Yoga –India’s contribution to the world (Dr.A.Sreekumar Menon)

Published on 15 November, 2015
Yoga –India’s contribution to the world (Dr.A.Sreekumar Menon)
Indian culture of which Hinduism is very prominent has been increasingly recognized all over the world,  including  the  western part of the globe, which has reached the pinnacles of materialism .. President of European Union Herman Van Rompuy conveyed to Shri Narendra Modi,  Prime Minister of India recently that they were keen to re-engage with India in all areas. The words of Swami Vivekananda , first Indian Saint and intellectual luminary , who  made deep  impact on  western audience through his famous ‘Chicago address’ that India  was poised to become ‘Jagad Guru’ meaning world teacher in spirituality or wholesome living  is coming true now in the modern age of rank materialism.  Narendra Modiji who is a staunch follower of Hinduism and  timeless Indian heritage proposed  in his address in U.N .General Assembly  this year that  one day should be  declared as’ the world yoga day’  to high light  the usefulness of Yoga practice  for creating a society  without violence  and with peace . Majority of nations-say 177 nations  declared their instant support , with the result U.N declared June 21, every year  to be observed as ‘International Yoga day ‘.Modiji’s proposal got further impetus with Rompuy  declaring  that the 28 member block  would support his initiative for Yoga for achieving peace and prosperity . 21 st June, 2015 was observed all over the world as International Yoga day and several countries have taken to popularization of Yoga .It was a moment of pride to India and Indians, as it has raised India’s fame in the International scenario.

Though Yoga received world wide acclaim, it is doubtful, whether majority of Indians know sufficiently about Yoga , let alone practice it .  The common understanding is that yoga   constitutes ‘Aasanas’ or body postures like  sitting in Padmasana or sitting in lotus posture, Koormasana or posture like Tortoise, Vajrasana and so on and ‘Pranayama’ or Techniques of breath contol . But  these two  by  themselves do not constitute yoga  practice . These two are just two limbs or aspects  of yoga. Yoga is a way of life or life style , say more wholesome and healthy life style . Modern Medicine  recognizes  the contribution of   unhealthy life style as  constituting half the cause of all the illness . Our ancient seers  who offered us  ‘Ayurveda or science of Health, proclaimed that we could keep most of the diseases at bay  by following a healthy  style of life . To  make clear what yoga is, the Author thought it timely to write about Yoga in a style common man can understand, appreciate and practice it in his day to day life.

In the modern life, stress poses greatest danger to humanity .It affects all walks of life viz individual, family, social, national and global . At the personal level, it affects both physical and mental health. Stress affects deleteriously normal functioning of all parts of the body. Its contribution to cardio-vascular diseases, Diabetes, Asthma, COPD and other lung disorders, gastro-intestinal problems like ulcers, and even cancer is well established through studies. It affects immunity or power of the body to resist diseases and body becomes easily vulnerable to infections. It  upsets the normal working of immunity function and immunity, instead of resisting  invasion of pathogens from outside , attacks  body causing  Auto-immune diseases,   like Rheumatoid Arthritis. Mental or emotional health problems which stress causes are heightened irritability , anger and predisposition to violence, withdrawal from social contacts and keeping aloof, worrying or brooding over imaginary problems , abnormal fear, depression and suicidal tendencies and suffering from imaginary diseases  called hypochondria, neuroses, increased gullibility, belief in superstitions etc .   Stressed person takes to excessive smoking, drinking alcoholic drinks, addiction to Psychedelic drugs like opium, Brown sugar etc which lead to personality disintegration.  At the family level, stress affects normal relations between family members. It creates discord between the family members. It leads to divorce by couples, children going astray, violence in family. It leads to broken homes.  Ill- effects at the community levels are conflicts, tension, violence and criminal acts and so on.  Tension when it is wide spread can even lead to rivalries   and war between nations, affecting international peace.

