Yoga

We all know what yoga is, right? It’s a series of poses. Well, both those who practice it, and scientific research, suggests that it’s far more than what it might look like from the outside. There’s a whole, complex, system of depth associated with the art. Here we see a fraction of yoga poses. Each has a purpose.

It additionally may seem like an easy task, flexibility aside, to properly perform each pose. And yet here we find what appears to be a simple pose, having nine different, subtle criteria.

“Yoga” has several definitions, along the lines of “union” and “connection”. It may more specifically mean a connection between our small, limited ego, with a much greater, everlasting, superior self. It was supposed to be about knowing thyself to a much greater degree, in order to become better at conducting ourselves.

*Please scroll to the end for documented scientific benefits*.

  • The practice of yoga is about 5,000 years old, older than Hinduism, was originally detailed in Sanskrit.
  • When the Hindu Vedas text was written, about 3,000 years ago, yogis (those who practice yoga) lived separate lives away from human society, in order to become mentally strong through physical exertion.
  • 500 years later saw yogis become less solitary, and more contemplative, edging toward achieving a state of spirituality through meditative techniques.
  • Next, in about 200 CE, a man named Patanjali came along. Myths speak of him as the incarnation of a thousand-headed snake that supported the Hindi god Vishnu. He was said to have come down from heaven precisely to teach yoga. Patanjali was somewhat of a renegade, as far as ancient Yoga gurus went. They, by and large, preferred to be anonymous, oftentimes refusing recognition, probably because they knew how the great cooperative group efforts of yogis in the past, advised to their teachings. Yet, the wisdom of Patanjali is preserved in 195 aphorisms (sutras). They quickly became a defining feature of yoga, the “Eightfold Path”.
  1. Ethical conduct in not hurting or disrespecting others (Yama)
  2. Religious practice in being pure, content, contemplative, and devoted to one’s god and guru (Niyama)
  3. Correct posture (Asana)
  4. Control of one’s life force, or, breath (Pranayama)
  5. Controlling the senses to focus on the inside, to withdraw, not externalize (Pratyahara)
  6. Disciplined concentration on one object or thought (Dharana)
  7.  Meditation with the goal of learning real truth, being absorbed into god, and experiencing his traits (Dhyana)
  8. Becoming enlightened by perceiving one’s soul as part of the greater cosmic spirit (Samadhi)
  • Yoga came to North America in the 19th century.
  • In the 1960’s, along with hippie movements, its popularity grew enormously.

Philosophically, yoga is meant to help people find, and come to terms with, their unique selves. It’s about becoming more aware of the self, and using that knowledge to experience a more exquisite worldly existence. Far from a religion, it’s designed for the individual – deep investigation of the feelings associated with various poses.

Yoga is the, according to….

  • A daily standpoint: way to become more aware of our hidden potentials and skills, in order to keep optimal balance and health
  • A philosophical standpoint: a means to help people find, and come to terms with, their unique selves – becoming more aware of the self, and using that knowledge to experience a more exquisite worldly existence.
  • A scientific standpoint: designed practice for the individual to conduct deep investigation of the feelings associated with various poses.
  • Big Shakti: one of various methods by which we “wake up to who or what we really are and to what life is all about. Anything that allows us to be more aware of ourselves and to feel connected to ourselves and life is a form of yoga.”
  • Patanjali: “blocking of mental modifications so that the seer re-identifies with the higher Self”
  • Hatha yoga practice: “union of the upward force and the downward force at the navel center”
  • Kundalini yoga practice: “union of the mental current and the current of life-force in the third eye or at the base center of spiritual power in the human body”

Much of yoga is based on the belief that there are seven different nodules of energy (chakras, literally “wheels of energy”) in the human body. Problems, of both physical and emotional nature, arise when there is an imbalance with respect to the energy flow among one or more of the chakras. Health is based on the chakras being open to energy flow, aligned with one another, and imbued with a healthy amount of energy. The poses in yoga are designed to promote a healthy ratio of energy between the chakras.

