Yoga for the Modern World

If A is for Apple, E is for Elephant, and U for Umbrella, don’t be surprised if kids reading alphabets today spell “Y for Yoga”. Indeed, yoga is becoming more and more popular today. While there may be many reasons for this, one who has experienced the powerful benefits of simple yoga practices would hardly be surprised at how the ‘Y’ word has risen to great popularity. Since the only qualification required for yoga is the ‘ability to breathe’, people from all backgrounds, age groups and occupations could choose to take its benefits. How to do that?

To most people, the word ‘Yoga’ means a set of physical exercises or postures (called ‘asanas’ in Sanskrit). It is very interesting to know that these ‘asanas’ or physical exercises are just one of the eight “limbs of Yoga”, as explained by Maharishi Patanjali in the ancient times. Aside from the Asanas, yoga also consists of meditation, breathing techniques such as Pranayams and Kriya Yoga, hygiene and the practice of moral values. As a whole, yoga brings about not just good health to the body, but also to the mind, emotions, energy and personality. In short, it contributes to a wholesome and fulfilling life.

Thousand modern “Yogis” from all over the world perform together at the World Culture Festival @ The Olympiastadion in Berlin: July 2011

A complete and fulfilling life is often missing today, perhaps more than ever before. Longer working hours, reduced physical exercise, greater competition at schools and workplaces, increasing use of chemicals in food and items of daily use are some of the common factors which are leading to unbalanced, unhealthy and stressful lifestyles today. Left unchecked, this can lead to psychological and health issues. Yoga offers protection from these ailments.

The old proverb ‘Prevention is better than cure’ applies perfectly well to the practice of Yoga. Apart from preventing the emotional trauma suffered by the ill and their families, one can also avoid the rising costs of medication as well as the harmful side-effects that invariably accompany allopathic medicines. But the stand-out advantage of a ‘Sadhak’ (one who practices Yoga) over others is the tremendous strength and qualities he or she gets in personality, such as the ability to focus and yet be relaxed at the same time, overcoming failure and rejection, high self-confidence and clarity of thought. His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has said: “Look at the benefits of spirituality. 1) It brings enthusiasm. 2) There is more time in your life. You can do with only 5-6 hours of sleep. It will keep you energized. 3) Will enhance your Creativity 4) Increase your Energy levels. All these lead to prosperity.”

Yoga practices have also touched the lives of the celebrated and the popular. Bollywood stars Lara Dutta and Kunal Kapoor are active supporters and teachers of Yoga. The Sri Lankan Government arranged a yoga workshop for its national cricket team following an assassination attempt on the team while on tour in Pakistan in 2009. The Sri Lankan captain was quoted as saying that “he had felt relaxed and calm” after practicing the breathing techniques. Among other famous personalities who have practiced Yoga are Arnold Schwarzenegger, Madonna, Angelina Jolie and Mahesh Bhupathi.

Modern technology has also made yoga very convenient to practice. Locating yoga classes and regular practice groups has never been easier, thanks to the internet and telephone. Even meditation can be done on the internet with the help of audio tracks which guide the user through instructions. Thanks to music players on mobile phones and other portable instruments, meditation is possible anywhere, anytime using audio tracks – during lunch breaks, while commuting, in busy offices or in serene lawns.

A Yoga group experiencing the benefits of Yoga at a park in the US

Indeed, it is now possible to practice yoga around hectic schedules and tight deadlines without much effort. The more relevant truth is that today’s fast-paced world makes it necessary to practice yoga to keep good health, joy and a sense of balance in life. It is easy to do. And fun! So, roll out your mat and begin!

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