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Yoga – The Benefits

bulletHealing Effects of Yoga
bulletHealth Conditions Benefited By Yoga
Asthma
Respiration Problems - Bronchitis and Emphysema
High Blood Pressure
Pain Management
Back Pain
Self-Awareness
Mental Performance
Diabetes
Mood Change And Vitality
Arthritis
bulletAnti-ageing Properties of Yoga: Remain Young Forever!
bulletYoga For Weight Reduction
bulletYoga and Mental Health
Personal Values
Social Values
bulletYoga and Beauty
bulletYoga and Sex
bulletYoga and Pride
bulletYoga and Knowledge
bulletYoga and Wealth
bulletYoga for Insomnia

Yoga’s primary emphasis is upon general well-being. Although yoga has been shown to be beneficial in a variety of conditions, it is not considered a therapy for specific illnesses. Rather, yoga employs a broad holistic approach that focuses on teaching people a new lifestyle, way of thinking, and way of being in the world. In the process, however, it is also found to bring a myriad of healing effects. By attending to practices for improving, regaining or retaining general good health, a person is likely to find that some of his more specific difficulties tend to disappear. Many of the healing effects of yoga is clinically verified. We will look at the healing effects of yoga. However, one of the most important benefit of yoga is its application in relieving stress, fatigue, invigoration and vitality and its anti-aging properties and its application for relaxation therapy.

According to Swami Sivananda, the benefits of pranayama (yogic breathing practices) include:

"The body becomes strong and healthy. Too much fat is reduced. There is luster in the face. Eyes sparkle like diamonds. The practitioner becomes very handsome. Voice becomes sweet and melodious"

Indra Devi, author of many books on yoga suggests that with yoga:

"You will be able to enjoy better sleep, a happier disposition, a clearer and calmer mind. You will learn how to build up your health and protect yourself against colds, fevers, constipation, headaches, fatigue, and other troubles. You will know what to do in order to remain youthful, vital and alert, regardless of your calendar-age; how to lose or gain weight; how to get rid of premature wrinkles, and keep a smooth skin and clear complexion."

Healing Effects of Yoga:

Yoga has been used for disorders such as:
bulletAcid Stomach
bulletAddictions,
bulletAsthma:
bulletBackache
bulletBronchitis
bulletCancer,
bulletCold
bulletConstipation
bulletDepression
bulletDiabetes (not a cure!)
bulletEmphysema
bulletEyestrain
bulletFlatulence
bulletHeadache
bulletHeart Disorders,
bulletHypertension (High Blood Pressure),
bulletIndigestion
bulletInsomnia
bulletMenstrual disorders
bulletMigraines,
bulletNeurasthenia
bulletObesity
bulletPremenstrual Tension,
bulletProstate troubles
bulletRheumatism
bulletSciatica
bulletSexual debility
bulletSinus
bulletSkin diseases
bulletSore throat
bulletStress And Tension
bulletWrinkles

Yoga is being assessed for its potential in treating illnesses such as:
bulletMultiple Sclerosis,
bulletCerebral Palsy,
bulletOsteoporosis,
bulletRheumatoid Arthritis And
bulletDepression Experienced After Childbirth.

Thousands of studies have shown that yoga can allow people to control a wide range of body functions, including
bulletBlood pressure
bulletBody temperature
bulletBrain waves (as measured by EEG)
bulletHeart rate
bulletMetabolic rate
bulletRespiratory function
bulletskin resistance

Studies show that people who practice yoga have:
bulletReduced anxiety,
bulletAre more resistant to stress, and
bulletHave lower blood pressure,
bulletMore efficient heart function,
bulletBetter respiratory function, and
bulletImproved physical fitness.

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Health Conditions Benefited By Yoga

The following is a summary of the results of a survey conducted by Yoga Biomedical Trust in 1983-84. 3000 individuals with health ailments for which yoga was prescribed as an alternative therapy were surveyed. The results show that yoga is very effective for treating alcoholism, back pain, nerve or muscle disease, heart disease management, anxiety, arthritis, ulcers and managing cancer. The complete results are shown in the table below.

