About Yoga Philosophy
Yoga is one of India’s oldest and most comprehensive stereological traditions and it’s doctrines of salvation have crystallized in the practices of Vedanta and Tantra. These traditions have developed a vast arsenal of physical and mental techniques geared to gain control over the nervous system in order to achieve, at will, the conscious and supraconscious states of transcendence. In order to appreciate the unique contribution of Yoga to our understanding of the human condition, this age-old tradition is best viewed from the kind of broad perspective of the human potential that characterizes transpersonal self applied psychology and psychosomatic medicine.
History of Yoga
“Yoga may have its techniques recorded in the pages of the ancient Puranic histories, which was the genius of our ancestor’s foresight. Today it has been distilled into a more modern and accessible outlet. The practices of Yoga are the most valuable inheritances to come to the present of any of the human cultures. It is the essential need of today, and the culture of tomorrow.”
Benefits Of Yoga
While Yoga’s central theme remains to attain the highest goal of the spiritual path in life, to “be one with the God” or “be united with the Cosmic Self”, Yogic practice gives direct and tangible benefits to everyone regardless of their spiritual aims. Physical and mental therapy is one of Yoga’s most important achievements. What makes it so powerful and effective is the fact that it works on the holistic principles of harmony and unification.
Yoga in Goa has succeeded as an alternative form of therapy in diseases such as Asthma, Diabetes, Blood Pressure, Arthritis, Digestive Disorders and other ailments of chronic and constitutional nature where modern science has not. Listed below are some of the areas in which extensive scientific research has proven that if done properly under the guidance if a Guru or a trained teacher, yoga to be a very effective treatment and preventive therapy for many diseases.
This information is grouped into three categories – physiological benefits, psychological benefits, biochemical effects – and is based on the regular practice of traditional asana, Pranayama, and meditation. Please note that while pulse rate, etc., may increase during the practice of various asanas, some forms of Pranayama, and some stages of meditation, but overall benefits to general health are as listed below.
Stable autonomic nervous system equilibrium, with a tendency toward parasympathetic nervous system dominance rather than the usual stress-induced sympathetic nervous system dominance
Pulse rate decreases
Respiratory rate decreases
Blood pressure decreases (of special significance for hyporeactors)
Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) increases
EEG – alpha waves increase (theta, delta, and beta waves also increase during various stages of meditation)
EMG activity decreases
Respiratory efficiency increases (respiratory amplitude and smoothness increase, tidal volume increases, vital capacity increases, breath-holding time increases)
Cardiovascular efficiency increases
Gastrointestinal function normalizes
Endocrine function normalizes
Excretory functions improve
Musculoskeletal flexibility and joint range of motion increase
Strength and resiliency increase
Energy level increases
Somatic and kinesthetic awareness increase
Mood improves and subjective well-being increases
Self-acceptance and self-actualization increase
Social adjustment increases
Anxiety and depression decrease
Psychomotor functions improve
Grip strength increases
Dexterity and fine skills improve
Eye-hand coordination improves
Choice reaction time improves
Grip strength increases
Dexterity and fine skills improve
Eye-hand coordination improves
Choice reaction time improves
Cognitive function improves
Learning efficiency improves
Symbol coding improves
Depth perception improves
Flicker fusion frequency improves
The biochemical profile improves, indicating an anti-stress and antioxidant effect, important in the prevention of degenerative diseases.
Total cholesterol decreases
HDL cholesterol increases
LDL cholesterol decreases
VLDL cholesterol decreases
Lymphocyte count increases
Total white blood cell count decreases
Vitamin C increases
Total serum protein increases
Yoga Compared V.S. Conventional Exercise
|Parasympathetic nervous system dominates||Sympathetic nervous system dominates|
|Sub cortical regions of brain dominate||Cortical regions of brain dominate|
|Slow dynamic and static movements||Rapid forceful movements|
|Normalization of muscle tone||Increased muscle tension|
|Low risk of injuring muscles and ligaments||Higher risk of injuring muscles and ligaments|
|Low caloric consumption||Moderate to high caloric consumption|
|Effort is minimized, relaxed||Effort is maximized|
|Energizing- breathing naturally or controlled||Fatiguing – breathing is taxed|
|Balanced activity of opposing muscle groups||Imbalanced activity of opposing muscle groups|
|Noncompetitive, process-oriented||Competitive, goal-oriented|
|Internal awareness – focus is on the breath||External awareness – reaching for toes, etc.|
|Limitless possibilities for growth in self-||Boredom factor|
Asana is defined in Sage Patanjali Yoga Sutras as, “that position which is comfortable and steady.â€ In response the raja Yogis practiced Asanas to develop the ability to sit comfortably in one position for an extended period of time, necessary for meditation. The Hatha Yogis, however, found that Asanas opened the energy channels and psychic centers. They became tools to attain higher awareness, enabling the exploration of the body, breath, mind and subtle states. Today, Asanas are acknowledged to be techniques which place the physical body in positions that cultivate awareness, relaxation, concentration and meditation. An important part of this process is the development of good physical health by stretching, massaging and stimulating the Pranic channels and internal organs.
