Guest Post by Lorrie & Lal from Vastu School of Yoga.
In the West, Yoga is most often associated with physical exercise. It is in fact a combination of specific exercises which stretch and strengthen the physical body, proper breathing exercises which lower heart rate and reduce stress, and concentration techniques to quiet the mind and prepare you for meditation.
Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years and is a scientific method to control your mind. The teachings of Yoga come from the Vedas, a large body of texts originating in ancient India. These texts are composed in Vedic Sanskrit which is one of the earliest languages known to man. Sanskrit is a member of the Indo European languages which include both English and most other European languages. Pantanjali Sutras, is an important compilation of these teachings and gives the definition of Yoga as: “Yoga Chitta Vritti Norodha”, Yoga is the cessation of the modifications of the mind.
There are five primary principles of Yoga as espoused by Swami Vishnu-devananda, one of the most renowned yoga masters of this century. These principles, or ‘Yoga Basics’ are: Proper Exercise (asanas), Proper Breathing (pranayama), Proper Eating (a vegetarian diet), Proper Relaxation (savasana) and Proper Thinking and Meditation (dharana and dhyana). Vastu Yoga is an integral style of yoga which includes all of these different aspects into a simple, easy to follow plan that you can easily incorporate into your daily life.
Exercise ~ asanas
Asana or proper exercise are different from most contemporary exercise in that they should be pleasant for the practitioner while beneficial to the body, mind and spirit. Asana means steady pose and the yoga postures are designed to be held for a length of time. The exercises work to increase muscle and spinal flexibility and strength. These exercises also benefit the health of the internal organs and endocrine system as well. Yogis regard the body as a vehicle for the Soul, and Yoga exercises are designed to keep not just the physical body healthy but also strengthen the mental, emotional and spiritual faculties as well.
Breathing ~ pranayama
Pranayama or proper breathing is important in the foundation of Yoga. Control of the breath leads to control of the mind and senses. Yoga teaches us how to use our lungs to their full capacity. Proper breathing should be slow, deep and rhythmic. A yogic breath consists of breathing through the nose, using abdominal and diaphragmatic breathing and elongation of the breath through breath control techniques. Proper breathing helps to increase mental alertness, increases energy and decreases anxiety and fear.
Eating ~ a vegetarian diet
Proper Eating consists of a vegetarian diet of fresh, simple, and natural foods. Unprocessed foods are more easily digested and promote good health. Another important aspect of a yogic diet is the subtle energetic effect that food has on our mind, and most serious yoga practitioners will avoid stimulating foods such as caffeine, onion, garlic, strong spices, and foods that are heavy or cause lethargy such as meat, alcohol or drugs.
Relaxation ~ savasana
Proper relaxation consists of three aspects: physical, mental, and spiritual relaxation. Total relaxation is not possible without obtaining all three. Physical relaxation begins with the mind sending messages to different parts of the body to relax. This is accomplished through auto suggestion, placing the body in a proper relaxation position lying on the back with legs and arms apart, and beginning with the toes working throughout the body until reaching the head and finally the internal organs.
Thinking & Meditation ~ dharana & dhyana
Mental relaxation is accomplished through bringing awareness to the breath and breathing slowly and rhythmically. Watching the thoughts without attaching meaning or emotion soon make the mind more calm and peaceful.
Although the physical body may be relaxed and the mind quiet, one cannot completely relax until they have reached spiritual relaxation. Yogis know that as long as an individual is identified with the body and mind; fear, anxiety, sorrows etc. will cause tension and complete relaxation is not possible. He or she connects and identifies with the pure consciousness within completing the process of relaxation.
The last and most important practice is proper thinking and meditation. Many great philosophers and teachers have said that we are what we think. The importance of positive thoughts cannot be over stated to our overall health and well-being. Yoga gives us the tools and techniques to stay present, control our thoughts and our mind, and take control of our destiny.
Vastu Yoga offers Yoga teacher training, 5 and 7 day retreats and daily yoga classes at the beautiful Na Balam Resort Hotel located on Isla Mujeres, a little island just off the coast of Cancun, Mexico.