Today, comforts and luxuries that are available due to progress in Science and Technology are mindboggling .It makes man to strain ceaselessly striving for more and more luxuries, being regretful of the failures and apprehensive about the future, leaving no time to enjoy what he has. So in spite of all the material advancements,  man hardly experiences sense of security, peace and happiness . He is hardly benefitted by present day material progress .His life, whether he is rich or poor, is invariably stressful and tension ridden. He experiences short lived joy and long lasting sorrows. So the need of the day is to develop the skill to  lead  life  without stress and strains. In other words, understanding nature of stress, de-stressing, when stressed and preventing stress being affected are the pressing needs of the day .Yoga practice, which our ancient monks conceived and formulated, practiced in life   is effective remedy for stress. Regrets of the past deeds and actions, worries of present and apprehensions about future make our life lose its equilibrium and stress and strainful .The root causes of stress are our greed, the desire for more and more and failure for acquisition, being affected too much by external influences, keeping focus of our life outside and not allowing our body to carry out its functions as programmed. Failure leads to frustrations which evoke an army of negative emotional upsurges like anger, followed by tendency for violence, hatred, vengeance, jealousy and depression. So stress is caused by the way our mind works to a large extent . We have no control over outside factors which act as cause of stress. For instance, fast machine paced life outside, excessive noise, pressure on time etc  which act as stressors . But we are stressed only when we react  to them , which means , controlling stress or leading a relatively stress free life is to a large extent  under our control, if we  make conscious attempt .

Benefits of Yoga Practice

Before discussing the nature of yoga and practices, let me give bullet shot ideas of benefits of yoga. Yoga   benefits both to body and mind equally.  Overall, it helps to maintain well adjusted and whole some personalities.  For common man, yoga, if practiced even in small way can empower him to lead relatively stress free life and a life of peaceful happiness and personal effectiveness. Yoga is not simple practices of body postures and breathing technique It is not to be taken as one among other hobbies like going to Jims.  It a way of life, in which Postures and Breathing techniques are also practiced with knowledge of how they contribute to overall objectives of Yoga practice. Both those who seek  realization of their selves or lead spiritual lives and   those who are common  men who wish to lead relatively stress free life and enjoy  physical health and peace  of mind and happiness  can benefit from   practice of yoga , immensely . 

  The following is the narration of specific benefits. Beyond that, one who follows yogic way of life gets most out of one’s life. It nullifies the evil effects of materialistic way of life, the scope of which increases as time passes with mind boggling developments taking place in the field of modern Science and Technology, Industrialization and Urbanization. The following is narration of the specific effects of yoga practice.

1.    Benefits to Body.

          1 Equilibrium of Autonomous system.

2.    Pulse rate decreases- good sign for heart functioning.

3.    Respiratory rate decreases which means inhaled oxygen circulates through the cells better, removing impurities in the blood and rejuvenating its functions.

4.    B.P decreases which means no extra load on the heart.

5.    Galvanic skin response increases

6.    E.C.G Alpha Wave increases. Theta, Delta, Beta waves also increase, which are good signs of heart  functioning.

7.    Cardio-vascular efficiency increases.

8.    Respiratory efficiency increases.

9.    Gastro-intestinal function improves.

10.     Functioning of Endocrine system improves.

11.    Functioning of Excretory system improves.

12.     Functioning of Muscular-skeletal system improves.

13.    Breath holding time increases.

14.    Joint range of motions increases.

15.    Grip strength increases.

16.    Eye-hand co-ordination improves.

17.    Body posture improves.

18.    Strength and resiliency   improve.

19.    Muscular endurance increases.

20.    Level of energy increases.

21.    Body weight normalizes.

22.    Sleep improves.

23.    Immunity or power of body to resist infections increases.

24.    Pain sensations decrease.

25.    Steadiness increases.

26.    Depth perception improves.

27.    Sense of balance improves.

28.     Integrated functioning of body parts improves.

29.    Body’s power to check uncontrolled proliferation of cells increases, there by checking the risk of cancer.

  2.  Benefits to mind

  1.  Somatic and kinesthetic awareness increase.

  2.   Mood improves and personal wellbeing increases.

  3 Self-acceptance and self- actualization increase..

  4 Social adjustments or our ability to get along well with people increases

   5 Anxiety, depression and hostility decrease, tolerance increases.

  6 Concentration improves.

   7. Memory including other functions of central nervous system


  8. Attention and alertness improve.

  9. Learning skills improve.

10. Feelings of tranquility or peace of mind increases

In short, it helps for realization of one’s intellectual abilities, building up of character and full development of one’s personality and peaceful joy .

Improvements in Bio-chemical parameters.

1. Excess glucose and Sodium levels in the blood come down,   and hence there are no chances for Diabetes and hyper-tension, making heart to be healthy.