Ailment Number of Cases Reporting Percent Claiming Benefit
Back Pain 1,142 98
Arthritis or rheumatism 589 90
Anxiety 838 94
Migraine 464 80
Insomnia 542 82
Nerve or muscle disease 112 96
Menstrual problems 317 68
Premenstrual tension 848 77
Menopause disorders 247 83
Hypertension 150 84
Heart disease 50 94
Asthma or bronchitis 226 88
Duodenal ulcers 40 90
Hemorrhoids 391 88
Obesity 240 74
Diabetes 10 80
Cancer 29 90
Tobacco addiction 219 74
Alcoholism 26 100

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Asthma

Studies conducted at yoga institutions in India have reported impressive success in improving asthma. For example, one study of 255 people with asthma found that yoga resulted in improvement or cure in 74 percent of asthma patients. Another study of 114 patients treated over one year by yoga found a 76 percent rate of improvement or cure and that asthma attacks could usually be prevented by yoga methods without resorting to drugs.

Yet another Indian study of 15 people with asthma claims a 93 percent improvement rate over a 9-year period. That study found improvement was linked with improved concentration, and the addition of a meditative procedure made the treatment more effective than simple postures and pranayama. Yoga practice also resulted in greater reduction in anxiety scores than drug therapy. Its authors believe that yoga practice helps patients through enabling them to gain access to their own internal experience and increased self-awareness.

A study of 46 adolescents with asthma found that yoga practice resulted in a significant increase in pulmonary function and exercise capacity and led to fewer symptoms and medications. Patients were given daily training in yoga for 90 minutes in the morning and one hour in the evening for 40 days. Practice included yogic cleansing procedures (kriyas), maintenance of yogic body postures (asanas), and yogic breathing practices (pranayama).

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Respiration Problems - Bronchitis and Emphysema

In an experiment conducted in Western Australia, 22 male patients aged 52 to 65 were selected. They suffered severe breathing problems such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema - that made normal breathing impossible.

Half of the men underwent standard treatment: physiotherapy, that included relaxation techniques, breathing exercises and general workouts to improve stamina.

The other 11 men were given a yoga teacher instead of a physiotherapist. He taught them techniques of yoga breathing, which encouraged the use of all chest and abdominal muscles as well as ten yoga postures.

The patients practiced their particular exercises for nine months. Then they were reexamined at the hospital: a technician tested their lung function, a physician screened them closely to determine how their symptoms had changed, and a stationary exercise bicycle was used to measure their capacity for exercise.

The difference between the two groups was striking. The men who had practiced yoga showed a significant improvement in their ability to exercise, but the physiotherapy group did not. Eight or more out of the 11 patients who underwent yoga declared that they had definitely increased tolerance for exertion and that they recovered more quickly after exertion The physiotherapy group reported no similar improvement.

Best of all, the patients who had studied yoga apparently gained the ability to control their breathing problems. A significantly greater number of patients reported that "with the help of yogic breathing exercises, they could control an attack of severe shortness of breath without having to seek medical help," according to the study.

Doctors analyzing the results from the study postulate that, after the training, the breathing pattern of the patients in the yoga group changed to a slower and deeper cycle, allowing them to tolerate higher work loads. Patients in the physiotherapy group continued in their shallow rapid breathing pattern. This may explain the higher tolerance breathing problems by the yoga group.

Other studies have confirmed the beneficial effects of yoga for patients with respiratory problems.

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High Blood Pressure

The relaxation and exercise components of yoga have a major role to play in the treatment and prevention of high blood pressure (hypertension). A combination of biofeedback and yogic breathing and relaxation techniques has been found to lower blood pressure and reduce the need for high blood pressure medication in people suffering from high blood pressure. In 20 patients with high blood pressure who practiced biofeedback and yoga techniques, five were able to stop their blood pressure medication completely, five were able to reduce significantly the amount of medication they were taking, and another four had lower blood pressure than at the beginning of the three-month study.

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Pain Management

Yoga is believed to reduce pain by helping the brain's pain center regulate the gate-controlling mechanism located in the spinal cord and the secretion of natural painkillers in the body. Breathing exercises used in yoga can also reduce pain. Because muscles tend to relax when you exhale, lengthening the time of exhalation can help produce relaxation and reduce tension. Awareness of breathing helps to achieve calmer, slower respiration and aid in relaxation and pain management.

