The human body is made up of different parts, organs and glands. The harmony between them is what constitutes good health. Abuse, under use, or negligence of any of these parts can cause a disturbance of this harmony-giving rise to ill health and disease.
Yoga believes in rectification of this internal imbalance. According to yoga, the ailments are a result of faulty ways of living; hence it believes in rectifying the entire lifestyle in order to rectify a condition. Yoga is a complete way of living, and adopting this life means adopting the principles of yoga.
Diet: diet is an important aspect of yoga. One of the principles of yoga is to eat just what your body requires. Both over eating and under eating can cause ill effects. Yoga believes that the kind, quality and quantity of food taken can affect the physical and mental state of an individual. Food from animal sources takes longer time and consumes more energy for digestion. Hence yoga advocates vegetarianism and gives importance to “satvik (noble)” diet, which means eating natural, fresh foods from plant sources that are both nutritious and easily digestible.
It is not only the quantity and quality of food, but also the way it is chewed and the time when it is consumed that matters and plays a significant role. Food is to be thoroughly masticated, and water should be consumed half-an-hour before or after the meal.
Exercise: Yoga advocates exercise for the entire body system, which includes the mind and the physical body. For good health you need to have a healthy body and mind. There should be a harmony between all organs and free flow of vital energy. The physical exercises of yoga like the stretching movements are designed to improve the flexibility of body and maintain a healthy spine, which houses the spinal cord and nerve plexuses. Regular practice of these basic exercises prepares your body for higher levels like the yogic postures or asana’s.
Postures stimulate your organs and the endocrine glands, improve their blood supply and correct any existing malfunctions. Practicing the sitting postures enhances blood supply to the brain and improves concentration, which is the first step towards meditation. The practice of yoga is not complete without meditation. Meditation is exercise for the mind to relieve stress and seek peace within oneself.
Breathing: most people do not use their lungs to the fullest capacity. They deprive their lungs and the rest of the body of fresh oxygen and efficient blood circulation. Shallow breathing barely expands the rib cage and lungs. Yoga believes in the practice of deep, smooth and rhythmic breathing involving the abdomen, rib cage and upper part of lungs. Yogic breathing exercises enable you to get a control over your breathing patterns and movements.
Morals and Conduct: Yoga preaches non-violence (Ahimsa) and truthfulness (satya) and generosity (Aparigraha) in all thoughts and acts. Control over one’s thoughts and feelings, healthy expression of sexual activity and abstinence from immoral activities form an essential part of yoga ethics.
Positive Thinking: According to yoga, you are what you think and believe. A healthy body cannot exist without a healthy mind. Cultivating positive thoughts, being content with one-self and diverting your mind from pessimistic and negative thoughts gives you the ability to always look at the brighter side of life. Yoga preaches you to recognize your duties and perform them honestly to the best of your abilities, and not bother about criticism or end result. By doing this, you will always nurture a positive outlook even in adverse situations.
Concentration and Meditation: yoga believes that every person has an inherent power to concentrate and when a person’s mind concentrates on one aspect, the mind temporarily switches off from other issues. You can train your mind to concentrate by observing within yourself like your breathing or an external object like the flame of a candle.
Deep concentration takes you into a state where everything else is wiped out and time becomes non-existent. By tuning the mind to concentrate within, we take the mind forward towards the next step of Yoga, which is the meditation. Meditation enables you to focus your mind and discover the everlasting joy and tranquility within yourself.
Relaxation: Relaxation is a natural way of restoring your body’s energy. Yoga teaches relaxation at various levels- the physical, mental and spiritual levels. According to yoga, the body consumes minimum energy during relaxation, thereby conserving and storing more energy for the body. Relaxation releases all the tension within the muscles, making you feel calm and recharged.
Perfect relaxation in yoga is attained through physical, mental and spiritual relaxation. Physical and mental relaxation is achieved through postures like Shavasana (corpse pose), breathing exercises and meditation. Spiritual relaxation is the ultimate and is achieved when a person understands detachment and unities himself with nature in oneness. In that state, the sorrows, fears, pains and all desires vanish to give a sense of joy, peace and self-consciousness.