Scientific research has proven that Asanas prevent disease, promote health and have curative abilities; therefore many professionals use them to manage psycho-somatic stresses and diseases. Asanas work on both the body and the mind. These are not separate entities although there is a tendency to think and act as though they are. The gross form of the mind is the body (meaning what can be seen and felt), and the subtle form of the body is the mind (what cannot be seen or touch, like the soul). Practicing Asanas integrates and harmonizes the two.
Pranayama (Breathing Exercises)
The Meaning of Pranayama
Pranayama actually means a “pause in the movement of breath”. In Sanskrit, Prana means breath and Ayama means exercise. While breathing exercises in Western countries are focused on deep breathing and maximizing oxygen in-take, Pranayama consist of controlled breathing practices.
The Importance of Pranayama
Pranayama refers to the practice of mastering Prana, the life element in the body. Pranayama holds the key to tapping this bio-energy to attain improved physiology and spiritual elevation. As a result of the everyday stresses of modern-urban life, increased air pollution, increased levels of radioactivity in the atmosphere, and the depletion of the ozone layer, in response, breathing has become much more shallow and rapid. This in itself is a precursor to many chronic respiratory ailments.
Slow, relaxed, and deep breathing is a prelude to learning Pranayama. Although the total length of time required for a single cycle of breathing will vary with different persons, certain ratios of the periods needed for inhaling, pausing and exhaling are recommended. The period occupied by exhaling should be about twice as long as that occupied by inhaling. Practice inhaling and exhaling without a full pause, then when you feel ready, hold your breathing for a pause which is comfortable. With continued practice, this pause can be extended to a duration which is double that of the inhalation or equal to that of the exhalation.
Advanced practitioners of Yoga hold their pauses to four times the duration of inhalation and double the duration of exhalation. This helps to alleviate some of those ailments, improves the body’s respiration and increases oxygen to aid cellular respiration. The process requires that you inhale, hold and exhale to allow freshly oxygenated blood to reach of your neck muscles, tongue, throat, nose, ears, eyes and brain, and the entire sensitive area of your skull. This is especially helpful if you have a mild headache, are overworked, feeling tired, tense or experience sleeplessness five minutes of this relaxed breathing even has an impact.
Scientific proof of this cause-effect relationship has yet to be established within Allopathic medicine. However, there are several observational cases of chronic ailments where Pranayama has brought about considerable relief.
Guidelines for Breathing Exercises
To understand the methodology behind these breathing exercises, it is best to understand the state of breathing when you are asleep, the frequency of breathing decreases significantly when the body asleep. Statically every forty five minutes, the right or the left nostril alternately becomes more active and permits the other nostril to rest and let the mucus secretions clean up allergy causing particles trapped in the membrane. In traditional systems of Yoga, the right nostril represents the ‘Sun Channel’. This is the side for activity and sports. The left nostril represents the “Moon Channel” and is good for mental activity and creative work. The breathing process can be divided into inhaling (Puraka), exhaling (Rechaka), holding air in the lungs, and maintaining a gap between exhaling and inhaling for another breath (Bahya -Kumbhaka).
The objective of breathing exercises which should only be practiced under the guidance of a qualified, experienced Yoga instructor reduces the rate of respiration from 16 cycles per minute to just 4 per minute. An average adult breathes 16 to 18 times per minute, varying according to age, state of health, physical activity, and body weight. In order to do reduce the rate, the breathing cycle has to be prolonged from 4 seconds to 15 seconds. This should be done without any strain on the lungs, the diaphragm or the chest muscles.
An ideal place to begin breathing exercises is a clean quiet room facing East or North. The best time to practice Pranayama is early in the morning or at sunset. The room should have adequate ventilation of fresh air, yet it should be draught-free. Avoid open places with lots of dust or a strong breeze. Make sure that you are not constipated or under any severe physical or mental strain when practicing these exercises.