Yoga's inclusion of relaxation techniques and meditation can also help reduce pain. Part of the effectiveness of yoga in reducing pain is due to its focus on self-awareness. This self-awareness can have a protective effect and allow for early preventive action.

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Back Pain

Back pain is the most common reason to seek medical attention. Yoga has consistently been used to cure and prevent back pain by enhancing strength and flexibility. Both acute and long-term stress can lead to muscle tension and exacerbate back problems. A number of components of yoga help to ease back pain:

* Asanas (Postures)-Practicing of postures provides gentle stretching and movements that increase flexibility and help correct bad posture.

* Pranayama (Breathing Exercises) -Breathing patterns can affect the spine in various ways, such as movement of the ribs and changes in pressure within the chest and abdomen. Exhaling can help relax muscles.

* Relaxation and Meditation- Relaxation provides a physiologic antidote to stress. Imaging techniques may also be used. For example, imagining a movement before it is actually performed makes it easier to move the muscles that are being used.

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Self-Awareness

Yoga also strives to increase self-awareness on both a physical and psychological level. This allows people to take early collective action, such as adjusting posture, when discomfort is first noticed.

Patients who study yoga learn to induce relaxation and then can use the technique whenever pain appears. Practicing yoga can provide chronic pain sufferers with useful tools to actively cope with their pain and help counter feelings of helplessness and depression.

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Mental Performance

A common technique used in yoga is breathing through one nostril at a time. Electroencephalogram (EEG) studies of the electrical impulses of the brain have shown dial breathing through one nostril results in increased activity on the opposite side of the brain. Some experts suggest that the regular practice of breathing through one nostril may help improve communication between the right and left side of the brain.

Other studies show this increased brain activity is associated with better performance and suggest that yoga can enhance cognitive performance. For example, a study of 23 men found that breathing through one nostril resulted in better performance of tasks associated with the opposite side of the brain.

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Diabetes

A study of 149 persons with non-insulin dependent diabetes found that 104 had lowered blood sugar and needed less oral antidiabetes medication after regularly practicing yoga. Because the patients were placed on a vegetarian diet during the study, however, the effect of yoga practice alone on blood sugar levels cannot be determined.

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Mood Change And Vitality

Mental health and physical energy are difficult to quantify, but virtually everyone who participates in yoga over a period of time reports a positive effect on outlook and energy level. A British study of 71 healthy volunteers aged 21 to 76 found that a 30minute program of yogic stretching and breathing exercises was simple to learn and resulted in a "markedly invigorating" effect on perceptions of both mental and physical energy and improved mood.

The study compared relaxation, Visualization and yoga. It found that the yoga group had a significantly greater increase in perceptions of mental and physical energy and feelings of alertness and enthusiasm than the other groups. Relaxation was found to make people more sleepy and sluggish after a session, and visualization made them more sluggish and less content than those in the yoga group.

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Arthritis

Yoga’s gentle exercises designed to provide relief to needed joints had been found to be very effective in relieving arthritis.

"Exercise has been recommended as treatment for arthritis for a long, long time -about 75 years," says Morris K Bowie, M.D., a rheumatologist at Bryn Mawr Hospital in Pennsylvania. "People were exercising their arthritic joints before yoga was ever introduced into this country. Exercise is very important to try to reestablish a complete range of motion. Of course, that doesn't mean you should induce a long continual strain. We encourage a moderate amount of non-strenuous, non-weight-bearing exercises tailored to the individual's needs. Some yoga postures are not tolerated well, particularly by those past 50."

Yoga’s slow-motion movements and gentle pressures reach deep into troubled joints. In addition, the easy stretches in conjunction with deep breathing exercises relieve the tension that binds up the muscles and further tightens the joints. Yoga is exercise and relaxation rolled into one - the perfect antiarthritis formula.

A major problem in prescribing exercise is in getting the patient to follow through. If an exercise program is painful and too strenuous, it isn’t likely to be continued. An arthritis sufferer probably will be startled at the mere mention of the word "exercise." Yoga eases you into exercise without causing strain or undue pain. Even if you are only able to move an inch and hold a position for five seconds, you are already enhancing your body's flexibility.

Some physicians have long recognized the advantages of yoga like exercises. Dr. Bowie recommends the pendulum, an arm-swinging exercise "devised by an orthopedic surgeon' for bursitis and shoulder stiffness. He also favors deep-breathing exercising for ankylosing spondylitis, an arthritis related condition affecting the joints of the spine.