 

Each Chakra, in descending order, is associated with an…

  1. Element and state of existence
  2. Color
  3. Specific bodily part(s)
  4. Sound
  5. Theme
  6. Example pose
  1. Root (muladhara), of matter
    1. Earth
    2. Red
    3. The first three vertebrae, bladder, and colon
    4. Lam
    5. Self-sufficiency, intimate ties with others
    6. Tree
  2. Sacral/Pelvic (svadhisthana), of matter
    1. Water
    2. Orange
    3. Below the navel, but above the pubic bone
    4. Yam
    5. Sexual organs, creative positivism
    6. Goddess
  3. Naval (manipura), of matter
    1. Fire
    2. Yellow
    3. The area from the navel to the breastbone
    4. Ram
    5. Proactive confidence, taking substantial action
    6. Boat
  4. Heart (anahata), connecting matter and spirit
    1. Air
    2. Green
    3. The center of the heart
    4. Yam
    5. Unconditional, healthy love and altruism
    6. Camel
  5. Throat (vishuddha), of spirit
    1. Ether
    2. Blue
    3. Neck, thyroid, parathyroid glands, jaw, mouth, and tongue
    4. Ham
    5. Excellency in healthfully communicating emotions, non-judgmentally listening to others and honoring their beliefs
    6. Supported Shoulderstand
  6. Third-eye (anja), of spirit
    1. Light
    2. Indigo
    3. Between the eyebrows
    4. Om
    5. That which governs the function of the other chakras but which provides wisdom not picked up by the five senses, an intuition which opens oneself up to a larger reality
    6. Easy
  7. Crown (sahasrara), of spirit
    1. Cosmic Energy
    2. Violet
    3. The crown of the head
    4. Om
    5. Provides knowledge of a disembodied self that reaches for happiness from the inside, thus self-liberation
    6. Corpse

And, it seems, a scent…

In order for the practitioner to isolate the source of their ailment, they are directed to tune in to the chakras, and feel which one is out of order.

  • Various poses (asana) are said to help re-balance the bodily energies. For instance, if one needs to be grounded, feel more secure, and less nervous, they engage in poses that stimulate the root chakra.
  • Other than poses, yoga practice integrates..
    • Breathing techniques
    • Visualizations
    • Chanting mantras
    • Many forms of meditation

Today, there are well over a dozen different yoga styles. One can choose which sub-practice most fits their needs and desires.

There are a huge variety of ailments that yoga has been claimed to alleviate, physical and emotional. Evidence is readily available via Google Scholar.

Here we have a list of benefits.

Yogajournal.com calls yoga effective for about 15 different, legitimate, medical illnesses.

Okay okay. Is this just another scam? Does yoga have any real medicinal value? Let the research talk.

Firstly, please appraise yourself of the Terminology page, if not already done.

Secondly, the majority of studies do note a lack of statistical rigor and methodology, such as publication bias, lack of a control group, and not randomizing participants. There is also a lot of variability between individual studies, for example, in population, setting, type of yoga, and duration.

Next , let’s clear up a concern of many readers: is yoga safe? One MA/SR experiment sought to determine how safe the practice of yoga it is, if it presents danger, and if so, to what degree…

“No differences in the frequency of intervention-related, nonserious, or serious adverse events and of dropouts due to adverse events were found when comparing yoga with usual care or exercise.”

Basically, yoga is no more dangerous than exercise. In fact, one study stated in conclusion that yoga is equal or superior to exercise in almost every measured health outcome (SR).

Let’s get to the meat of the subject. The databases are rife with experiments on the health benefits of yoga.

Here we have a simple theory as to how yoga improves our mind and spirit:

Lastly, a more complicated flow chart, if (paradoxically) not including specific effects on neurotransmitters.

Sources: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Hinduism, http://www.ancient.eu/Sanskrit/, http://www.yogajournal.com/article/beginners/the-roots-of-yoga/, http://www.mindbodygreen.com, https://www.bigshakti.com/definitions-of-yoga/, http://www.yogananda-srf.org/, https://www.doyouyoga.com, http://www.chopra.com