Understanding the evolution of yoga and meditation as techniques of healing and holistic existence.

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

Do you remember yourself stepping your foot into 2020? Of course! Yes, you remember the beautiful lights, good food, tons of friends, and a hidden hope, a year to fulfill your dreams, a year which was going to bring happiness in your life according to you but what actually happened? The global economy is going into recession, poverty-stricken people are facing the worst situation, unemployment and all the hopes and dreams are halted just because of a tiny virus that has taken over the world.

The situation is such that we are in dire need of healing. Lost jobs and unfulfilled dreams are consuming our happiness and all we need is to take care of ourselves. True healing for some maybe going for shopping and for some maybe having good food but here in this situation, true healing will actually come from taking care of the mind-body-spirit connection.

Yoga is an amazing activity that can help people in their journey of healing. The pros of practicing yoga are that it can provide guidance to the survivors through an intentional and "self-directed space that helps to regenerate their mind, body, and spirit".

Thousands of years ago, yoga was practiced more as a necessity in the form of practicing household chores. It was embedded in the daily lifestyle of people. Imagine a world without washing machines, microwave ovens, no Vehicles, no plumbing systems, no supply of water at home rather we have to walk to fill water and so on. Yoga was a part of this daily routine of people who were unaware that while performing the chores they were practicing yoga.

But as time changed, modernization touched every aspect of our lives. The introduction of the machinery items made human lives easier but it pushed humans towards a lazy lifestyle. The rat race made humans more vulnerable to materialistic lifestyle which pushed people towards a state where their mental health isn't their concern. It was in this physically demanding world that yoga originated, not to give people more exercise but as a system of healing with a special emphasis on the brain.

In the modern world, yoga is considered a "system of healing" for the promotion of physical and mental health. In the western world, this 3000-year-old tradition is defined as a holistic approach to health. The word "yoga" is believed to from a Sanskrit root known as the "yug" which means yoke or union and to direct and concentrate one's attention.

Yoga incorporates breathing exercises, mediation, and poses which are designed to promote relaxation and the reduction of stress. It is seen that practicing yoga on a daily basis can assist people to cope up with the feelings of anxiety. Continuous practice of yoga may lead to important consequences such as the transformation in the perspective of life, self-awareness, and a better sense of energy to live our lives fully and with genuine enjoyment.

It is proved that the practice of yoga leads to a physiological state which is opposite to that of the "flight or the flight" stress response. In this state, due to the interruption in the stress response, a sense of balance is gained between the mind and the body.

The teachings and the practices of the yoga's heating system are composed of the four basic principles which are explained below:

  1. The first principle is the human body is a holistic entity comprised of various interrelated dimensions inseparable from one another and the health or illness of any one dimension affects the other dimensions.

  2. The second principle is individuals and their needs are unique and therefore must be approached in a way that acknowledges this individuality and their practice must be tailored accordingly.

  3. The third principle is yoga is self-empowering; the student is his or her own healer. Yoga engages the student in the healing process; by playing an active role in their journey toward health, the healing comes from within, instead of from an outside source, and a greater sense of autonomy is achieved.

  4. The fourth principle is that the quality and state of an individual's mind is crucial to healing. When the individual has positive mind-state healing happens more quickly, whereas if the mind-state is negative, healing may be prolonged.

The classic text, yoga sutras were the first authoritative text was the yoga philosophy was first mentioned. Most people believe that yoga is only about asana which is considered to be the physical practice of yoga but people are unaware of the fact that Asana is just one of the equipment which is widely used for the healing of the individuals. There are 193 sutras in total, among which only three are mentioned as Asanas and the remaining describe the other parts of yoga such as the meditation, lifestyle, conscious breathing, diet changes, visualization, and the use of sound and et cetera.

Maharshi Patanjali who is also known as the "Father of Yoga" mentioned the eightfold paths of yoga which is also called the Astanga Yoga in the Yoga sutras. This Astanga Yoga ensures the overall development of the personality and the eight folds included in it are as follows:

  • Yama

  • Niyama

  • Asana

  • Pranayama

  • Pratyahara

  • Dharana

  • Dhyana

  • Samadhi

Now let us see the role of yoga as a means of holistic development of personality;

1. Yoga and intellectual development:

It is scientifically proven that embedding yoga in our everyday lives helps us in accelerating the growth of the various parts of the human brain. Thus, we can say that yoga has a major role in the cognitive development of an individual. By embracing yoga in our day to day lives, we can notice the transformations in our cognitive processes like attention, memory, thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving. Yoga is primarily made for the mind control, hence, we can say that it can help in sharpening our intellect. Pranayama, one of the eight folds of yoga is said to stabilize our minds. It accelerates the concentration and reduces tensions and anxieties. Dharana and then dhyana is said to be the best ways to promote the concentration. The mind is an important part of the body and when the mind is free from any kind of problems or menaces, then intellect starts to work with subtlety. Thus, the cognitive structure of an individual strengthens through the practice of yoga.

2. Yoga and psychological well-being:

Yoga is considered to be a great tranquilizer as it has an amazing soothing effect on both the body and the mind. By practicing it, all sorts of worries and tensions can be kept at bay. The purging of the anxieties with the help of yoga enables a person to enjoy life with sound psychological health. Depression, one of the biggest mental health issues can be combatted by the practice of yoga on a regular basis. It is responsible for the stimulation of the nervous system. Thus, disorders like Post-traumatic stress disorder can be cured by practicing yoga. It embodies a person with an optimistic attitude and lifts a person from a depressing mood.

3. Yoga and self-realization:

When we integrate the body, mind, senses, and intelligence altogether with the self, it is yoga. We can call it a journey to self. It encompasses four ways in order to achieve the self-realization and they are;

Jnana marg (The path of knowledge), karma Marg (The path of selflessness), bhakti marg (The path of love and devotion ), and Yoga marg (The path of self-control). The Indian spiritual traditions believe that the enlightenment or the illumination of the self is one of the highest goals to be achieved. Yoga is responsible for the awakening of the consciousness of every living organism. Apart from all the spiritual realizations and the interpretations, the constant practice of yoga leads individuals to understand the true meaning of life on earth.

Yoga is one of the many elements of Indian culture which is embraced globally as a medium of mental well-being. And the number of yoga practitioners swirling day by day. Despite its growing popularity around the world, It is observed that the majority of the Indian Youth do not practice Yoga: when amid this epidemical crisis, the necessity of practicing yoga is more than ever before. When a significant number of Indian Youth are suffering from depression and other mental illnesses, and when mental illness is still considered to be a "Taboo" in Indian society, Yoga can be the most effective medium of mental healing for them. Thus, It can improve the lives of thousands.

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