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Traditional Yoga: Things You Need To Know

Traditional Yoga is not only about asanas as it comprises seven more steps

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Trending of #fitnesschallenge on various social media platforms proves that people are becoming more health conscious than ever. Well known personalities from Narendra Modi To Virat Kohli came forward to support this movement and uploaded their fitness routine videos, encouraging citizens to focus on living a healthy life. Citizens from across the country followed their idols advice and started uploading videos of their performing some physical exercise on Facebook, Instagram, twitter etc.  Many of them also started practicing yoga asanas to get into shape and remain fit. Amid all this enthusiasm we forget to ask ourselves an important question - is health limited to physical fitness only? WHO does not seem to agree with this. According to them, health is the state of complete physical, mental and social well-being. But did you know that yoga can help you become physically, mentally and socially healthy?

To get the maximum benefits from yoga, we need to unlearn whatever we know about this practice and look at it from a different perspective. For this, first, we need to understand that the oldest holistic health care system of the world is not limited only to the asanas. It consists of an eightfold spiritual practice, wherein the first four are bahiranga sadhana (external practices) and the rest four are antaranga sadhana (internal practices). The yoga talked about here is known as Ashtanga yoga of Patanjali. In his Yoga Sutras, Patanjali explains the path in greater detail.

The first step known as Yama or restraint consists of ahimsa (abstention from injury to any life), satya (truthfulness in thought and speech), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (control of carnal desires) and aparigraha (non-acceptance of unnecessary gifts). This practice protects a person from indulging into evil activities.

The second step, niyama or culture consists of sauca (purification of body and mind by washing and taking pure food and cultivation of good emotions respectively), santosa (being content with what we have), tapas (enduring cold, heat etc), svadhyaya (study of religious books regularly) and isvarapranidhana (resignation to God). It ensures that a person leads a moral life through good actions.

Asana, the third path does not ask the yoga practitioner to overexert his body instead, it talks about the adoption of comfortable postures. This practice aims at keeping the physical body healthy.

Fourth path, pranayama is the regulation of breath which is instrumental in erasing negative thoughts and having a peaceful mind. This practice helps in using our powers in a positive way.

The first four stages of Patanjali's yoga focus on refining our personalities, gaining mastery over body and developing awareness of ourselves which prepares us for the second half of the yoga dealing with senses, mind and attaining the higher state of consciousness.
Pratyahara which consists of keeping the senses under control of the mind is the fifth path. In this practice, the mind is directed inwards which helps in spiritual development.

Dharana or attention, the sixth step consists in fixing the mind on some desired object which gradually increases the concentration of the practitioner.

Dhyana, the steadfast contemplation of object without any disturbance or break is the seventh step. Practising Dhyana results in a pure mind capable of achieving anything.

Samadhi is the final step in which the mind becomes so deeply absorbed in the object that it loses awareness of itself. After achieving this stage, one becomes totally engrossed in his/her work but remains conscious while progressing on his path that leads to pure joy.

In a nutshell, these eight paths are beneficial for a person in several ways. Yama and niyama lead to moral strengthening, asana and pranayama lead to physical perfection, pratyahara and dharana helps in strengthening the mind, Dhyana lead to spiritual progress whereas Samadhi leads to self-realization.

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International Yoga Day 2018 yoga day Yoga Day India