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21st June was International Yoga Day. Across the world millions of yoga enthusiasts vouch for the benefits of Yoga.
There are numerous classes, programs on television that teach yoga. This article will show you some simple techniques that will help you learn to relax.
It helps us improve our physical and mental health, stay positive and step into each day with confidence. Yoga is not a set of inverted postures or exercises to show off our flexibility. It is not just exercise, meditation or even breathing as many people think.
Sage Pathanjali, who has given us the science of yoga in 195 sutras or aphorisms in his Pathanjal Yoga Dharshan defines it beautifully as: Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodhaha:
This verse means “Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind with awareness.”
The mind is always full of thoughts of the past and present. The mind is responsible for all the stress we go through leading to psycho somatic diseases. Yoga is establishing the mind in the ‘here and now’.
The mind is a good servant but a bad master. It is very difficult to control the mind. Forcing the mind to relax evokes a strong opposite reaction from it. The more we want to avoid unpleasant thoughts the more the mind brings them back from memory.
Yoga, by definition, is stopping these numerous thoughts of the mind, with awareness. Practice of Yoga helps us be aware of our body and mind and get into a relaxing routine that then becomes a habit.
Asana and Pranayama are Yoga practices that are taught for beginners.
Asana is a steady pleasurable posture involving body and mind together.
Pathanjali Yoga Sutra defines Asana as Sthiram Sukham Asanam. It means Asana is a steady and pleasurable psycho-somatic posture involving the body and the mind.
There are three essential techniques for practicing yogasanas. These techniques help us be aware of our body and breathing and lead to relaxation of the mind.
Pranadharana means mind fixed on breathing. Prana is breath/life force and Dharana is fixation of mind on one thing. It is a technique that helps us focus on one object within ourselves and relax.
The easiest technique in pranadharana is counting of breaths. Just be aware of your breathing and start counting your breaths.
Count the breaths – one inhalation and exhalation as one
So, while you start going into an asana or posture, be aware of your body parts while breathing normally.
Once you attain the posture, close your eyes and practice pranadharana. You can start with counting of your breath in your mind, say 5 counts. Slowly you can maintain the posture for 15 counts.
The longer you maintain a particular posture, the greater are the benefits.
The second technique in practice of Yoga is Conscious differential relaxation – You consciously relax body parts not involved in the posture.
For eg. in Bhujangasana, you lie down on your stomach and then lift your upper body, from your navel. The lower body is not involved in the posture. So while your back and the upper body is stretched, consciously relax your legs, and lower part of the body. Similarly keep your face completely relaxed.
This practice of conscious differential relaxation will help you enjoy each posture/asana.
The third technique is moving your body parts slowly and with awareness. The yogic movements must be slow, steady, attractive, rhythmic and graceful.
Practicing these three essential techniques while doing yoga helps you be aware of our body, focus on your breathing and relax completely.
Here is a simple asana that any beginner can try.
Stand straight. Keep your body relaxed. Hands by your side.
Bring your feet together.
Now bend your hands at your elbows and press the palms together. (Like you do in “Namaskar” gesture)
Gently close your eyes and start counting your breaths in your mind.
You will feel your body gently swaying.
Count from 1 to 5
Then gently open your eyes with a smile on your face.
You will feel relaxed.
Warm wishes for good health, peace and happiness on this International Yoga Day
Image source: woman doing yoga by Shutterstock.
Author of book, Hello Banker.
Founder, Trainer at Banxzu training and development solutions.
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