We all know that exercise is good for health and in our daily lives most of us do not get enough of it. We take cars everywhere, we dislike walking and take the elevator instead of stairs, we do little house work and even a stroll in the park is a rare occurrence. The decision to learn and practice yoga has to begin with a very important decision – that you will discipline yourself and do it regularly.
Yoga is not a magic potion and as yoga teachers will warn you, it is not a quick way to lose weight. Yoga believes that the mind and body are linked and suggests self discipline and balance. After a few months of regular practice you will begin to lose a few inches as your body becomes supple and the muscles become leaner but it is not a beauty treatment.
First of all a yoga lesson will teach you the right way to breathe. This is called pranayama or breath control. Breathing deeply and correctly means our lungs and heart become stronger and this system also calms the mind and prepares you to begin the more energetic exercises. Also in times of crisis, when you are feeling very stressed taking a few minutes to do pranayama will calm the mind and help you cope better with your problems.
The ancient sage Patanjali lists eight systems of Hatha Yoga, the first five deal with training the body and the last three teach the perfection of the self. Yama is self control. Niyama is observance of personal behaviour. Asana is correct posture. Pranayama is breath control. Pratyahara is inhibition, moving away from the world. Dharana is concentration. Dhyana is meditation and Samadhi is gaining self knowledge. For most of us ordinary folks the discipline of Niyama and some Asanas and Pranayama is all we need to follow to make life easier.
A yoga teacher will tell you that every asana is not for everyone. It depends on the age and physical condition of the student. A yoga session will push you physically but it is never physically painful. As a matter of fact if you become breathless or feel any pain you will be asked to stop. Yoga will teach you to use bodily postures of the asanas with breath control of the pranayama to gain mental concentration. After a session you will not feel tired, you will feel rejuvenated as the aches and pains recede and your mind is calm and you are once again full of energy.
Yoga does not offer a cure for physical ailments but it does help in controlling them. Pain that affects most people stuck behind a desk like aching backs and knees, headaches after staring at a computer screen all day and at time swollen feet and aching shoulders and fingers can be controlled by simple asanas. What yoga recommends is the need for movement. Get up from your desk every hour and do a few simple stretching exercises and you will see the difference.
The best way to gain from yoga is to start you day with the pranayama and a few asanas. The session can be as short as twenty minutes and on days when you are feeling more energetic make it last longer. Go out on the balcony and breathe in the clear air and then bend and stretch the muscles of your body through the asanas that are gentle and easy to perform and you will soon see the difference.