For the Body and Soul

yoga3.JPGMost people in India, still believe that they should be given a dose of ginger and honey when they catch cold. Heeng (asafoetida) is still the preferred medicine for stomach aches in most households. Branded skin care cosmetics are used only when there is either little knowledge or when the women don’t have time to follow the household herbal regimes.

Health and well being of body was given no less importance even in the ancient texts. Ayurveda, an ancient Indian text was devoted to the study of medicinal properties of plants and their miraculous ability to cure human ailments. The science of well-being of body and its proper care by doing appropriate physical exercise is aptly handled by Yog or Yoga (as western packaging allows for the name). It has become a big rage not only in India, but more so in the west, where it’s more or less regarded as the panacea for all types of body disorders. It’s no wonder that such reverence for Yoga has come about after its effectiveness in curing fatal diseases like cancer was observed, which can be termed as nothing short of a miracle.

The interaction between the body and the five elements that make up the entire universe was the reason Yog was practiced by sages in ancient times. Of course, now those times have changed and miracles are rarely heard of. The practice of Yoga not only refines the functioning of the body but also establishes a connection with our spiritual self. Unlike the regular cardiac exercises, this one is rather slow in showing tangible effects on the body as the process involves purifying the body from within.

Yoga basically is divided into two sets of exercises: Pranayama, which comprises the breathing exercises and the Asanas, which are the more physically exerting work outs. Thanks to the spiritual gurus who have popularized it recently, Kapalbharti, Anmolvimol and other forms of Pranayama have now become common household knowledge. These breathing exercises help in increasing resistance to respiratory disorders, aid metabolism of the body, concentration, and building up an immune system, among others. Contrary to what most of the health shows on television would have us believe , these breathing exercises should be performed in a closed and well ventilated room, and not in the open spaces. Five minutes of kapalbharti pranayama reduces about one gram of body weight.

Sarvang Asana, Shunya Asana, Shava Asana and Vajra Asana are among the common asanas. In simple terms they can be understood as modification of Pranayamas, with the addition of physical exercise to them. Adding to the benefits of breathing exercise, they help in improving the physical appearance. Surya-Namaskar, a combination of six different asanas, each repeated twice, is probably the most comprehensive form of work out to keep the body in good health. Doing surya namaskar for seven times in a row, is just as beneficial as a good fifteen minutes of jogging.

On a note of precaution, yoga must always be done on a mat or a blanket spread on a hard floor. Also four hours prior to practicing yoga and ten minutes after it, intake of food should be avoided. Cardio work outs after yoga may not be a very good idea for an exercise regime. And the body part that has been exerted the most in the asanas should be given heat by rubbing it.

A lot has been altered in the New-Age Yoga from what it was years ago, when it was evolved as a complete system for physical and mental well-being. The changes have come about due to the commercial set up that thrives on this knowledge. The real benefits may not be seen due to the very same reason. Practiced in the form that is prescribed by the texts it has been recorded in, it is probably the closest to nirvana that we can get.

Garima Gupta