2. Total Cholesterol and Triglycerides,   and bad cholesterols like L.D.L, and V.L.D.L in the blood decrease preventing blocks in the Arteries, thus preventing heart attacks.

3. H.D.L, which is a good cholestrol increases. Which also helps to prevent heart attack.

 These Bio-chemical parameters are indicative of normal health.

Thus there are innumerable health benefits, one can derive as a result of yogic way of life. One need not forsake one’s home and family to lead a yogic way of life.  One can lead ordinary family life or life of a house holder, still maintain a healthy life style   according to principles of yoga sastra by practicing certain austerities, cultivating moral /ethical qualities and practicing certain techniques helpful to control the mind.

     The  word ‘yoga’ came from  the Sanskrit word ‘yuj’ meaning union, that is union of mind  with Budhi or intellect  or higher levels of cognition, Atma or inner /individual self and ‘Brahma or supreme power. It is a state of absolute quiescence, bliss and power. When the transactions takes place with outside world,   those  outside forces influence  on  our sense  and motor organs . Our inner state  should control the functions of our senses rather than the other way round .It is acquisition of mastery of man over the circumstances . The life  becomes  directed by  our inner being  rather than by outside forces. Yogic state is the highest state of our minds and minds are in their intrinsic nature .  Perfect yogic state is also known by various names such as attaining Atma jnana or Kaivalia, Mokasha etc.  Practice of yoga  even at preliminary levels or the levels which  common man can maintain  helps to keep oneself healthy and  to live like  men with  positive qualities and with better personal effectiveness leading  to peaceful and happy  personal and community life .

Though the origin of yoga as a systematic discipline is from Hindu scriptures of yore, yoga is not for Hindus only.  Part of yoga practice such as prayer and meditation are practiced by people belonging to other world Religions like Christianity and Islam.  We find discussions on yoga in ancient Hindu texts such as Swentasvara, Taittiriya and Maitrayani Upanishads. Similarly, Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, quintessence of Upanishads, the sacred text of Hindus, discourse between Lord Srikrishna and his devoted disciple Arjuna contains elaborate discussions of yoga sastra. Gitacharya talks of three broad approaches to yoga called ‘ Jnanayoga’  or Path of Knowledge , ‘Karmayoga’  or Path of Action and’ Bhakthiyoga’  or Path of Devotion. It is stated that these approaches should not be  put under water tight compartments and that all these approaches should be followed in varying degrees, depending upon temperamental characterics of  people .

 Yoga sastra as is known today is Saint Patanjali’s ‘Astanga yoga’ or yoga with 8 limbs. Patanjali presented yoga in the form of yoga sutras. Sutras, Sanskrit word, means condensed expression. Only minimum words are used and no complete sentence is used to state what one should do in yoga practice. It was conceived when there was no written language and that those were to be memorized.  Abridged expressions help to keep contents in memory.

The rational for yoga practice

It is conceived that in every person, there is 1.  ‘ Jivatma‘ or self  or life force, which is also known by the name ‘Spirit’, which is the core  being, and which lies deep within oneself, which is subtle in nature, which powers all the activities of the body  with clock wise precision,  and which is the source of inestimable power and fountain head of  pure, bliss or joy and happiness, which Saint Shankaracharya calls as ‘Anandamayakosha ‘.  which is untouched by sorrows  , 2 . The mind. The mind consists of. Ahamkara or Ego , self- identity consisting of the feelings of . ‘I’ and ‘Mine’/selfishness/greed/possessiveness/  desires , incessant hunting for pleasure, mistaking objects as objects of pleasure,  never ending pursuit after worldly objects of pleasure with the false hope of attaining ever pleasant joy,  Ragadweshas such as Anger, Fear, jealousy/ envy, covetousness, hatred , which are negative qualities 2,positive qualities like love, kindness, compassion, humility, service-orientation and  so on,  3.  Five sense organs  such as eye, ear, nose, tongue and  touch / skin /muscles, and five’ Karmedriyas’ or    organs  of action  , which transact with outside world . 4. ‘Budhi’ or Intelligence or Discriminative knowledge or understanding of what is right and what is wrong / the sense of what is right and what is wrong way of life also called ‘Vivekajnana ‘ or Discriminatory knowledge .  The mind is in an agitated state, when  it works under the dictates of Ego and Sense organs and  when unwanted thoughts  pertaining to past , present and future events, and those regrets , worries and apprehensions pass through the mind and when the mind is under the influence of negative emotions such as lust, greed, envy, anger, hatred and so on . Generally our minds are in an agitated state like the state of turbulent seas. They are not calm and composed.  Only when the minds are calm and composed, mind will work under the command of higher centers of intelligence or Discriminatory knowledge .In such case life becomes wholesome and one attains permanent   peaceful joy. At that time, one stays at the highest level of self. So long as our mind is directed to outside world, we cannot   experience the inner joy .  Contentment / gratification and moderation and withdrawing the mind towards within one self through meditation are necessary for experiencing the real joy and beneficence of human birth .Style of life advocated by Yoga discipline enables us to lead this kind of life. Thus it is  a permanent remedy for all the ills of modern life .


