Yoga, the technique of relaxing your mind and body, originated in India. It is often defined as the union of the Atma (soul) with the Parmatma (the Divine). Yoga and its related branches have a deep connection with India due to their history. Its first mention is in the Rig Veda, a compilation of mantras and hymns considered sacred in Hinduism, and was popularised, for the first time, by Swami Vivekananda. Some of the most well-known yoga practitioners (called yogis) are Paramhansa Yogananda, Swami Sivananda, Ramdev, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya and K Pattabhi Jois among others.
Yoga was introduced to me in the most usual way, by my grandparents. Even though I was so young that I could not grasp the concept of yoga, my Nana used to tell me that I should wake up before sunrise and practice Surya Namaskar on a daily basis. Needless to say, I slept till 10 in the morning and completely ignored their wishes, not realising that it would be beneficial for me in the long run.
Later, my school made it compulsory to attend Yoga classes every week. My friends and I would choose the last of seats so that we could relax in our own way, without yoga. There were times when we would follow our teacher’s orders and practise different asanas and breathing exercises but we never put real efforts into it.
In 11th, two new subjects were introduced in my curriculum- Psychology and Physical Education. As Psychology was and still is my favourite subject, I never missed a single class or skipped a word in the book. On the other hand, I was a little less enthusiastic about studying Physical Education. But in these books, I found the true meaning of yoga. Physical Education taught me easy and effective asanas and postures which could be used to help people with asthma, diabetes, hypertension, back pain, et cetera. I learned about its history, how the word ‘yoga’ has a different meaning for different people, it’s multiple benefits and our responsibility to keep it alive and pass this knowledge to the next generations.
It was Psychology that gave me the best insight into the usefulness of yoga. While reading about many therapies such as Humanistic therapy, Behaviour therapy, Cognitive therapy, et cetera, which were introduced by great minds to help people who have psychological problems, I also read about yoga’s role in this purpose. According to the study and research conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) has been found to help people who have depression or anxiety. It is astonishing to know the impact of simple breathing exercises on our minds. Yogic exercises have been organised by many governments for army officers as well, to help them get over any trauma they’ve faced and to make them mentally stronger as well as focused.
If practised correctly and regularly, yoga can improve our self-esteem, calm our minds, make us self-aware, increase our lifespan, keep our bodies fit and healthy, among many other benefits.
Amid this pandemic, I believe that meditation can help all of us to improve our mental health as it has been severely affected.
I would advise closing your eyes while assuming a sitting position and focusing on your breathing, before and after sleeping. 10 minutes of this exercise can greatly help our minds.