What is Yoga?
Yoga is a word from the ancient Sanskrit language that means Union, the attainment and merger of the individual human consciousness with the cosmic consciousness. The word Yoga is also used to describe the different Yogic Techniques employed, the different disciplines that are used to facilitate the awareness and experience of Body, Mind and Spirit integration.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), total health should include physical, mental and social well being. For thousands of years, Yoga had a holistic understanding of the Human being, its subtle physiology and the connection between mind and body. The vast philosophies and disciplines of Yoga have remained essentially the same over the years. Yoga views the human body as a composite of mind, body, and spirit, and supplies unique techniques that create a harmony between these increasingly more refined aspects of our total personality.
Scientific research on Yoga, and its impact on mind and body, has been expanding at a modest rate for the past three decades. One of the yogic models used to describe, what constitutes the human beings total personality is known as the PanchaKosha (five sheaths or bodies) theory. The five body theory can be experienced through awakening of the major chakras,Sushumna and Kundalini, i.e. Yoga. From the deepest most subtle body or sheath to the gross and superficial body, Yoga views the innermost essence of everyone as:
- Spirit Body - AnandamayaKosha (body of bliss)
- Psychic Body - VigyanamayaKosha (unconscious mind)
- Mental Body - ManomayaKosha (conscious mind)
- Energy Body - PranamayaKosha( bio-plasmic energy, life force)
- Physical Body - AnnamayaKosha(food dependant, gross body)
An analogy once described by Swami Niranjan went like this. Imagine a human being like an onion consisting of five layers. The outer ring or sheath is the physical body, the second ring inside is the bio energy sheath, the third ring is the mental body, the fourth ring is the psychic body or sheath, and the last ring is the innermost essence, being the spiritual essence and experience.
Yoga views health as essential and an outcome of having found a balance between our total personality and the world around us. This fits well with the total health model definition described by WHO. According to Yoga when there is a free flow of Prana or Chi (Life force or Subtle energy) within the Nadis or Meridians, it permeates our bodies, resulting in good health. This is because of the body's ability to maintain a physiological and psychological homeostatic balance.
Yoga uses techniques that help boost, harmonize and refine the flow of breath, thereby helping to maintain or enhance health. When there is an imbalance or blockage to the flow of consciousness or energy that moves within these channels, then illness and or diseases can manifest and impact your health.
Yoga Postures (Asanas) - are postures that stimulate the flow of Prana/ Chi(Energy) throughout the body. They can include forward bending postures,backward bending postures, sideways bending postures, twisting postures,inverted,balancing and meditational postures.
Breathing Techniques (Pranayama): A repertoire of breathing exercises to revitalise the physiological components of respiration (breathing). These techniques are recommended to help balance the nervous system and provide the doorway to productive meditation.
Meditation - A vast array of techniques exist within meditation, starting with deep relaxation for beginners (Yoga Nidra). People can then progress to more advanced meditation techniques, depending on their needs and experience. Through Meditation you realize how important a balanced mind is through experiencing deeper aspects of your own personality. Subsequently, you begin to balance your essential needs and desires and develop insights.