The word yoga is one that is now so popular everywhere. You must have surely seen videos and pictures of our Prime Minister Sri Narendra Modi leading thousands of people in the international day of yoga celebrations in the last few years. Maybe some of you are also learning yoga in school or elsewhere.
Let us try to understand what yoga is, where it comes from and why we must do yoga.
Yoga is an ancient knowledge system, that was known to the great rishis thousands of years ago. The basic concept behind yoga philosophy is that we suffer because of all the experiences our mind goes through. However, by controlling the way the mind functions, it is possible for us to be free from suffering, duhkha. Yoga is a system that shows us how to control the mind, and also helps us to focus with attention so that whatever we do, we do it well.
The main aspect of yoga is meditation or dhyanam. When we meditate, our mind becomes clearer and sharper. But, it is not easy to meditate. Our mind is like a monkey that keeps jumping from one thought to another. So, we need to do something that will help us slow down the mind. This is where practices like pranayama come in to the picture. It might seem funny to see someone sitting quietly and holding their noses, but pranayama is a very powerful way of regulating the breath and making our inhalation and exhalation smooth and deep. When we learn to control the breath, automatically the mind will become a little quieter.
Next time, when you are angry or disturbed, you can try a small experiment. Instead of just shouting or reacting, try to go to a quiet place and sit for a few minutes. Close your eyes and just focus on breathing in and out. Observe your mind after five minutes. Surely, you will notice a change in your agitation or anger.
In all this, where does asana fit in?
To practice proper pranayama, we must sit comfortably with the back straight. Asana practices help to prepare the body for pranayama, which in turn helps us meditate.
Asana refers to the practice of certain postures along with breathing. Specifically, for children, asana practice helps to make the body flexible and strong. Not only that, regular practice of asana-s will also make the mind sharper and more capable of focus. Immunity will increase as will concentration. Overall you feel healthier and perform better at whatever you do.