The world is celebrating the International Day of Yoga on June 21.
Yoga is fast emerging as one of the most popular practices for physical and mental well-being. However, the practice is still shrouded in mystery and people who are new to it have a lot of questions about it. Here we try to answer a few of the questions.
1. What types of diseases does it cure?
Yoga is an art to remain healthy. It is the ideal practice to increase immunity. It has helped the masses get rid of many diseases. While many people associate it with new-age mysticism or the latest fad at the gym, it is an ancient practice that connects the mind, body and spirit through body poses, controlled breathing and meditation. It has direct benefits for people suffering from heart disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, asthma, cancer, muscular dystrophy and arthritis, among others.
2. Do I have to give up meat to practise yoga?
The prime philosophy of it is ‘ahimsa’ which refers to not harming self and others through thought, speech or action. Some people interpret this to say that we should not eat animal products, but others believe that it is a personal decision for everyone to take. Vegetarianism should not be imposed upon others. Such imposition itself is akin to himsa. However, regular practice of yoga helps you explore the love for all creatures, which may motivate you to become a vegetarian.
3. How frequently do I need to practice?
It is magical; even if you practise for one hour a week, you will feel the difference. It is advised that you practise three to four times a week, 30-60 minutes per session. For best results, you should practise it daily.
4. How is it different from stretching?
Yoga is not only stretching; it is more than physical poses and exercise. It includes the eight-fold path. Even within the physical practice, it is unique as it connects the movement of the body and the fluctuations of the brain wave to the rhythm our breath.
5. Is yoga a religion? I am not Hindu, can I still practise it?
Yoga is not a religion, it is an art and science of life. It is part of a philosophy that began in the ancient times, the father of classical astanga yoga is said to be Patanjali who wrote the Yogasutra. This scripture provides a framework for spiritual growth and mastery over physical and mental health. You don’t surrender your religious beliefs to practise it. If you drink water your thirst will be quenched, the water never asks you your religion. Diseases do not discriminate based on religion, the sun does not discriminate against you based on your faith; the air you breathe also does not do that. So your true religion is humanitarianism and yoga is applicable to everyone.
Excerpts from Yoga and Student Life by Sadhak Swapnam and Sadhak Rounac Satyam. Published September 2017.