The eight limbs of yoga are (1) yama, (2) Niyama, (3)Aaasana ,(4)Pranayaama, (5)  Pratyahara, (6) Dharana (7) Dhyana , (8)Samadhi .

1.    Yama  is various observances .It consists of practicing’ Ahimsa’ meaning not harming others  ,’ Sathyastheya’  meaning speaking truth always and abstaining from  falsehood , practicing Brahmacharya or celibacy , abstaining from immoral sex activities and   Aparigraha meaning  not be greedy .  We should not harm  or hurt any one by our thoughts, words or deeds.  We should  in fact love all  God’s creations. We should try to see the self in us which is the same in all. In other words we should see others as we see ourselves. We should see oneness among all, display no discrimination. We should live not only for ourselves, but for others also. In fact we should keep others above self and ready to help the needy even  by sacrificing our pleasures and or undergoing difficulties or sacrificing  personal interests . Truth  is what is  true or factual and not distorting the situation to one’s  advantage .It also means congruity between thoughts, words and action .A person who says one thing and acts differently is called a hypocrite, which  is not a respectable term .  Transparency is another word used to stand for truth.  Aparigraha means not being covetous or   not desiring nor appropriating those which belong to others .Our tendency to acquire more and more material things or things of comfort is called greed. We should realize that nothing in this world belongs to us permanently or we can not possess anything we do, permanently and that we simply borrow from the nature for our use .We should also not  consume more than what  we need from the nature and that we should  put whatever we borrow from the nature  to maximum use   and should not waste anything .

2.    Brhamacharya or continence is chastity in word, thought and deed .One should not indulge in amorous or romantic thoughts and unlawful sex activities.  One should maintain strict control over sex instincts. Those should be satisfied only though the institution of marriage or conjugal relationship and with moderation with the realization that those are of higher value and largely meant for propagation and perpetuation   of human race. In our ancient texts like Shrimad Bhagavatam, sex is considered as divine. It should not be taken as something for release of tension and cheap indulgence of pleasure .We should not entertain sexual feelings when we see members of opposite sex. Unfortunately in today’s world, sex is over played and over sold in media which corrupt the minds of people and prompt them for anti-social activities , such as sex crimes, we witness today  . This is because we misplace the value of sex.. It is a part of energy that is in us which takes that form under certain circumstances. Thus. Energy instead of allowing it to take genital route should be diverted to other useful and creative routes for instance creative pursuits, physical activities which build up stamina, helpful tendencies and so on.  This mechanism is called ‘Sublimation’ in Psychological literature. The highest creations of man in Art and literature are the result of sublimation of the basic instinct of sex.  Other contributors have added other qualities for cultivation  in one’s day to day life . Those are ‘Kshama’ or patience : restraining  intolerance with people and impatience with circumstances , ‘Dhriti’ meaning stead fasteness, overcoming  non-perseverance, fear, indecision, inconsistency or changeableness , ‘Daya’  meaning compassion or conquering callous and insensitive feelings towards all beings ,’Arjava’ meaning  honesty, straight forwardness and refraining from wrong doing ,

  All those described above are rules of conduct. A person who takes to yoga practice should practice all those described above .

 2. Niyama or  Practices

Patanjali Suktha pertaining to second step   is   Souchya –Santhosha –Thapa –Swadyaya – Iswarapranidhana – Niyamaha .

