Yoga and why one should practice it

My previous article "Who is a Yogi" dealt with the subject of Yoga practice and what qualifies one to be a Yogi. In this article I will try to deal with the reasons and motivations behind the practice of Yoga.

Today, the world is becoming a harsher place, despite all the material luxuries we pile ourselves with (to soften this harshness perhaps). As Material science has evolved,

it has spawned a whole new paradigm in Material consumerism (Cars, Bikes, TVs, DVD players, Computers, the Internet and so on). This consumerism and struggle has been called a [[Rat race]] before and perhaps has never been more relevant than at present.


In the quest to possess more of these possessibles, we (human beings) have embarked on an infinitely regressing rabbithole of [[supply and demand]]. The case is very simple actually…more we have, the more we want (because that is the nature of materialism), especially since these material possessibles have transcended the realm of utility and comfortably plomped themselves into "luxury-land". No, we don't know anymore whether having a TV set is a luxury or a utility ((people could argue for hours and days even about this) TV is just an example, use whatever material possession your heart aches to possess)…but what I can tell you is that odds are that if you have a normal TV, you will probably be enticed to buy a flatscreen LCD HDTV and then a progressive scan HD-DVD player, a home-theater, and so on.

The demand is own better, faster and more and the supply strives to keep up. How? By more work (not necessarily harder) and higher productivity.

How does this tie into Yoga? Here's how…

Everything today is tied into this cycle of demand and supply (like the proverbial "Chicken and Egg", it is uncertain which came first though). Our lives and lifestyles are defined by this phenomenon (varying degrees of influence albeit). We are (in general), working harder, longer and the work is possibly more complex in nature. All this takes a toll on our minds and bodies. Lifestyle [[disorders]] such as [[chronic fatigue syndrome]],[[coronary heart disease]] have become a much more common phenomena than they were even twenty years ago. In India (which was relatively free from these malaises) we read news about 20-30 somethings having heart attacks, nervous breakdowns and other alarming diseases (eg: infertility in men and women). Obesity is a problem that troubled the West but now has started afflicting the Indian middle-class.

{sidebar id=22}All this is indicative of retrograde trends in general well-being and lifestyles of the masses. How so? Here's how.

We work harder, longer. We sleep less because we have to keep up with the longer work hours and harder work. Television has taken over as the recreation of the masses and we sit and eat in front of the TV, watch TV till we nod off, thinking it is relaxation. A lot of us have desk jobs, which means less physical exercise for us. Stimulants we consume (Coffee, Nicotine, etc) leave our brains and nervous systems a complete mess and interfere with an already confused [[circadian]] clock. All this outward focus is obfuscating our true nature from ourselves. We identify ourselves with ephemeral entities such as our profession, our social status, whether we are rich or poor or by our family name (the list can go on and on). But a nagging feeling in the back of our mind and heart keeps whispering that there might be more to it than just these. It creates a great feeling of discontent, which we try and satisfy by collecting more and more material objects, over-eating or over-working or turning to substance abuse (in short, another round of excess follows yet another round…ad infinitum).

And as we feel the discontent (almost all of us, at some point in our lives have felt or will feel this discontent) and go progressively into a deeper spin of excess, the feeling grows stronger and stronger. We feel as if nothing pleases us anymore, nothing gives us pleasure, perhaps not even the fleeting kind. What we should be doing (instead of material abuse) is to tune in, turn inwards and come to terms with who and what we "really" are. Sounds New-agey right? But it's true — we need to. To stand completely stripped of all pretenses, naked before our conscience! When we look at our totality and accept who and what we are, and realize what we should be, that is the Non-Judgement day we should all strive for.

[[Yoga]] is the perfect tool to help us come to terms with ourselves, to tune inward and reflect upon who and what we are/have become/going to be.

Yoga isn't just the Hatha Yoga which is popular today — Yoga is the practice of joining the body, mind and spirit together (or realizing that it was all the same anyway, depending on which philosophical school one adheres to) until no distinction remains. The practice of [[Yama]], [[Niyama]], [[Asana]], [[Pranayama]], [[Pratyahara]], [[Dharana]], [[Dhyana]] and [[Samadhi]] is Yoga and it calls for the right observances of moral and physical health. The core foundation of non-violence, truthfulness, not-stealing, abstinence (in case of non-ascetic practitioners, it is moderation) leads to a focussed mind. The practice of Asanas (various physical exercises) and Pranayama (Life Force Control) focusses and purifies Prana (life force) and helps prepare stage for deep meditation and eventually complete absorption.

In course of Yoga practice, we will encounter various challenges. There might be hurdles that turn up and apathy (towards practice) might develop. But in most cases these can be easily overcome. The shedding of pretenses with  and about oneself can be very daunting and scary. As the practice deepens, tension and stress deep within the recesses of the body will be confronted. These have to be worked out of the system gently and with patience. This tension/stress is not necessarily only physical — these can be (and odds are that they will be) emotional and psycho-spiritual stress. A habitual reaction to a particular kind of stimulus (say work stress forming a band in the upper back, neck and shoulder and causing all sorts of havoc with one's posture and daily life in the form of cramps, pain and spondylitis…the list is unique to each of us, as our practice will unfold in front of us) will result in that stress being stored in our soft tissue and muscles and "brushed under the carpet". These will surface and with regular practice will be overcome and "melted away".

To create a healthy mind, body and spirit, Yoga or it's sister system of Taoist Tai Chi is excellent and highly recommended.  The cure for today's materialistic automatic lifestyle is in these millenia-old systems. We will regret it if pass these  up and delude ourselves with our fast cars, Televisions and computers.


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