Friday 22 November 2013

What Is Yoga and How Is It Useful in Our Modern Lives?

Amongst its many meanings and uses, yoga has gained mass popularity mainly as a health and wellness discipline. There is a growing body of scientific evidence that yoga practice can benefit health conditions such as back pain, anxiety, insomnia, premenstrual syndrome, arthritis, high blood pressure, depression or even cancer and HIV/AIDS. 

For the majority of us however, yoga can help regain a sense of well-being in our modern, urban lives. 

As our economy becomes more industrialized, we tend to live and work in a more controlled environment and follow defined, mundane routines almost every day.

As the modern work culture is all about efficiency, even after working hours our approach to doing things may become efficiency-oriented, mechanical and unmindful. That is why we can see people working out in gyms while watching a music channel or even talking on the phone. In the middle of performing challenging physical activities, they are actually getting bored.

Unexpectedly, the feelings of stagnation and nothing happening dominate our lives. Even in our spare time, entertainment often comes down to passive reception of commercially available goods, and we spend less time in nature. No wonder the entertainment industry is one of the fastest growing sectors nowadays.

On top of that, we often have physical household activities taken care of by machines, other family members or domestic help.  

As a result, we start losing the connection to our bodies and become immersed more and more in the world of our thoughts and mental monologues. 

So how yoga fits in in this modern lifestyle scenario? What matters in your yoga practice is not the attainment of a result such as the posture (asana), calories burnt or the number of repetitions made.  Whereas yoga postures have been designed over hundreds of years of experimentation of numerous yogis, it is not the asanas per se, but your mindful practice (sadhana) of these postures that will make your practice fruitful. 

The mind-body connection which you will discover and master in your sadhana is the key to a greater wellbeing and the numerous health benefits which yoga has been proven to generate. 

By shifting your focus from the achievement itself to the attitude with which you approach a posture, you open yourself to experience the transformative power of yoga. 

The gentle stretch you will feel in your body as you enter a posture will help you anchor your attention to the ongoing bodily sensations, instead of losing it adrift thinking about the past or future. Conscious breathing will became a bridge connecting your body and mind. The overwhelming perception of the present moment will free you from the shackles of clock time and from worries about what you should have done or what you should do in the future.

Yoga has a life-transforming potential and it wouldn’t have survived hundreds of years if it was merely a form of physical exercise. 

Apart from mindfulness, there are many more qualities you can practice on your mat. The yogic principle of Non-harming (ahimsa) will teach you how to slide on the edge of your best effort and prevent strain or injury, Contentment (santosha) will allow you to be happy with your current progress and the incessant Self-study (svadhyaya) will guide you on your journey of personal evolution through yoga. 

Regardless of your current health or fitness level, yoga is a life’s journey for everyone. As the fundamental book of physical yoga Hatha Yoga Pradipika says: “Whether you are sick or weak, young, old or even very old, you can succeed in yoga if you practice diligently.” 

Notwithstanding, as on any journey, the most important is the first step. So, whether you are currently looking to meet new people, do something engaging in your spare time, increase your physical activity or reduce work or family related stress, joining a yoga program will be a fruitful investment of your time and money.

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