It is important not to overdo these exercises. It will do more harm than good. Start with a few of the simple stretches. The simple leg pull, the chest expansion exercise, and the knee and thigh stretch are especially beneficial to the joints. If your arthritis is severe, use a modified version of these stretching exercises that suit your needs.

Then try some slow rotation exercises. Head circles performed in the yoga fashion - that is, slowly, with pauses in the forward, side and back positions - will help loosen up a stiff neck. Similarly, ankle rotation will improve arthritis conditions in those joints.

The Flower is a great yoga exercise for arthritic fingers. Whenever you think of it, make a tight fist and hold for five seconds. Then release and stretch your hand open as far as you can for an additional five seconds.

Ready to concentrate on those major problem areas? if your arthritis has come to rest in your spine, limber up that area with the seated spiral twist, the cobra, and the neck and shoulder stretch. Got it in the hips? Then lie down in bed and try some hip rolls.

Take a few days’ rest if the pain gets too intense. Resume again when you're feeling better.

Of course, on days that movement comes easy, don't overdo it. Overworked joints can be as painful as neglected ones. So, no matter how good the exercises feel, don't continue for more than a few minutes at a time. For people with severe arthritis, it's usually better to divide the daily yoga routine into about three or four segments of about five minutes each. Rest periods and deep-breathing exercises interspersed throughout the day's yoga sessions will help relax the muscles that tighten up joints.

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Anti-ageing Properties of Yoga: Remain Young Forever!

According to yoga philosophy, it's the flexibility of the spine, not the number of years, that determines a person's age. Yoga slows down the aging process by giving elasticity to the spine, firming up the skin, removing tension from the body, strengthening the abdominal muscles, eliminating the possibility of a double chin, improving the tone of flabby arm muscles, correcting poor posture, preventing dowager's hump and so on. Yoga lets you trade in characteristics of old age for characteristics of youth.

Yoga is dynamite to make you feel younger with heightened mental prowness. Longer life often result from following yogic ways of health maintenance. When both external dangers and internal diseases and habits leading to degeneration have been removed, one naturally lives longer

Swami Nikhilananda wrote in ‘Vivekananda: The Yogas and Other Works’, as follows:

"The result of hatha yoga is simply to make men live long. Health is the chief idea, the one goal of hatha yoga. He is determined not to fall sick, and he never does. He lives long. A hundred years is nothing for him; but he is quite young and fresh when he is one hundred and fifty, without one hair turned gray."

The following are some of the anti-ageing effects of yoga, according to Dr. Paul Galbraith, author of ‘Reversing Ageing’:

  1. Live longer. Yoga affects all the important determinants of a long life: the brain, glands, spine and internal organs.
  2. Increased resistance to disease. Yoga produces a healthy strong body with increased immunity against disease. This increased resistance extends from the common cold to serious diseases like cancer.
  3. Increased vitality due to yoga's effect on the brain and glands.
  4. Rejuvenation of the glands. Yoga has a marked effect on the pituitary, thyroid, adrenal and sex glands. This produces a feeling of well-being, prevents premature ageing and extends sexual virility well into old age.
  5. Look and feel younger. Yoga reduces facial wrinkles and produces a natural 'face-lift'. This is mainly due to the inverted postures. By doing the inverted postures for a few minutes each day, we reverse the effect of gravity and use it to our advantage. The result is firmer facial muscles, which cause a reduction in wrinkles, and a natural face-lift.
  6. The inverted yoga postures often convert gray hair back to its natural color and they will certainly delay the onset of gray hair. This is due to the inverted postures causing an increase in blood supply to the hair follicles in the scalp. Also, the increased flexibility of the neck produced by the asanas removes pressure on the blood vessels and nerves in the neck, causing an even greater blood supply to the scalp. The release of pressure on the nerves in the neck also causes the scalp muscles to relax, since the nerves in the neck supply the scalp muscles. This means that the hair follicles are better nourished and thicker healthier hair is the result.

    Yoga will take years from your face and add years to your life. As you get older, you will take on an ageless appearance.