1. Souchya means  cleanliness , keeping both body and mind clean .  Keeping our body clean helps to ward off diseases and maintain good physical health. Our body  expels  waste from inside through the skin/ perspiration, which  makes pores in the skin blocked . It blocks air circulation. In addition, body becomes susceptible for infections. We come in contact with germs like Bacteria, fungus etc from the environment, which if not removed from our body cause illness.  We feel fresh when our body is clean after bath. Like body we should keep our mind clean or free from dirt by keeping away  evil thoughts from our minds and cultivating in their place  noble thoughts .

We should maintain cleanliness inside our body by taking diets which are easily digestible and less spicy, eating moderately, drinking lot of water and having normal sleep and avoiding   intoxicating drinks. If digestion is proper, that is the indication that general health is good. Moderate exercise is good for keeping the health of both body and mind.

 To keep our mind, we should entertain good/ sublime thoughts. We should never be harsh with others, on the contrary our conversations should be soft, sweet and endearing and should  promote human values such as  love, kindness, compassion, helping the needy,  being humble and grateful and so on  .We should avoid gossip, and cheep entertainments  like watching such programmes on T.V which  stir up our lust and other negative emotions  such as anger, disgust, hatred , jealousy and so on  and those which   make us  greedy .The conversations , we  are engaged in should be  informative, enlightening and smoothening . When we give up violence in our thoughts and deeds, we create ambience of love around us with in which enmity and violence should cease .

Santhosha means contentment or feeling satisfied with what we have or having ceiling on our desires, instead of never ending hunting for  sensory pleasures . One may not be happy with material prosperity, however much of it one possesses, unless  one is ,   contented with what he has . Contentment is an attitude of our mind, which we can develop at our will.

3 . Tapas

 Means practicing austerities or mortification or self-restraint. It is readiness to give up soft life or life of comforts and adopt a simple and functional life. It helps to develop toughness of our body, self discipline and reduce our tendency to pamper our body. Eating food without being choosy, eating food of just the required quantity or required for sustaining life, fasting or not taking food at certain occasions,  not going for taste or variety in food habits , maintaining  strict vegetarianism, leading simple and hard life etc  are all Thapas . Self-restraint in habits removes inner impurities and    refines our sense perceptions. It helps to develop control over our body and mind. We even acquire rare powers like Clairvoyance or ability to communicate with another who is in a far of place without the medium of sound waves, Telepathy or the ability to see things which are far off from the eyes of the observer . They are extraordinary powers of vision and hearing. Another extraordinary power is levitation or ability to float the body in the air and to walk on the water with out being drenched or drowned or walking on the fire with out feet being burnt .

(4). Ishwarapranidhana .

 means cultivation of devotion to God through workship and meditation. Here God stands for ultimate supreme power which governs every aspect of life instead of entertaining the feeling  that whatever we achieve is because of our power . It also includes study of scriptures, practice of making’ Japam’  that is exhorting the greatness of God by recitation of  his attributes, “Bhajana” or  devotional singing in chorus , listening to devotional, moral/ ethical  / Religious discourses etc . While extolling the divine qualities or divine glories by reciting Keerthan’ or devotional songs, we should understand their meaning and that we should see those in our mental eyes. It is called ‘Visualization ‘

3. Aasanas or Body Posture

 Yoga  has  broadly two parts  viz 1 the observances we have to follow in our day to day life as described under  ‘Yama ‘ and Niyama’  and physical exercise consisting of  sitting in a particular position  and breathing exercise  . Aasana means sitting in a particular position, which is firm, but relaxed. It is the  first step in meditation  which means  trying to withdraw the mind from outside ,  drawing  it  towards inside and arresting all the thoughts which pass through it..    The word Asasana has two meanings:- 1.   The seating arrangement for Meditation and 2. The postures of the body or keeping hands, feet and trunk in particular ways.     The ancient seers use to sit on a piece of clothe spread on Deer skins spread over a layer of’Kusa’ grass, spread over a  neat  and firm ground, which is of moderate elevation . Common people who practice yoga need not go for this arrangement. It is enough if they sit on a steady seat upright, conveniently.

