Yoga for holistic health and well-being

June 21st, 2018 is being observed as the fourth International Day of Yoga. The purpose of this day is to raise awareness worldwide of the many benefits of practicing Yoga, a physical, mental and spiritual exercise. The theme for International Day of Yoga 2018 is ‘Yoga for Peace’. The United Nations General Assembly in 2014 recognized the Universal Appeal of Yoga and declared the day June 21st as the International Day of Yoga.

Yoga is that state of being when we are one with our own source. It is a union of your consciousness with the highest consciousness. Yoga means integration and oneness, including the integration of our inner and outer states of being.

Yoga means ‘Union’. Father of Yoga, Maharishi Patanjali, compiled 196 Yoga Sutras that became the foundation of Indian Yoga philosophy. He compiled the Sutras into a simple framework; the eightfold path of Yoga which popularly came to be known as the Ashtanga Yoga. Yoga includes a set of practices for overall self-development and the well-being of the body, mind and soul.

The eight limbs of Patanjali Yoga are –

  1. Yama
  2. Niyama
  3. Asanas
  4. Pranayama
  5. Pratyahara
  6. Dharana
  7. Dhyana
  8. Samadhi

Asanas, the third limb of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga is probably the most popular and also the least well understood today. When we think of Asanas, many of us will visualize Hatha Yoga exercises at the local gym, yoga institutions or exercising in the local garden.

While talking about Yoga, special emphasis is given on the third limb of Ashtanga Yoga, while neglecting the whole aspect of Yoga in its true sense. Asanas were designed specifically for the purpose to develop a right sitting posture for meditation or ‘Dhyana’ to take place. The purpose of Yoga is Union and thus, all the steps of Ashtanga Yoga are the preparation of the higher goal, which is Union with the higher consciousness.

In the ancient times, Rishis meditated to attain a state of Union with the Ultimate. They realized that the body needs to healthy in order to reach the goal. Thus they developed other postures that could be done throughout the day while they remained meditative. That way they could continue to meditate while also improving immunity, respiration, blood circulation, muscle tone and joint flexibility. And so the physical practices of Hatha Yoga evolved. As the field of Hatha Yoga continues to expand and develop, there are so many Asanas being taught today.

While Yama works on removing unwanted tendencies, Niyama on the other hand works on the refinement of the being. It includes the virtues and qualities a person embraces for discipline and self-refinement of one’s own character.

Along with Asanas, the science of Pranayama has also evolved a lot.  The purpose of Pranayama was simply to gather the life force inwards and expand it to merge with the infinite whole. Nowadays, Pranayama is very beneficial for overall health and well-being through simple breathing techniques.

Pratyahara is the conscious withdrawal of energy from the senses. DharanaDhyana, and Samadhi (Concentration, Meditation, and Mergence) are the final three limbs of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga. These three limbs focus on the real purpose of Yoga and ultimately weave the path of journey of Union of your consciousness with the higher consciousness.

GRAVIS recognizes Yoga’s relevance for health and its importance in today’s world. GRAVIS through its health interventions believes in healthy living and lifestyle leading to well-being.

Kashish Kalwani

Volunteer at GRAVIS


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