  7. Vision and hearing improve. Normal vision and hearing depend to a large extent on the eyes and ears receiving a good nerve and blood supply. The nerves and blood vessels which supply the eyes and ears have to pass through the neck. As we get older, the neck becomes less flexible, like the rest of the spine, and there is a tendency for nerves and blood vessels to be encroached upon as they travel through the neck. This impairs the nerve and blood supply to the eyes and ears, affecting their function. Yoga postures and yoga neck exercises improve the condition of the neck, resulting in better eyesight and improved hearing.
  8. Mental/emotional benefits. Because of yoga's rejuvenation effects on the glands and nervous system, including the brain, yoga results in a positive mental/emotional state. It will help you to feel more confident, enthusiastic and generally optimistic. You will also become more creative in your everyday life.

As you start to feet and took better and unfold more of your full potential, these positive mental and emotional states occur as a consequence.

Within a few weeks you will feel calmer and have better concentration. Within a few months, rejuvenation of the organs will start to occur.

You will take years from your face and add years to your life. As you get older, you will take on an ageless appearance.

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Yoga For Weight Reduction:

Does yoga help in weight management? Most definitely. There are a number of factors involved. Firstly, some of the asanas stimulate sluggish glands to increase their hormonal secretions. The thyroid gland, especially, has a big effect on our weight because it affects body metabolism. There are several asanas, such as the shoulder stand and the fish posture, which are specific for the thyroid gland. Fat metabolism is also increased, so fat is converted to muscle and energy. This means that, as well as losing fat, you will have better muscle tone and a higher vitality level.

Secondly, yoga deep breathing increases the oxygen intake to the body cells, including the fat cells. This causes increased oxidation or burning up of fat cells. ). Yogic exercises induce more continuous and deeper breathing which gradually burns, sometimes forcefully, many of the calories already ingested.

Thirdly, yogic practices that reduce anxiety tend to reduce anxious eating. When under nervous strain we tend to gulp our food without attaining much genuine satisfaction. We end up in eating more. If, on the other hand, we approach our meals with greater calmness of mood, whether produced by habits which have calmed our life or by yoga (like a pause for prayer before a meal), we tend to be less likely to overeat in a frantic effort to quiet our midday anxieties.

Lastly, yogic aids may be employed between meals whenever one becomes tempted to search for a snack. One may deliberately turn to yoga, rather than to the icebox or snack bar, when he feels the need for a lift or relief from restless nervousness. Practicing yoga may make you aware of your weight problem that may also act as a deterrent from overeating.

If you are not overweight, your weight will remain about the same. If you are underweight, you will gain weight. The weight you gain will be healthy firm tissue, not fat. That is, yoga will tend to produce the ideal weight for you. This is due to yoga's effect of 'normalizing' glandular activity.

An article that appeared in the San Francisco Examiner of October 13, 1959 shows that the weight reduction potential of yoga was recognized in the USA more than quarter of a century ago.

"Would you like to lose weight without resorting to the miseries of dieting? Well, try the miseries of Yoga exercises instead. One staunch advocate is Metropolitan Opera star Robert Merrill, who has been practicing these exercises for two years, and keeps trying to win converts. In those two years he has lost twenty pounds and now he's down to a trim, rhythmic-breathing one hundred and sixty, even though he continues to eat like a lumber jack. 'At one time I went on a lot of diets but just couldn't lose any weight,' he said. 'Then along came Yoga and look at me now.' He punched his hard flat stomach and started breathing through one nostril. And to further demonstrate what it's all about, he did a little flip and stood on his head. After that he showed the lotus position, legs scissored under the body. Was he still breathing through one nostril? Yes, the other one. 'If people weren't so lazy they wouldn't have to worry about diets,' he said."

For those whose eating habits, whether at meals or between meals, are believed to be due to feelings of weakness rather than anxieties, most yogic postures and breathing exercises are designed to increase one's strength. Hence, they may relieve feelings of weakness more effectively than additional eating. The exercises themselves, although consuming some energy, also store up energy which, when combined with oxidizing breathing, provide energy that is ready for use rather than for storage.

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Yoga and Mental Health

Those practicing yoga experiences a number of factors that results in a profound effect on their mental health. These can be classified under:

  1. reduction of tension and
  2. restoration of pliability.
  3. "personal" and
  4. "social."

