By Sandra R. Infinger
Does modern yoga have any similarity to its root? It is argued among scholars that the earliest signs of yoga were evidenced in the stone seals discovered at Indus Valley Civilization (c. 3300-1700 B.C.E.) sites in Pakistan. Figures were depicted in positions resembling a common yoga or meditation pose. The Buddhist texts are probably the earliest texts describing meditation techniques. They describe meditative practices and states which had existed before the Buddha, as well as those which were first developed within Buddhism. In Hindu literature, the term ‘yoga’ refers to the control of the senses and the cessation of mental activity leading to a supreme state, a spiritual discipline, a meditation.
Hatha Yoga is a particular system of yoga that focuses on the purification of the physical body as leading to the purification of the mind and vital energy. Hatha Yoga marks the development of the full body postures now in popular usage. In its many modern variations, Hatha Yoga is the style that many people associate with the word ‘Yoga’ today.
Most people think of yoga as ‘the twisting of ones body into pretzel form’. The true definition of yoga is the union of ones mind, body, and spirit. It is the coming together of the three in one accord that make it possible for ‘the twisting of ones body into pretzel form’. It would be impossible to start out in pretzel form unless, of course, you are a contortionist. So, let’s start with the first principle:
Positive Thinking and Meditation
According to history, Yoga was first referenced as a form of meditation. Meditation has been defined as the self-regulation of attention, in the service of self-inquiry, in the here and now. The various techniques encompass a wide range of disciplines that may emphasize different goals such as a higher state of consciousness, greater focus, creativity or self-awareness, or simply a more relaxed and peaceful frame of mind.
One of the definitions of relaxation is ‘the freedom from activity’, which, for some people in today’s world who are trying to balance home, family, and work, is the equivalence to sleep. Another definition of relaxation is ‘a feeling of refreshing tranquility and an absence of tension or worry‘. You should be able to easily reach that level of relaxation if you started with the first principle: Positive Thinking and Meditation.
If you cringe when the word exercise is mentioned, then yoga is for you. Modern yoga involves creating a balance in the body through developing both strength and flexibility through the performance of poses and postures. In simpler terms: strengthening through stretching. The more you practice, the more flexible you become and the more body strength you develop.
We all know that breathing is a natural reflexive action. Most of us go about our daily routine without being mindful of our breathing. Yet the average person is unaware that there is a proper way to breathe. We come into the world as good breathers; inhaling and exhaling from our abdomens. Over time, we unlearn this process due to adverse external influences such as stress. Through modern yoga you will relearn that slow, deep breathing allows the abdomen to expand bringing into the lungs the amount of oxygen needed to nourish all the cells of the body. It also slows down the heart rate, relaxes muscles and calms the mind.
Along with breathing, eating is another reflexive action. And, just like breathing, over time we begin to develop an improper means of mollifying our hunger pangs by indulging in junk foods and fast foods. An improper diet has many adverse effects on the human body. Overall, it’s an auto-intoxication, which means self-poisoning. All of the body organs are effected by this auto-intoxication. A proper diet does not mean giving up everything that tastes good. Also, the average person will eat all of what’s in front of them rather than eating until they are full. It’s more a habit than a means to suppressing their hunger. They continue to eat even after they are no longer hungry. An improper diet is learned, therefore, you just need to unlearn it. Take time to look at how and what you eat. Then just slowly begin to give up those bad habits. I don’t recommend anyone going on a crash diet. That too is harmful to the body. It took time for you to learn your bad eating habits, it will take time to unlearn them.
When you consider the 5 basic principles of modern yoga, it should be evident to you that gaining total balance of the whole person is a concept that is necessary to the well-being of every human. A beginner’s yoga practice should start you off slowly, as should any new exercise program. Yoga has postures and breathing techniques for almost all diseases, health disorders, allergies, pains, and so on. Many of the exercises are simple and will prove to have a qualitative influence on whatever ails you.
And why not get the whole family involved! Modern yoga is for everyone of all ages.
I’ve had depression most of my life. The depression has caused other illnesses, as well. Over the years I struggled through it all, mostly for the sake of my dogs. I eventually found an alternative means of healing. I’m no longer on medications. So, I start