If you imagine Yoga only in terms of fitness then you are missing both the aim and substance of Yoga.
This ancient discipline is much more than just a form of exercise that helps us maintain our physical health. Rather it is one of the oldest self-development and character-building programmes. Committed practitioners adopt its philosophy and discipline and make it their very lifestyle, so that it continually nourishes their mind-body-spirit complex.
Ironically, Yoga is, at once, both simple and complex. On the one hand, a practitioner has no need of any fancy equipment or props to learn Yoga. All they need bring is themselves. It isn’t difficult to follow along as beginner poses are being taught.
On the other hand, if we believe we can master Yoga within a few sessions, or even within a few years, we would be mistaken. Yoga is a discipline that incorporates so many aspects because the aim is to treat an individual wholistically, placing at a yogi’s disposal every possible tool that will help him or her attain enlightenment and self-transformation.
So, while the physical postures both strengthen and stretch the body, breath control helps in nourishing vital internal organs. Cleansing kriyas help detox the body. The principles and observances of Yoga that come under the Yamas and Niyamas, help a yogi deal with the world around him/her; they also help him/her set out a course that is uncompromising in moral and ethical principles.
Finally, as the yogi goes deeper into her/his Yoga journey, the emphasis is now on developing more focus and concentration, so that one can introspect and reflect. This leads to meditation.
As simple as all this might sound, it is but a very superficial summary of what Yoga is all about. And even all this is very easily the work of a lifetime for most!
Pratimoksha recommends that a beginner always start their learning with traditional Yoga classes. Once we know what authentic Yoga is, and why certain poses are done in a certain way, or at a certain time only, why there is so much emphasis on breathing, why the self-disciplines are as important as the actual Yoga, why cleansing kriyas are so vital… then we can veer off the track, should we wish to do so. Chances are we won’t want to. Because Yoga has been devised by the ancient sages to be sufficient in itself.
However, with our modern lifestyle, there is a need to customise poses especially if we are beginning Yoga in our middle-age, or after an injury etc. This is where a professional Yoga teacher can guide us. Do not try and do Yoga independently in such circumstances. You might end up injuring yourself or aggravating your condition. Learn the basics of Yoga well under a guru, and once the foundation is strong we can build on it through a comprehensive home practice.
Benefits of Yoga
Almost from the first session, one will notice the serenity and calmness that Yoga provides. The alternate stretching and strengthening of muscles help in the better flow blood, which in turn reaches vital stores of oxygen and nutrients to all areas of the body. Better lung function is another immediate benefit. As we persist in our daily practice we will notice that our lung capacity is better; we can inhale deeper, and exhale more fully. Inhalations and exhalations are usually done to a certain count with the exhalations being longer than the inhalations. If you could initially inhale only up to 4, in time you will see that number double.
One could argue that the benefits of Yoga are really felt only as one ages. A regular practitioner will notice that their body remains more supple and flexible with age, chronic aches and pains are less, and they will be less prone to illnesses and disease.
Apart from this, Yoga confers a host of mental benefits reducing stress, anxiety and depression, improving mental clarity and focus. Regular practice unlocks more energy stores within, helping us tackle our daily chores faster and with ease.
One can never go wrong with Yoga, as long as we learn it correctly and understand the benefits of each pose, and how to do them correctly. Yoga demands that you slow down and spend more time with yourself. This might be uncomfortable at first, but very soon you will enjoy this precious time you set apart for yourself.
Pratimoksha’s Beyond series of classes are ideal for anyone keen on learning Yoga properly, from the foundation up. It’s designed to take a student progressively through all 8 branches of Ashtanga Yoga. For more information call us at 00971-50-385-5613.
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