1. Reduction Of Tension

Many people who practice yoga speak of "freeing the mind from mental disturbances," "calming the spirit," or "steadying the mind." Reduction of nervousness, irritability and confusion, depression and mental fatigue are some of the benefits experienced. One experiences a relief from the pressure of his "compulsions." His nervousness, especially any jitteriness, should subside or disappear.

The extent to which these benefits may be expected will depend in part upon whether or not one can approach and participate in them willingly and wholeheartedly; for one who tries to practice postures with anxiety cripples his chances for very much benefit.

2. Restoration Of Pliability

"The positive side of the benefits from a full round of yogic exercises may be described as renewal of mental agility. Both mood and capacity for alertness, attentiveness and willingness to tackle problems revive. One may not be able to rekindle boundless enthusiasm late in a working day; early morning, or even noonday, efforts to recharge mental energies can revive a full measure of willingness. Traditional phrases, such as restored "spiritual vitality," intend to convey the complex idea of mental spryness, agreeableness, resiliency, and feelings of confidence and self-sufficiency. Some even testify to attaining feelings of buoyancy and euphoria; these then provide a background or mood of well-being and assurance such that one naturally more fully enjoys both his ability and the worthiness of being more tolerant and generous."

Archie Bahm, ‘Executive Yoga’

Personal Values

a. Avoidance of fear: Yoga is said to result in the reduction of a variety of mental ills. These may range all the way from vague feelings of frustration, persecution, insecurity, on the one hand, to acute and specific types of insanity, on the other.

Yoga is not a cure all for all conditions. But its attack upon, and diminution of, some basic mental ills may indeed be just enough to pay dividends that grow in magnitude.

If, through use of yogic techniques, we can merely halt and reverse some mental cancer, some compulsive complex that keeps us chained to unrelenting, omnipresent and gradually increasing anxiety, we may reset a course which will bring us around to a healthier adjustment. We are all at times insane. We are all, in some degree, insane. Overwhelming waves of tension and stress, which may catch us in periods of physical and mental exhaustion, can produce a spiritual explosion which leaves us so helpless that we are at a loss to know how it all came about.

By recurrent, regular efforts to reduce tension through yogic exercises, we may stay and finally reverse our tendencies toward insanity.

Most of us succumbs to fears and anxieties – some valid and some purely imaginary. For example, as one gets older, he begins to fear that his life has not been sufficiently worth while, that he has fallen short of his goals, that he has failed to attain his proper ambition, that he has lost out in the race to keep up with the Joneses or in his attempt to measure up "in the sight of God"-however he happens to conceive his shortcoming.

Thus, when Ramacharaka, in his ‘Hindu-Yogi Science of Breath’, says one may, by controlled breathing, "practically do away with fear and worry and the baser emotions," he refers to the growing ability of a devoted practitioner to diminish the power which both momentary and permanent fears have over us. One seeks to develop habits of resistance to the disturbing effects of excitement, ambition, antagonism and frustration.

The long-range goal of yoga is not just momentary relaxation, but the living of a relaxed life.

b. Acceptance of Faith in Life.

The goal of yoga is confident living. Its aim is to replace pessimism and its varieties such as cynicism with a "Yea-saying" appreciation of life, not only on any given day, but as a gracious, wonderful whole. When you achieve the yogic spirit, then you can say with the Stoics, "I accept the universe."

If you cannot accept all of it, because some problems remain unavoidably troublesome, then you will accept the troubles which you have as (1) yours and (2) enough for you, without wishing you had still more troubles.

Poise, serenity, contentedness, patience, assurance-all of these are positive mental values attainable by anyone who has achieved a willingness to be at peace with himself and the world. The confidence desired is not just enough to do the day's work but enough to live one's whole life and one can do his day's work more confidently if he has already predisposed himself to living his life with trustful serenity.

Thus a person seeks through yoga not merely momentary mental agility, but an agile life; not just momentary pliability, but a continuingly pliable existence; not just momentary relief from disturbance, but a permanently peaceful perspective.

Although not everyone who undertakes to experiment with yoga can expect to achieve or maintain the goal described by Shri Yogendra, Yoga: Personal Hygiene, as "exuberant and exultant health, he should notice the sun more often when it shines. Swami Sivananda pictures the goal as "ecstatic joy" (Yoga Asanas).