There are several postures followed by different system of yoga practice s like Raja yoga, Hatha yoga etc, many of which are intricate, which require much flexibility of limbs.  . Patangali does not emphasize much on postures .He emphasizes on other limbs of yoga like Yama, Niyama, Pranayama, Dharana, Dyana and Samadhi. Other systems of Yoga mentioned above have prescribed several postures and claim different health benefits for different postures. In what posture we sit does not decide concentration of mind, or control of mind or the ultimate goal of yoga. According to Patanjali   Aasana is to check the distraction of body movements on concentration of mind  on some internal vision . The popular posture practiced is called ‘Padmaasana’ or  lotus posture , sitting absolutely still and erect, holding  the chest and, neck  and head in straight line, without strain  and cross legged, legs drawn into opposite sides and resting the feet  on the thighs and remain motionless, so that mind is not disturbed by body movement, while it is focused  on a point or image  conceived  outside or  in the mind  such as closing the eyes gently and focusing attention on the point between two eye brows or  on the form of  one’s favourite deity conceived in the mind or on the expansiveness of the sky , as conceived in the mind .Posture becomes firm, but relaxed, when we keep body movements in check  and it facilitates  mind to divorce outside stimulation  and remain calm and composed and peace  and absolute bliss reigns , even experiences divine inspiration . A good posture of our body is necessary to avoid many  Orthopedic problems , apart from  from being graceful . We find people   hold themselves in bad postures, while walking, sitting, lying down  or working with computers resulting in aches and pains . 

4 .Pranayama

Next limb is Pranayama , other wise called  ‘Breath Control’. The life force or vital energy  which is called ‘Prana’ enters our body through breathing, which is essential for sustaining life of all beings living on land including man .Normal breathing, which is an involuntary function follows a rhythm .This rhythm is altered  due to mental agitations . when the breathing is slow , steady and deep , it  calms down and smoothens the mind .The breath may be stopped internally or externally or checked in mid portion and  may be regulated  according to place and time such that  the stoppage is either  brief or prolonged .

When the breath is  checked  after exhalation, when the lungs are emptied of air,  the stoppage is called external . If the breath is checked after inhalation or after taking in the air, it is called  internal stoppage.

Rajayoga conceives  large reservoir of power called ‘Kundalini’, six centres such as lowest 3 centres such as at the Naval ,the organ of Reproduction and organ of evacuation, fourth centre is heart, Fifth centre is throat, and sixth centre is forehead. According to Raja yoga, the spinal column  contains  two nerve currents:  ida on the left and Pingala on the right and in between there is a passage called ‘Sushumna ‘. The vital energy passes through these  five centres and reaches six centre while meditation is perfected .. When erect position of the body is maintained, Sushumna passage is clear  from the pressures of Ida and Pingala  for the free flow of primal energy .  The primal energy  dwells at the three lowest centres ,  when the mind is attached to   short run pleasures of material living .  As the primal energy moves up to other centers, mind experiences   higher spiritual vision, peace, bliss and many rare powers.  For instance, when the mind dwells at the centre of heart, one experiences spiritual awaking and he see light all around.  He is also able to feel universal love or love towards all creations .When the mind dwells at the forehead, there is direct vision of God. In other words, this vital force expresses itself differently at different levels of consciousness. As it moves up,  higher and higher levels of consciousness is experienced .  The mind of yogis stays at the highest / sixth level.  The purpose of Pranayama  is rouse  Kundalini  or primal energy which lay coiled at the  three lowest centres and to see that it moves to other higher centres . The centres are also called ‘lotuses’ in yogic literature, because,   yogis who attained spiritual vision see them in the form of full bloom lotuses . When the mind is calmed down  by the practice of breath control, concentration or Dharana and Meditation or Dhyana and complete absorption or Samadhi, the   state of mind, one attains is  tremendous  and indescribable .

Rigorous breathing control should be practiced only  with proper knowledge or proper guidance of a teacher, less it may lead to mental aberrations . How ever,  there is a harmless breathing exercise which would calm down the mind and facilitate for  meditation which can be practiced .  Breathing in deeply through the left nostril,  by closing the right nostril. While doing this,  one should feel that he is  inhaling  pure and sacred primal energy and sending  a current down the  spine to Kundalini  within its basic triangular lotus at the bottom of the spine. Then one should hold the breath for a moment repeating the sacred syllable ‘om’. Then release right nostril and close left nostril with  fore finger and exhale through the left nostril. While exhaling, one should feel that  he is dispelling all impurities from the body. Then keeping the left nostril closed, one should inhale through right nostril and exhale through left nostril.  Only one nostril is kept open at a time . This exercise can be repeated for  several minutes until one experiences calming down of the mind .

