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Normally when we talk about yoga, we immediately think of exercises or yoga postures / poses or asanas, whereas these yogic exercises are only a small part of the real yoga.


In fact the greatest yoga is the control of mind. He who has controlled his mind is the greatest yogi. The ultimate aim of yoga is to have control over mind and external senses by using different techniques of yoga like Yoga Pranayama, Yoga Asanas or Yoga poses or Postures and Yoga Meditation etc.


As per Patanjali yog sutras there are eight disciplines of yoga. Or in other words, to attain a state of supreme bliss one has to observe the eight different ways or disciplines as described below. Yoga postures or yoga Asanas or poses are one of these eight limbs.


These are explained below:-


1. Yama – prescribes five ethical or moral behaviour to be observed while exercising yoga. These are Ahinsa or non-violence,  Satya or Truthfulness,  Asteya or Non-stealing ,  Brahamcharya or celebacy,  Aparigraha or no desire for collection of things


2. Niyama – prescribes the following discipline to be observed. These are  Shauch or Cleanliness,  Santosh or  Contentment,  Tapa or  Regular practice,  Svadhyaya or Self study and  Totally surrender to the God


3. Yoga Asana - Regular practice of yoga postures or yoga Asanas or yoga exercises.


4. Yoga Pranayama  - It is the practice of breathing exercises to help in concentration of mind as well as develop internal spiritual powers.


5. Pratyahar -  Withdrwing your senses inwards like a turtle, who withdraws all his limbs inside. To pull all your external senses inwards and concentrate on the mind itself. A journey inwards.


6. Dharana – is the practice to concentrate on something unaffected outer or inner distractions or disturbances.


7. Dhyana – It is the next stage on dharana where concentration of mind is not on any single object, but mind tries to focus on it only.


8. Samadhi – It is the final stage of meditation where a yogi merge with the universe or in other words he achieves the state of enlightenment or samadhi.


Yoga Breathing Exercises - Called Pranayama, brings a state of mental equilibrium and purifies our inner self. We have observed that our breathing rate changes with our emotions or physical activity. When we are angry or when we are in disturbed state of mind or when we are running our breath rate increases. So when we do the pranayam exercises, it balances our breathing pattern resulting in a balanced state of mind. 


Some of the commonly used Pranayam breathing exercises are :-


1.) “Anulom – Vilom”, Nadi Shodhan or alternate breathing exercise – In this exercise, inhaling is done from left nostril and retained as long as you are comfortable and then exhaled from right nostril. In next cycle inhaling is done from right nostril, retained and exhaled from left nostril. It is very useful for high blood pressure, purifying blood and help in concentration during worship or meditation etc.


2.) Shitli or Cooling Pranayam – In this exercise you inhale thru mouth by folding your tongue and shaping it like the beak of crow and retain your breath as long as you can and then exhale thru your both nostrils.  This type of pranayam is very useful in removing the heat from brain, stomach your blood stream etc. It is not beneficial for persons having cough and cold nature.


3.) Bhastrika Pranayam – In this type of pranayam. Inhaling and exhaling is done with full power. Retention of breathing is not done. There are further many types of Bhastrika pranayam.


4.) Bhramari Pranayam – In this type of pranayam, inhaling & exhaling is done by producing drone like sound from your throat. It is very beneficial for concentration, purifying blood and tissues etc.


There are further many other type variations or sub – categories of Pranayam.


Yoga – Kundalini – It is the dormant force situated at the base of spine in a coiled state.

This dormant kundalini energy (serpent power) is awakened by observing all the disciplines of yoga with regular practice. It then rises up at the base of spine or Sushumna  and reach the head or “sahasrar” the ultimate chakra, after passing thru many chakras of our astral body.  There it unites itself with the Lord Shiva, the supreme being and Sadhak attains ultimate bliss and awakening of inner knowledge.


 Yoga Instructions - A sadhak or aspirant must purify & strengthen his body & mind before attempting to awaken kundalini shakti, otherwise it may result in permanent damage & disturbances to his mental state.


Yoga Asanas / poses – There are many types of yoga exercises, which can be done by standing, sitting, lying on back, lying on stomach etc.  Unlike other exercises, all yoga exercises are done at slow pace and in synchronisation with your breathing pattern. Also for every bending or rotation of our body, there is always an opposite movement to be done, which keeps our body flexible. In other types of exercises, which are done at fast pace, you get tired and exhausted, where in yoga exercises you become more active and energetic. In other exercises your energy is spent, where in yoga exercises you are filled with energy, you gain happiness & power. Certain Yoga asanas activates our internal body organs and make them powerful, like lungs , stomach, pancreas etc.


There are many yoga exercises, some of them are given below  –


“Surya Namaskar” – In this yogic exercise, the complete body parts of our body are activated. It is a complete and full body exercise in itself and recommended for all. It integrates all standing sitting and lying postures in it.


“Shirsasana” -  Standing upside down on your head. This yogic exercise helps in memory, brain power and circulation of blood to brain.


In fact, in our modern fast moving world, we can extract yoga practice by always concentrating on our breath. It will do two things, you are doing concentration or meditation and secondly you are also doing pranayam by always taking deep and long breaths.

One should try to do as many household or office chores as you can, like instead of talking on intercom you should walk to the person cabin, try to do everything yourself instead of taking help from peon or assistant. In your home working in the kitchen, washing clothes, picking up something from ground, walking etc all are indirectly a form of yoga exercises.

Yoga for beginner – Anyone seeking to learn yoga and progress in this field should do it under the guidance of a yoga instructor, other wise he will not be able to progress further in this field. Yoga is based on the principle of slow & steady wins the race.