Dechanet, a Roman Catholic monk who was led into yoga by his Catholic predecessors, gives a vivid account of how he uses yogic techniques as aids to worship. He describes a "euphoria that pervades the story of my experiment. I wish to make it clear that this euphoria is real and lasting and spreads through the various levels of my daily life, physical, Psychical and spiritual" (Christian Yoga). Even though few of us will achieve anything like perpetual exuberance, ecstatic joy or euphoria, attainment of a more trusting outlook on life provides a spiritual soil from which spiritual roses have a better chance to grow. The pragmatic experimentalist will say: "Try it and see."

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Social Values

a. Yoga may reduce your annoyance with others and others' annoyance with you. If you become less irritable, you tend to irritate others less and tend to be less irritated by what others do when they present themselves as problems to you.

Your obdurate, demanding, insistent, morose attitudes can make you hard to get along with. Diminution of these should make you less difficult to deal with. The social effects-upon your colleagues and clients, superiors and inferiors, to say nothing of family, public officers and service specialists-could be overwhelming.

b. You tend to be easier to get along with and you tend to find others easier to get along with.

Or, if your personal improvement grows beyond mere contentment, to exuberant appreciation, you may find both more people liking you and you liking more people. You become more adaptable, reliable, steady, alert, responsive, ever-ready, patient, gentle and humane.

When this happens, you become recognized as a more desirable person to deal with.

If you develop a buoyant spirit, you will find that buoyancy is catching.

Others, seeing you as cheery, tend to respond in kind, reacting more cheerily to you.

Your rewards increase.

The effects of yoga upon character as noted by Dechanet in Christian Yoga.

"Yoga also produces a more active, willing and generous disposition. It quickens the life of faith, of love of God and our neighbor. It quickens our sense of duty and responsibility as men and, above all, as Christians". "It follows that Hatha Yoga influences character to the good. One man, after some weeks of practice, admits he no longer knows himself, and everyone notices a change in his bearing and reaction. He is gentler, more understanding. He faces experience calmly. He is content; the pinpricks of life affect him less or not at all. He is in command of his own will and goes about his studies without fear and anxiety. His whole personality has been altered and he himself feels it steadying and opening out; from this there arises an almost permanent condition of euphoria, of 'contentedness' ". "You will feel that gentleness and sympathy come more readily. You will not feel like venting your spleen on others as frequently as before, and if it should occur, you will regret it all the more. You will make a kind of pact of non-violence with yourself. You will still have fits of impatience often enough, and even of anger. But something will be telling you that this is not only bad but even useless, and that it really is not worth the trouble to fly out and get beside yourself for nothing. 'A great need for sincerity -will bring you to detest, more than others do, not only lying but all forms of duplicity and dissimulation. You will sense the more keenly whatever is not genuine, and even what is merely conventional in speeches and words, and also in attitudes that men think they can take up in order to edify, but more often they take up lest they should lose face"

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Yoga and Beauty

Beauty of figure, graceful carriage, melodious voice, glowing face and charming smile have all been mentioned as possible rewards of yogic practice.

Swami Sivananda says that "By practicing the Asanas regularly, men and women will acquire a figure which will enhance their beauty and that suppleness which gives them charm and elegance in every movement," and "be endowed with a peculiar glow in his face and eyes and a peculiar charm in his smile" (Yogic Home Exercises).

Clara Spring, expressing an American woman's point of view, reminds us that "A number of world-famous beauty courses contain certain exercises based on Yoga" (Yoga for Today).

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Yoga and Sex

Yoga's view of sex is the same as of every other issue - moderation. Yoga considers sex to be a natural function, very beneficial in a loving relationship and, of course, essential for the continuation of the human race.

Yogis warn against overindulgence in sex since they consider this will deplete the life force. They state that the sexual secretions contain very concentrated life force and nutrients, since they contain the seeds of life. Depletion of life force results in a reduced vitality level and reduced resistance to disease. It also retards progress from the practice of yoga. A whole field of yoga called Tandric Yoga or Kundalini Yoga is concerned with harnessing the sexual power. Yoga enables one to get into meaningful relationships and enjoy the process, at the same time provides a path to use the powerful energy involved in sex.

