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Go gaga over yoga: Know what the different dimensions to the age-old discipline are

On World Yoga Day, experts share tips to practise yoga the right way, its health benefits and how excess of it can be harmful.

fitness Updated: Jun 21, 2017 18:01 IST
Sarojini Jose
Sarojini Jose
World Yoga Day,International Yoga Day,Health Secrets Of Celebrities
According to the disciplines of yoga, its benefits vary in nature.(Istock)

I have been practising yoga since I was 10. It has made not just my body but also my mind flexible and healthy. It helps me to be active throughout the day and also focus on positive thoughts. Even in adverse situations, I am courageous. I am 43 now, and I am proud to say I suffer from no diseases,” says Dr Seema Dixit, a Bachelor of Naturopathy and Yogic Science (BNYS) degree holder.

While for many, yoga is a discipline introduced in school, it is never too late to start practising it.

Dr Amrapali Patil, yoga guru and founder, Trim N Tone, Powai, explains the benefits of yoga on the basis of the discipline undertaken by an individual:

Yoga as a physical discipline: The poses in this form of yoga practice increase the flexibility of the body and facilitate blood circulation all across the body. They detoxify the body by removing the obstructions in the path of free flow of the energy. The overall benefit is a restored homoeostasis and improved function of all body systems — whether it’s the digestive tract or the endocrine function. Pranayama and certain asanas like parvatasana (the mountain pose), gomukhasana (cow’s face pose), etc. improve the functioning of the lungs and the respiratory system. Asanas such as matsyendrasana (named after a famous saint belonging to nath tradition, Shri Matsyendranath) or vakrasana (spinal twist posture) massage the organs in the abdomen. The physical yogic practice makes the body supple and toned. One can perceive this in the form of enhanced energy levels.

Yoga as an ethical discipline: Ashtanga yoga is the eight-limbed pathway that includes the yamas (self-denial or restraints) and niyamas (observances) as the first two important ethical steps en route to the remaining six others (viz. asana, pranayama, pratyahar, dharana, dhyaan and samadhi). These two steps set the stage for a moral code of conduct in which one learns to understand and practice fine concepts of harmlessness, truthfulness, non-covetousness, continence, non-attachment, contentment, cleanliness, etc. Thus, these form the ethical edifice of yoga.

Focussing excessively on the physical aspect of yoga, can prove to be detrimental. ( Istock )

Yoga as a psycho-physiological discipline: Research says that this yoga practice can have a stupendous yet subtle effect on the vital energy of the body called as prana in Sanskrit, qi in Japanese and chi in Chinese. Since the mind and body are interconnected, it lends psycho-somatic benefits. Many people suffering from hypertension, asthma and migraine have benefitted from it. This yoga practice has a positive impact on endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, cortisol and the epinephrine levels of the body. It makes one mindful, calm, tranquil and peaceful.

Yoga as a spiritual discipline: The ultimate purpose of yoga is the awakening of kundalini, which is the evolutionary energy residing in the dormant form in the mooladhar chakra or the root chakra of the seven chakras or the energy vortices of the human body. Yoga practice stimulates these chakras, thereby triggering the awakening of kundalini, which then transcends upwards –– piercing through all the other chakras to reach the sahasrara chakra or the crown chakra. There are 72,000 nadis or energy pathways across the body, the chief ones of which are ida, pingala and sushumna. These get purified in a way the flow of prana across the body becomes free and easy. Once there is a balance between the ida and pingala nadis, the sushumna nadi opens up making way for the awakened kundalini to rise up towards the higher centres of human consciousness. Thus, this yoga practice activates and awakens the evolutionary energy in humans leading one to an expanded state of consciousness.

Too much yoga?

Prameet Kotak, holistic wellness consultant, Raptfx, says that despite the multiple benefits, it is necessary to draw a line to do yoga.

“Too much focus on the physical, stretching part of yoga can be detrimental to body. A stretch weakens a muscle unless you do it with very good instructions and full awareness, and most teachers these days qualify with three months of training, so beware. Anyway, not to dissuade anyone from practising, work within your limits,” says Kotak.

Dr Patil explains, “It is vital to comprehend that the yogic postures, while physically enriching excellent tools are not the true practice of yoga as such unless and until they are harnessed with an inward awareness and meditation.”

Experts share their thoughts on the latest trend of beer yoga:

“I have studied traditional hatha yoga. But I have been introduced to many forms and have quite enjoined them. They all have a different flow and energy to them and yet all reach the same space if done with sincerity. About beer yoga... I don’t like beer. May be wine yoga (laughs).”

Pushtiie Shakti, actor and yogini.

“I have reservations against newly patented forms of yoga like hot yoga or beer yoga. If the basic principles are followed, I do not mind. People should remember that yoga is not just asanas. Its purpose is much higher than just physical fitness.”

Dr Gauhar Vatsyayan, MD and Ayurveda consultant.

“I was somewhat a purist till a few years ago. But physical fitness and yoga has evolved so much now, thanks to all kinds of fusion workouts. I love to try these since I like variety in my workouts and they are challenging. I have tried paddle board yoga in Mission Bay, Auckland, and Bikram’s hot yoga. Both of which proved to be a great experience. In fact, I follow the Iyengar school of yoga which is also a fusion of hatha yoga with props. That said, I’d rather have my chilled beer after a game of golf.”

Nikhil Kapur, director and founder, Atmantan Wellness Centre, Pune.

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First Published: Jun 21, 2017 18:01 IST