There is an exciting race to achieve what is called "success" in everyday terms. There is no let-up as we flit from job-to-job and errand-to-errand. Within the ambit of this search of success, we also hope to find our final happiness, our little pond of peace, and our cup of joy.
It stymies us to find that we are becoming successful - because, we are neither happy nor joyful. We have lost the essence of our search. This is because we are looking from without rather than from within. True happiness lies within us, and if we turn our eyes inwards, we will find ourselves. Yoga helps us in attaining a sense of calm and bliss, because it aids us to detach ourselves for a while from our daily schedule and also to meditate.
The buzz of urban life, corporate culture, or office tension, all add up to give us that tension-knotted neck, aching lower back, and stiff shoulder.
You need to accept the demands of a busy life. The best way to do this is through yoga - a wholesome practice that can bring tranquillity in the midst of our on-going chaos.
The first thing required to do yoga is to find a quiet space to sit peacefully and meditate. It may be a corner of a room away from the rest of the house, or a patch of green in the garden. Yoga does not ask for more than half-an-hour of your twenty-four hours, but it gives you much more in return.
Sit quietly and calmly
We should begin to practice meditation for five minutes a day, and slowly increase it to 20 minutes. The sense of calm that we achieve in this time period will give us the energy and vigour to perform our activities with speed and resolution, without getting disturbed or harried by events, or issues.
Turn your thoughts inwards
The central doctrine of yoga philosophy is that "Ishvara" is the Supreme "Purusha" or Supreme Consciousness. You can express "Ishvara" by chanting "Om" as you sit quietly in a meditative pose. By chanting this, you will remove the externalities that invade your mind. This helps you to achieve true calmness and a sense of self-realisation.
As you regulate your inhalation and exhalation of breath, you'd be better able to energise your breath, and achieve discipline and control. This also allows you to open yourself to all sensation and increased awareness - when you do this you will also be able to concentrate on your inner glow. This is the essence of yoga.
Place the thumb of your hand on your right nostril to close it. Hold your right nostril with your thumb; and, breathe in from the left nostril. Now, breathe out strongly from the left nostril, expelling all air. Breathe in again from your left nostril, and now open your right nostril as you close the left nostril with your middle and ring finger [keep the palm of the hand in front just above the nose] and breathe out from your right nostril. Now, breathe in from right nostril. Close your right nostril and open the left and breathe out.
While doing this practice, try to mentally repeat the mantra "Om" in order to meditate. Breathe slowly, filling and emptying the lungs as you do so. This may be done for 5-10 minutes.
Begin with 3 minutes of practice, and increase the duration slowly. In summer, a maximum of 5 minutes of this practice is good enough. You must, however, not stress yourself while doing this exercise, and also stop to rest whenever you feel tired. It is best to practice anulom vilom, four hours after taking food - i.e., on an empty stomach.
The practice of anulom vilom is therapeutic for people who have high blood pressure, heart blockages, arthritis, depression, Parkinson's disease, asthma, sinusitis, and migraine.
"Kapal" means forehead and "bhati" means light. Hence, kapal-bhati refers to the exercise which makes the forehead luminous. In kapal-bhati, we breathe in as we normally do, and we breathe out with as much of force as is possible at our command. In doing so, the abdominal area makes outward and inward movements so as to influence the internal organs.
While doing this practice you must think that while exhaling you are throwing all the distresses and diseases out of our body. You should also think that all negative and tension-filled elements are being thrown out as you exhale the air out with force, and expel your body's toxic garbage.
Kapal-bhati should be done for five minutes. You may start for a period of three minutes and gradually increase it to five minutes. When you begin, you may feel a little bit tired, or have some pain in the back or abdomen. This will disappear with practice. People who have pancreatic problems should not practice kapal-bhati for more than two minutes.
Long-terms benefits of the practice are suggested to cure us of ailments related to the heart, lungs, and brain. Diabetes, obesity, flatulence and constipation are also controlled, so also digestion.
A great deal of emphasis has been laid on hatha yoga, or the physical aspect of yoga. No doubt, practicing the asanas [postures] helps us in making our bodies supple and svelte.
In our busy schedule, if only a few select asanas - such as cobra, triangle, plow and seated twist - are done, along with a couple of pranayama practices [anulom vilom and kapal-bhati], we will be able to manage our day with equanimity and balance.
As for those of us who just don't have the time for yoga, practising just the two breathing practices will create enough wellbeing within us to meet our tight schedules with relative ease.
With hatha yoga, we also become quite aware of the power of our bodies. With pranayama that involves focused breathing and meditation, we become aware of the power of our minds and the Absolute Power, or Supreme Consciousness. As our mind becomes calm and at peace from within, with the practice, you will be able to achieve what is called as absolute true consciousness, or ritambhara prajna.
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