The yogis consider that normal sexual function occurs when the reproductive system is in a state of optimum health. They have found that the most effective way of attaining this optimum health state is by doing yoga asanas and breathing exercises. Those who are physiologically weak and partially or wholly impotent may restore potency as they regain their physical health. Steadier practice of milder yogic exercises may yield results when more vigorous bodybuilding workouts end in undue exhaustion. Those who approach sexual matters nervously rather than relaxedly may profit from previous relaxing yogic exercises.

Marriage counselors suggest that a relaxed condition is one of the essentials for a harmonious sex relationship because when hurried and strained it leaves the couple (the woman especially) dissatisfied and irritated, adversely affecting her entire well being. Indra Devi, author of many books on yoga, remarked that "The wives of several of my students have often told me that since their husbands had taken up Yoga exercises, their marital relationships had undergone remarkable changes."

It's true that advanced yogis practice celibacy. They need every ounce of their life force for their quest for cosmic consciousness. They also know that the realization of their goal produces eternal bliss, besides which the brief pleasure of sex pales into insignificance. Their minds have progressed so far that they are not prepared to settle for a watered-down version of happiness.

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Yoga and Pride

Pride, and especially anxiety about pride, is something which hatha yoga seeks to diminish or eliminate. We are not advocating pride, but some will choose to consider pride a value anyway. To one who has been dejected because he cannot do his work properly when he becomes tired, irritable, or haggard, any degree of refreshment may be accompanied by additional degrees of self-respect. Furthermore, one who has benefited from yoga may be moved to help his friends who are obviously in need; he may instruct others and be rewarded with appreciation due a gracious teacher.

But if one succeeds in achieving skill which provides health and self-confidence, one may justly raise his self-esteem simply by observing himself living the improved results as an achieved fact.

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Yoga and Knowledge

Readers of treatises on yoga soon become familiar with a recurrent refrain. Yogic theory and practice lead to increased self-knowledge. Although many of these treatises extend the meaning of yoga beyond hatha yoga the values of self-knowledge indicated are intended to include those derivable from using breathing and posture exercises for attaining and maintaining health, physical and mental, and relaxation. The knowledge is not merely that of the practical kind relating to techniques, but especially of a spiritual sort pertaining to grasping something about the nature of the self at rest.

Knowing the self at rest, at peace, as a being rather than merely as an agent or doer, is a genuine kind of knowledge which usually gets lost in the rush of activities and push of desires. The value of discovering one's self and of enjoying one's self as it is, rather than as it is going to be, is indeed a value as well as a kind of knowledge.

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Yoga and Wealth

About the last thing one should expect from yoga is wealth. Yet, when certain facts are pointed out, it becomes obvious that here is a value not to be overlooked.

First of all, as Swami Sivananda argues, "Health is wealth.... If you do not possess good health you cannot prosper in any walk of life" (Yogic Home Exercises). As we can see from the factors listed under Physical Health and Mental Health, yoga does affect our ability to deal with the problems in our businesses and professions. Many factors affecting our day-to-day and long-range; capacities for achieving business and professional goals may be influenced by yogic endeavors. One can hardly calculate results, but still can easily sense the significance of improved health for business success.

Not only may one acquire more financially from good health, but he need spend less upon measures to alleviate illness. By reducing anxiety and desirousness, yoga tends to diminish our desires and the expenditures we make trying to satisfy those desires. A person who achieves peace with himself, even if only part of the time, has less motive for spending money to win the battle for satisfaction of his cravings. Yoga is less expensive than most other methods of attaining and maintaining health and relaxation.

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Yoga For Insomnia

Yoga will benefit your sleep in three ways:

  1. The quality of your steep will improve because of yoga's beneficial effect on the nervous system, and in particular the brain. This results from certain yoga asanas increasing the blood supply to the steep center in the brain, which has the effect of normalizing the steep cycle.
  2. You will need less sleep because of the improved quality of your sleep, and because yoga increases the elimination of toxins from the body. On average, for every minute you put into yoga you will need one minute less sleep. This makes yoga an excellent time investment.
  3. You will fall asleep in a shorter time. This is mainly because the body and mind are more relaxed.

Yoga will make you fall asleep sooner and improve the quality of your sleep so that you need less. You will have a more restful sleep because of the relaxing aspect of yoga and the subsequent relieving of stress, tension and fatigue.

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A detailed description of how common ailments can be treated with yoga is summarised separately.

Go To: How To Heal With Yoga

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