means 'combining'. This means unification of human soul with the all pervading divine soul.
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