The main philosophy of Yoga is a simple one. It is the development of the mind, body and soul working as one to outline the eight limbs or accessories of Yoga for a more mindful and purposeful life. Yoga is not just a system of poses it is the practice of life and consciousness at a deeper level. Most people prefer to practice Yoga rather than to study it and in order to practice effectively without causing damage it is necessary to be educated on the theory. Yoga allows for practical self-observation. In order for it to be effective, the rules must routinely be applied.
Yama or internal purification through moral training preparatory to Yoga emphasizes breath control in the first limb of Yoga. Breathing is a vital source of life and many people fail to do it properly. Deep thoughts or concentration cause breathing to slow down as mental activity increases. During periods of sadness or anger the breath becomes irregular. When the mind is calm, the breath is smooth proving the mind and prana or vital breath are interdependent meaning one is not possible without the other. When the breath wonders, the mind is unsteady.
Every cell in the body is controlled by the regulated forced of prana. Prana is not the oxygen or any of its components. It can be more defined as universal energy like gravity and electricity as actions of the body from thoughts down to the lowest physical force. One can assume control over prana by practicing Yogic breathing called pranayama or the fourth limb. Mastery of pranayama serves to control the whole body and mind. All diseases of the body can be destroyed from their root cause by controlling and regulating the prana. Filling the body with pranic energy causes the body to feel naturally healthy and full of vitality.
Niyama, the second limb of Yoga, literally means positive duties or observances such as cleanliness, contentment, mortification, study and worship of God. Many people cannot control their minds. External objects such as noise and internal objects like the ego may constantly serve as a distraction from coming face to face with the truth or God. Society today is riddled with ways to distract the mind. By learning to calm the mind and control it, one can see the truth about life and God.
A pure mind is not possible without a pure body to maintain its functions. The body is a temple for the soul. In order for the body to function properly it must be given proper fuel. Energy for the physical body is obtained by a natural diet, water and air. Food is also vital in the bodies repair. Without proper fuel in the form of food the body will consume itself. The body requires protein or nitrogenous food, carbohydrates, fat and mineral elements to repair itself. The foods needed for blood purification, elimination, antiseptics and producers of electromagnetic energy can be found in the plant kingdom.
Fruits and vegetables are essential to keeping the blood more alkaline to maintain capacity so that it can carry carbon dioxide to the lungs for elimination. The most important sources of vitamins come from vegetables that can be eaten raw like lettuce, spinach and tomatoes because they contain three main types of vitamins: A, B, and C. Heating and frying vegetables can destroy these vitamins which are necessary for bone formation and healthy teeth. A natural diet gives more disease resistance and can prolong life.
Man utilizes flesh from animals that live on plants only to draw the energy that is needed for the body secondhand. One other important objection to eating flesh is that it putrefies which means it decays or ferments because of the poisonous toxins that are being released. Animal parasites have been found in human intestines that have entered the body through food contamination and ingestion with the most common source being beef, pork and fish. One important note is the disease of cancer. Cancer is practically unknown in vegetarian countries. Aside from many harmful effects of consuming flesh, there are ethical objections to killing innocent animals. Cows and pigs, dogs and cats can remember, love, hate, mourn, rejoice and suffer just as a human being can. All living things are endowed by nature with instincts and know how to protect their lives. Animals can forget this natural instinct when they learn human beings are harmless. No one has the power to restore life, so no one should have the right to kill life. Many devoted religious followers abstain from eating meat. Purifying the body and the mind are the intended aim for the entire system of Yoga.
Asanas are meditative and cultural postures for body control. Asanas are the third limb of Yoga. The purpose of Asana practice is to steady the body and mind for health, strength and vitality to the nervous system, vital organs and glands. Yoga postures help evoke feelings of psychic strength, mindfulness and tranquility. The same way a car needs a cooling system after it runs for long periods of time, the physical body also needs to cool down and it can be achieved by relaxation. Bodily movements are important for lubrication of joints. Strenuous exercise can be more tiresome to muscles and cause lactic acid buildup. Slow Yogic exercise wastes no energy. The muscles and ligaments are stretched causing them to relax which carries more energy to the muscle fibers. Think of how water flows freely through a tap. Energy flows freely through a relaxed muscle increasing circulation, deep breathing and concentration.
Prathyahara is defined as “The conscious withdrawal of energy from the senses” or making the mind introspective. It is the fifth limb of Yoga. In accordance with the philosophy of Yoga, everyone has 5 sheaths or five levels, which consist of the food sheath being the physical body; the prana or vital breath sheath; the level of emotional reactions or the mental sheath; the home of the ego being the consciousness sheath and the causal or bliss sheath, which are karmic records of the souls experiences. Pratyahara can be described as the experience of physically withdrawing from the external world without losing contact with it.
Dharana is the 6th step of the eight limbs of Yoga and represents the ability to maintain concentration. By definition, concentration is the action of power of focusing all of ones attention. Learning to focus can calm the body and the mind and improve memory and think more clearly. Dharana is important because focusing the mind on one point can quiet the mind and relieve one from the voice, the constant chatter of the mind. This is referred to as the ego self, the self that judges all situations. For example, a teacher tells her student she would like to see him after class and his mind instantly makes up scenarios of what she could want. The chatter in his head says he is has done something wrong, which makes him feel fear and anxiety. One must practice focusing the mind to disable the voice.
The penultimate stage of profound meditation is called Dhyana. It is the seventh limb of Yoga and it means, “to think of.” It involves the practice of deep meditation and concentration on a particular focus so one becomes able to feel bliss and connection to the divine source. Most people only practice Yoga to feel better and find peace at chaotic times, so for many, Dhyana is not a common practice for someone who is just learning Yoga, however one can learn to achieve this limb by practicing on concentrating or meditating on an object like a candle or focusing all your attention on your breath for 5 to 10 minutes per day. The goal is to find peace of mind and release stress to feel more at ease with life.
The eighth limb of Yoga is Samadhi, or the highest super conscious state. For some, losing consciousness would be frightening, but Yoga philosophy declares that self -realization can bring a person real peace and liberation to the embodied soul. In this state, everything physical dissolves and emotions, likes, dislikes, pleasure and pain disappear. There are different levels of Samadhi but when the word is used alone it refers to a state of enlightenment, total bliss, one with God or oneness with the universe. Eternal bliss is something everyone wants to find but many people seek out earthly bliss, the “I and me” desires that can be felt in the here and now.
Once a person gains the ability to move past the mind and ego, they can begin to see others as divine beings having a human experience here on earth without the need to judge and compare. Samadhi can bring freedom from fear, death and the karmic cycle. The only way to escape fear and death is to realize in a spiritual sense that the immortal self is identical to the supreme self or God. Using constant discipline, one can break old habits and thinking patterns. The gift that comes from the new habit is awareness.
Yoga is a holistic way to cure most any disease, which is why Yoga therapy is becoming a highly recommended therapy by doctors as a purification process for patients with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, kidney problems, respiratory illness and high blood pressure and many other chronic illnesses. Yoga is making appearances in psychiatric hospitals all over the country to help people take control of mental illnesses like anxiety, depression, PTSD and Bipolar disorder.
Yoga encourages people to look take a more inward approach at truth about themselves and the universe. Yoga plays a very significant role in healing people from the inside out for those who wish to practice it on a regular basis. Yoga practice is a life-long commitment; it won’t work for occasional users.
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