Yoga – not just an exercise, but a tool for total Well-Being

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines health as a state of complete physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being and not merely the  absence of a disease. Here, yoga guru, Kaithapram Vasudevan Namboodiri tells us how this total well-being can be achieved by making yoga a part of one’s life.

Yoga is an fitness regimen that is therapeutic and aids in the total well-being of a person. It is learnt that yoga can easily satisfy all the needs of human life. Today, yoga is considered not just as a life style but also asa way of life. It is a systematic methodology for an all round personality development. It helps one to grow from his animal nature to higher levels of consciousness.

According to the Upanishadic literature, man has five layers of existence. The ­grossest one is food sheath (annamaya kosa ), our physical body, made of five basic elements (panca bhoota), namely earth, water, fire, air and space.

Subtler one is pranamaya kosa (vital energy). Prana flows in every part of the body and helps tokeep them alive and healthy. According to its function, prana is devided into five – prana (connected to breath), apana (downward force), udana ( upward movement), samana ( balancing of prana and apana and also digestion), and vyana ( whole body). When all the five are in proper balance, health is guaranteed.
Manomaya kosa (mental sheath ) is the next one. Perception, memory and ego are the functions of mind, here.

Vijnaana maya kosa (intellectual sheath) is the next one which guides the mind to master over the basic Instincts. Discrimination is its power.

Ananda maya kosa (bliss sheath) is the subtlest layer of existence. It is a state of silence and bliss and it is devoid of emotions.

Faculties are balanced in the bliss sheath and intellectual sheath. Problem starts in the mind sheath. “Yoga Vasishtha”, the oldest yogic literature deals with this problem in detail.
Here, Sri Rama asks Vasishtha, the Saint and Guru about aadhi and vyaadhi.
Vasishtha says that physical illnesses are vyaadhi and mental, aadhi. Aadhi happens when the mind is agitated and become imbalanced by emotions and desire. This affects the prana and its flow gets interrupted. Digestion, respiration, blood circulation and other vital functions of the body are in trouble. Poor digestion, excess digestion or irregular digestion happens. This pattern follows in all other systems too. Gradually, these difficulties become bodily ailments. They’re called vyaadhi. There may be an intervel between aadhi and vyaadhi. These types of deseases are called psychosomatic illnesses. They take birth in mind, affects prana and manifest as diseases in the body. That means all the three sheaths are involved in psychosomatic ailments. So yoga organisations like SVYASA recommends integrated approach in the treatment of these ailments. Asthma, diabetes mellitus, and hypertension are some of the ailments in this category. Yoga practices can be made use of for harmonising each of the five sheaths.

For cleansing or detoxing the inner and outer body, many practices (kriya) are mentioned in the Hatha yoga. Neti, dhouti, and kapalabhati are some of them. Yogic sookshma vyaayaam (loosening exercise) and asanas give flexibility and relaxation to the body.
Mental tension cause imbalance in breath pattern. Proper breathing and pranayama harmonise the prana maya kosa or the sheath of vital energy.
Dharana (concentration) and dhyana (meditation) helps in balancing the mind. Application of transcendental meditation in curing the psychosomatic ailments is well accepted. Prayers and chants are used to make the emotions sublime. This then creats a congenial atmosphere.
Intellect asks logic. It analyses and discriminates what is permanent in this world. It recognises the original nature of the self. Knowledge burns out the attachment and agitation of the mind. Ever dormant residuals of karma are destroyed.
Doing all the works and practices in blissful awareness ( karma yoga)is the key to the life full of Ananda, bliss.

In fact, many streams of yoga, like karma yoga, Jana yoga, bhakti yoga and Raja yoga exists to cater to the needs of many types of individuals. Researches are being done in this field and encouraging results have been brought out. More researches are yet to be done as yoga has become so popular and expectations from it are high.

Kaithapram Vasudevan Namboodiri

Yoga MSc. AYUSH-Certified

Yoga Teacher, Yoga TTC from Sivanadasram (Neyyar Dam)

Director, Patanjali Yoga Training & Research Center

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