This slow, steady and deep breathing technique can be practiced when one looses temper or when the mind is agitated/ stressed up to calm down the mind, in our day to day life .While breathing, one should focus his attention to rhythmic movements of his diaphragm.

5. Pratyahara

The fifth limb of yoga practice is called Prathyahara . It is bringing one’s awareness of himself to within oneself . It is turning towards inside. It is withdrawing our sense organs which act as Antenna  to receive stimulations from outside world  within .It is withdrawing our  attention to things, persons and situations It is closing the mind to sensory mind which brings kaleidoscopic impressions . It marks transition from the first 4 limbs described above to the last 3 limbs of Meditation. Or it prepares ground for achieving concentration of mind on a single point  of attention  with in the mind .   It is developing relative  detachment  from the objects of pleasure in the outside world and becoming  a ‘spectator’ rather than  being an active participant .  This state of mind is called ‘Saakshi bhava’ in Sanskrit language. In this state, we are not under the sway of circumstances and our actions are guided by our will routed in discriminatory knowledge.  This stage attained by constant practice takes the mind to its original or intrinsic nature of perfect health , vigor and divinity .

6. Dharana

Dharana means concentration, keeping  the mind in sharp focus, being immune  to distractions,, or achieving  single-pointed attention .It is focusing  one’s mind  to a particular inner state.  It is the practice of keeping away   from distractions from outside world and also from unwanted thoughts passing through the mind.  It is an act of calming down and cleansing the mind. It is a step of preparation to move to the next three stages of practicing concentration of the mind.

7. Dhyana

Dhyana is a Sanskrit word means concentration, introspection or looking within and achieving single-pointed concentration . It is focusing one’s mind to a particular inner state, subject or topic of one’s mind. The focus could be one’s favorite deity like Lord Rama’ or Lord ‘Krishna’ or particular word or syllable like  ‘OM’ . Visualize these symbols more and more vividly. There should be a single stream of awareness. The attempt is to achieve  sharp focus on the concept .  Sankaracharya quotes an example to show this experience.  Morning sun as we see is brilliant, colorful and has orbit . Yogi  who practices Dhyana  will focuss only on the orbit of the sun ,not being  distracted by its color or brilliance . Dhyana is the initial stage of Meditation leading to next and final stage called ‘Samadhi’ in Sanskrit.

8  Samadhi

Samadhi is the final stage of Meditation, when maximum concentration of mind is attained. It is the highest spiritual state, when mind is totally absorbed in whatever it is contemplating on such that  the mind loses its own identity or one loses one’s own awareness of the outside world .   The thinker, the thought process and the subject of thought all merge into one. At this state mind becomes steady in its intrinsic nature of pure intelligence and absolute bliss . It is also called ‘perfect yogic ‘state.

All the above 8 limbs should not considered as independent of each other. For clarity and ease of understanding those were describes as separate entities. They are to be considered as different , integral parts of the a single system,  whose parts are interdependent ., just like our body whose function is not mere addition of  the functioning of its parts , on the other hand, the function of our body is holistic  meaning functions of individual parts  are well knit  or  interdependent . When we view the function of human body as wholistic, it follows that there could be some common factors which determine the overall health. The attempt of Modern Medicine is to consider independent of those of others vis specialization and super- specialization, with the result  specialties and super-specialties  are mushrooming . Perhaps it is time  to look at the functioning/ malfunctioning  human body in holistic perspective and arrive at remedies  not  for specific diseases , but maintenance of  Robust health . This holistic concept applies equally well in the practice of yoga . We should look at the whole, not just the parts, as parts by themselves do not form the whole, there is something more in the whole than summation of parts. The path so called western science takes is to chase parts with the hope that overall health can be promoted by taking care of parts. Such journey appears endless, as we see today.

To conclude, yoga practice ads meaning to human life, apart from making it as a source of peaceful bliss and true happiness.


Dr.A.Sreekumar Menon

Yoga –India’s contribution to the world (Dr.A.Sreekumar Menon)
മലയാളത്തില്‍ ടൈപ്പ് ചെയ്യാന്‍ ഇവിടെ ക്ലിക്ക് ചെയ്യുക