Yoga and the Mind

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Most of the yogic texts are complicated Sanskrit terms that have little significance to the lay person. While the believers’ numbers are growing, there are many sceptics too. Especially when we talk of the healing effects of yoga. So, it’s important to understand how yoga works on the human body and consequently the human mind. Healthy mind in healthy body is not just a metaphor, it means that when the body is healthy, the mind also feels good. But then is yoga for people who are physically healthy only? Think again! With the growing popularity of restorative yoga, meditation and breath work or pranayama, the hypothesis is that many ailments in the body are caused by stress, that is, they are psychosomatic. If one works on the mind and reduces stress that the modern way of life generates, it can bring about healing of physical ailments e.g. migraine, asthma, and mentally illness such as anxiety and depression.

With my educational background in Psychology, I have found innumerable connections between the concepts of human behavior and Yogic philosophy. It has both intrigued and amazed me. I feel compelled to share this interpretation that is solely mine and is also the reason why I got sold on yoga.

Human behavior is generally an outcome of the internal desires of a person and the efforts to fulfill these desires. The clash between these desires and the moral compass of the world creates anxiety in the person which manifests itself in various forms of coping behavior. As a result, the mind is restless, and tranquillity is disturbed. Instant gratification has become second nature to most people. The advances of information technology have added to the speed of gratification. Most people no longer know how to control their impulses which leads to conflict with other human beings who are catering to their own impulses. In this scramble to fulfill desires, sanity is sacrificed. Yoga helps us to regain the sanity through practice of Ashtanga yoga. Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word “Yuj” which means union – of the individual self (jivatma) with the larger consciousness or universal self.  (paramatma). This connection is snapped in the travails of modern life and yoga seeks to draw us back to the base.

Yoga is considered a process that helps people gain mastery over the mind. Pathanjali the original proponent of yogic science calls it the technique of “mind control” this is done by cultivating a practice that enables the human being to remain calm and silent and introspect on the best way to calm the mind. Since most people are not very successful with meditation alone, yoga lays out a process that gradually leads to finally calming the mind – Asanas (Dynamic poses) , Pranayama (Breath work) and Dhyana( meditation. However, these are only 3 stages of the process. The entire process consists of eight phases. All the phases together are known as Ashtanga yoga. (the next article)

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