Yoga is not an ancient myth buried in oblivion. It is the most valuable inheritance of the present. It is the essential need of today and the culture of tomorrow.” Swami Satyanada Saraswati

We see it all around us. People are not well. High rates of depression, anxiety, and sleeplessness are rampant in much of the world. Physical health conditions such as heart attacks and cancer are on the rise. Car accidents related to distracted driving are occurring on a daily basis. The use of pain killers, anti-depressants, and recreational drugs continues to skyrocket. So what is to be done about the present state of our unbalanced and unhealthy world? The answer: yoga.

The word “yoga” can be defined as union. By uniting the mind, body, and spirit, we are able to create harmony both in our physical bodies and in our lives. The practices of yoga such as asana (postures), pranayama (breathing techniques) and meditation are invaluable to cleansing the self on every level. Each practice has its own unique benefits for reducing stress, elevating mood, inducing relaxation, improving circulation, lowering blood sugar and cholesterol levels, enhancing immune function and improving overall psychological well-being.

Yoga reduces stress through the use of pranayama (breathing techniques), mindfulness, and meditation, all of which bring us to the present moment. By focusing on our breath, we are able to stay present in the now and for a short time forget about any worries. The “to do” list drifts away as we focus on elongating the breath and feeling it move through our bodies. Along with these techniques, our asana (postures) practice activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is in control of allowing our bodies to rest. Each asana is designed to release tension in different ways, working into separate areas of our bodies. Many health conditions that people are currently suffering from are stress related, such as migraines, ulcers, and irritable bowel syndrome. These are common manifestations of stress in our lives. On a larger scale, stress also contributes to more serious and even fatal conditions such as heart attacks, diabetes, and osteoporosis.

Yoga helps us pay attention and become more aware in every moment. By focusing on the breath in pranayama, body and breath in asana, and stilling the mind in meditation, we slowly train our attention span to focus longer without breaking concentration. This mindfulness in practice translates into our daily lives in a variety of ways. When we are more aware of our actions in each moment, we are less forgetful. For example, in the morning as you prepare to leave for work, it is common rush around not being fully present in the moment. On your way to work, you may forget if you turned off the coffee maker or not. You may also not remember if you locked the door or not. Because you were not fully present in each action of your morning, you cannot recall what you have and have not done. So now you must go back home to check, creating more stress as you will now probably be late for work. These sort of situations happen each day. By being mindful of our actions in each moment, we are able to minimize stress and enhance our ability to focus.

When an individual begins to practice yoga, it is common for the practice to manifest in other areas of their life. They may begin to start eating better, to cut back or even eliminate caffeine and/or alcohol, to quit jobs that are no longer beneficial for them, or to crave more time in nature. When an individual comes to the path of yoga, they may unconsciously become more aware of the effects of different actions (whether it’s deep breathing or binge drinking), on their bodies and minds and choose to do what makes them feel better.

As you can see by the examples and information written herein, yoga is not an ancient myth. It is not a dead religion, and it is not an exclusive exercise practice. Yoga is the most valuable inheritance of the present, and can help the world transform from a place of tragedy, sickness, and pain to a world of balance, mindful behavior, and wholeness.

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Author's Bio: 

Chandra Yoga International offer 200 Hour and 300 Hour Yoga Teacher Training Courses and Retreats in India.

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