Beginners are advised to avoid seasons that are too cold or too hot and the rainy season with its high relative humidity. Any individual who is more advanced would typically follow an intensive routine of 4 sessions a day – morning, noon, evening and midnight. For a comfortable experience, one can use a folded woolen mat or a floor exercise mat – the sort a local gym or aerobics class might have.
Types of Pranayama
Kapalabhati is a breathing technique used specifically for cleansing. It removes mucus from the air passages, relieves tension and clears blockages in the chest. This is achieved by deliberately breathing faster using only abdominal breathing, not chest breathing. The breath is short, rapid, and strong, using the lungs as a pump that creates enough pressure to clear air passages from the lungs up through the nostrils. Kapala means “skull,” and bhati means “that which brings lightness. ” Kapalabhati is a good thing to do when feeling heavy or dizzy in the head. For problems with the sinuses or numb feeling around the eyes, Kapalabhati can also be helpful.
Kapalabhati and Bhastrika breathing techniques share the same general principle, namely that we clear the nasal passages with the force of the breath. The practitioner must be very careful with these techniques because there is a danger of creating tension in the breath. And dizziness may occur in the individual when rapid breath is preformed. For this reason we always conclude the practice of Kapalabhati with some slow breaths. It is important not to breathe rapidly too many times, but after a few rapid breaths take several slow ones in which we emphasize the long exhalation.
Ujjayi (The “Baby’s Breath”)
This consists in drawing air in through both nostrils with the glottis held partially closed. Ujjayi translates as “what clears the throat and masters the chest area.” This partial closure of the glottis produces a sound like that heard in a baby’s breath, continuous and unbroken. The sound should have a low, but uniform pitch and be pleasant to hear. Friction of air in the nose should be avoided; consequently no nasal sounds will be heard. A prolonged full pause should begin as soon as inhalation has been completed. Closure of glottis, the use of chin lock (chin to chest) and closure of both nostrils are standard. Prolong the pause as long as possible. Then, when terminated, exhalation commenced smoothly and slowly. When properly performed, exhalation proceeds slowly and steadily through the left nostril with the glottis partially closed as in inhalation. One may begin to exhale releasing air pressure by lifting the finger from his left nostril, loosening his chin lock and then partially opening his glottis. Exhalation should be complete.
Breathe in through the throat, then completely close one nostril and breathe out through the other nostril, which is only partly closed. Regulate the breath through the nostril. Never breathe through the throat at the same time.
Breathe in through the nostril and breathe out through the throat. This technique is used to lengthen the inhalation. In Ujjayi Pranayama, it is important to follow this rule: when we regulate the breath through the nostril, we never breathe through the throat at the same time.
NOTE: Please remember that no practice can be adequately learned
from a book or written instructions. The guidelines given in the web pages are intended to
give you an introduction to different yogic postures. However, it is advised to practice the
asanas under the guidance of a Guru or a qualified yoga instructor.
Meditation is an ancient technique to revive your weary soul. It helps you deal effectively with stress and rediscover a sense of profound peace and inner calmness. Meditation is a state of consciousness that can be understood only on a direct, intuitive level. Ordinary experiences are limited by time, space, and the laws of casualty, but the meditative state transcends all boundaries. Meditation is a natural state of consciousness that isn’t learned any more than one learns to sleep. When the mind becomes one-pointed and steady, it will naturally go beyond the normal mundane awareness into the state referred to as Meditation.
How to Meditate?
Sitting down comfortably, spine erect, head straight, hands on the top of the knees, in the lap, or wherever comfortable with eyes closed. For a few moments become aware of the whole body from the top of the head to the tip of the toes. Experience open space within the body. Imagine the whole body to be in the form of a flame. Try to visualize a bright tiny flame or a symbol of preferred deity in front of the closed eyes. See the flame in Chidakasha (the open void space the darkness in the front of the closed eyes). Gradually experience the radiating light of the flame spreading throughout the body, purifying the body, and illuminating each and every part of the body. The whole body becomes one with the light. Each and every cell of the body becomes one with the light. There is no part of the physical body where darkness can exist. Each and every cell of the body is infused with the light. Experience the whole body in the form of pure light.
At first this is a process of imagination and concentration, but a feeling then develops. The body then responds to that feeling and one can actually see the radiance internally. Try to experience and feel that radiance, now within yourself. See yourself internally filled with and externally surrounded by light. Continue to observe yourself in the form of light and mentally repeat the mantra OM with every inhalation and exhalation. With total awareness repeat the mantra internally. Do not miss a single breath and repeat the mantra OM with every inhalation and exhalation. Merge yourself completely in the repetition of the mantra and the experience of light within. Now inhale deeply and chant OM three times.
Hari Om Tat Sat