Yoga & You – Benefits on Mind, Body & Soul
It is a moment of pride that our country is celebrating Yoga Day on 21st June to create awareness about this healthy practice of life and living.
We’re an ardent follower and believer of Yoga and believe that it helps people to deal with life in a fast paced, mechanical/technology driven world.
To celebrate this day, The Lifestyle Portal decided to talk to professionals about the need and benefits of yoga. We’ve also got some feedback from people who have been pursing it for some years now as to how Yoga has benefitted them.
What we realised that learning Yoga is much more than getting rid of that back pain or feeling relaxed. It is far more deep rooted and has a long lasting impact on our well-being – be it mental or physical.
For those who’re not too keen on this four-letter word (we meant ‘YOGA’ – what did you think? See, that’s why you need to practice yoga!) – Read on to know what all you maybe missing out on in life.
For 70-year-old Dr. Asha Kothari (PhD in Mathematics) from Jaipur who started practicing Yoga post retirement from 2004, for her, yoga has increased her immunity, stamina, emotionally stability that’s primarily come through Pranayam, rational problem solving because of the calm mind and a healthier body.
While for 32-year-old Bhavika Jhaveri from Karjat, the co- Founder of FractalEnlightenment who has been practicing Yoga since the last eight years says, “It has helped me form a deeper connection with my inner self, gives me more clarity in my thoughts, greater flexibility (which wasn’t there earlier). I am much calmer now, more aware and Yoga has improved my core strength as well. When I practice it with the rising sun, the effect it has on the mind and body is phenomenal. I feel rejuvenated throughout the day.”
Meet Anita Pandit, a Yoga Therapist and Naturopath from Mumbai who started learning yoga way back in 1999 when she delivered her second baby as going to the gym and doing aerobics wasn’t giving her the results she was looking for.
“So to improve my physical and mental state I thought of learning yoga owing to its power to heal as it wakes us up to all we are and to all we hold,” says Anita.
She suffers from hypothyroid and yoga has helped her to keep it in control. She adds, “Yoga has made me strong from the inside out and has created expansion in my mind, body and spirit. It gave me back what I had lost.”
Not only that, it has benefitted her students who have been suffering from cervical spondylitis, back pain, frozen shoulder, PCOD, mental depression, asthma, diabetes, sinus, migraine, vertigo, high blood pressure and obesity as well.
Mental Health & Yoga
We talked to Prachi S Vaish, a Clinical Psychologist and a Founder/Head HopeNetwork.in about the connection between mental health and yoga, “Yoga has been used in the Indian system of psychotherapy since ages. The central theme of yoga is inner consciousness therefore, it strives to strengthen the mind and help people take their consciousness beyond ordinary levels.”
Patanjali, the true stalwart of yoga, has talked about personality and abnormal behaviour right from the inception of yoga. He has talked about concepts like “Purusha” (personality) and “vritti” (mental functions or mental trends) and has proposed that abnormal behavior results from an imbalance of these factors, which is not really very different from the western philosophy of psychological disorders.
Benfits of Asanas
Different branches of yoga use different ways to achieve the objective of strengthening the mind by exercising discipline (physical and psychological).
Prachi explains, “The various techniques yoga uses are “shodhan” – purification of the body, where various asanas put your body through rigorous discipline and balance so that the body becomes your entire focus, thereby promoting physical cleansing and health. These asanas also have relaxation inducing properties for anxiety for example “shavasana”.”
“Pranayam” promotes regulation and control of breath, which again is very useful in calming down and experiencing the moment in here and now. They are also believed to awaken the dormant centres of human nervous system called “Chakras” which leads to holistic health.
“And we all know, a healthy body hosts a healthy mind! The second level of practice is the psychological level, which used techniques like “varna” and “niyama” which is psychic discipline (reining in the mind); then there is “yama” (the don’t’s of behavior) and “niyama” (the positive do’s of behavior),” adds Prachi.
Prachi recalls, “I have worked at various mental health hospitals over the course of my career. Yoga or rather its most basic asanas are used almost everywhere for in-ward patients in their morning meetings where we teach them breath control and physical stability using a few basic asanas. I have personally seen even the most agitated of psychiatric patients benefit from these exercises in immediate as well as long term future. I’m sure you can imagine, what the inside ward of a psychiatric hospital must be like; and yogasanas help to bring order and stability in the inmates. On an outpatient level, we recommend a related cousin of yoga meditation, called “mindfulness therapy” these days which teaches clients to pay attention to the present moment and become aware of their thoughts and sensations, without engaging in judgement or analysis. This has brought about a very positive change in many of my clients who feel they are in better control of their emotional reactions.”
Do psychologists recommend yoga?
“Yes, we do recommend yoga but it depends on the case. We as psychotherapists have to tailor make the therapeutic plan to each client based on their history, symptoms and personality constitution. Yoga as a purely physical discipline is very helpful to a majority of clients but to recommend it for a meditative level, it takes a judgment call, for example, any kind of meditative practices are not recommended for clients going through moderate to severe depression. For anxiety disorder though, yoga has proved to be quite useful, as well as for behavioural problems and aggression,” explains Prachi.
Tips & advice with Yoga for a mental wellbeing
Prachi suggests that for Yoga or any such discipline’s basic tenet is the focus of attention. So whether you’re trying to quit smoking, trying to lose weight or getting over a fear, the first step is to learn to pay attention to exactly what you’re doing when you’re engaging in that behaviour.
“If you can learn to do that, you’re already halfway there to completely understanding your problem. Yoga and similar disciplines teach you to do that. If you think you don’t have the time or the inclination to join a yoga class, you can very easily practice the tenets in your everyday life. When you go to sleep at night, pay attention to how your sheets feel, are your feet warm or cold, do any of your muscles feel tense; when you eat your meals, pay attention to the texture of the food you’re eating, taste each flavor…just stop yourself in the moment, and that’s the way to true emotional well-being, adds Prachi.
“Yoga” literally means the union of self with the supreme consciousness, but what it really translates to, in today’s world, is the union of your outer self with your inner self. If you can get them in sync, you can experience positivity in every aspect of life!
Yoga instructor Anita firmly believes that Yoga is for everyone, from children to senior citizens, for the weak and ailing people who should practice it according to their condition and capacity. “It is just like our constitution, for the people, of the people and by the people,” smiles Anita.
When should learning yoga ideally begin?
Anita explains, “It can be introduced to children in a playful way and at the same time it can be used as a therapy to counter asthma, cold, stunted growth and obesity in children but most importantly, we must always start with ourselves, heal our own wounds, shatter our own doubts and cultivate our own freedom before we can attempt to do these things for the others.”
Five reasons why you should learn yoga
“Nowadays, yoga is one of the most used methods in the mind-body connection,” explains Anita, she further adds, “Yoga refers to a type of exercise based on controlled breathing, diet, exercise and a series of physical postures.”
And if you’re still contemplating on why you should learn yoga, our experts give you five reasons for you to get up this Yoga Day for a better mental and physical health:
- All-round fitness and weight loss
- Better flexibility & posture.
- Stress relief and inner peace.
- Improved immunity.
- Living with greater awareness, increased energy and better intuition.
Yoga is a continuous process. So keep practicing! The deeper you move into your yoga practice, the more profound are its benefits.
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