Common Yoga Protocol

 

International Day  of Yoga

 

 

Article by

 

 

Ministry of AYUSH

Yoga works on the level of one’s body, mind, emotion and energy. This has given rise to four broad classifications of Yoga: Karma Yoga where we utilise the body; Jnāna Yoga where we utilise the mind; Bhakti Yoga where we utilise the emotion and Kriya Yoga where we utilize the energy. Each system of Yoga we practice falls within the gamut of one or more of these categories.

Every individual is a unique combination of these four factors. Only a guru (teacher) can advocate the appropriate combination of the four fundamental paths as is necessary for each seeker. “All ancient commentaries onYoga have stressed that it is essential to work under the direction of a guru.”

 

While addressing the 69 session of United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on September 27, 2014, the Honorable Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi urged the world community to adopt an International Day of Yoga.

 

“Yoga is an invaluable gift of ancient Indian tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature and a holistic approach to health and well-being. Yoga is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with ourselves, the world and Nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help us to deal with climate change. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day,” Shri Modi said.

 

On December 11, 2014, the 193 member UNGA approved the proposal by consensus with a record 177 co-sponsoring countries a resolution to establish 21 June as “International Day of Yoga”. In its resolution, the UNGA recognised that Yoga provides a holistic approach to health and well-being and wider dissemination of information about the benefits of practicing Yoga for the health of the world population. Yoga also brings harmony in all walks of life and thus, is known for disease prevention, health promotion and management of many lifestyle- related disorders.

What is Yoga?

Yoga is essentially a spiritual discipline based on an extremely subtle science which focuses on bringing harmony between mind and body. It is an art and science for healthy living. The word “Yoga” is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj meaning “to join”, “to yoke” or “to unite”.

 

According to Yogic scriptures, the practice of Yoga leads to the union of individual consciousness with universal consciousness. According to modern scientists, everything in the universe is just a manifestation of the same quantum firmament. One who experiences this oneness of existence is said to be “in Yoga” and is termed as a yogi who has attained a state of freedom, referred to as mukti, nirvāna, kaivalyaormoksha.

 

“Yoga” also refers to an inner science comprising of a variety of methods through which human beings can achieve union between the body and mind to attain self-realisation. The aim of Yoga practice (sādhana) is to overcome all kinds of sufferings that lead to a sense of freedom in every walk of life with holistic health, happiness and harmony.

 

The Fundamentals of Yoga

Yoga works on the level of one’s body, mind, emotion and energy. This has given rise to four broad classifications of Yoga: Karma Yoga where we utilise the body; Jnāna Yoga where we utilise the mind; Bhakti Yoga where we utilize the emotion and Kriya Yoga where we utilize the energy. Each system of Yoga we practice falls within the gamut of one or more of these categories.

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Every individual is a unique combination of these four factors. Only a guru (teacher) can advocate the appropriate combination of the four fundamental paths as is necessary for each seeker. “All ancient commentaries onYoga have stressed that it is essential to work under the direction of a guru.”

 

Yogic practices for health and wellness

The widely practiced Yoga sadhanas are:

Yama, Niyama, Āsana, Prānāyāma, Pratyāhara, Dhārana, Dhyāna, Samādhi, Bandhas and Mudras, Shatkarmas, Yuktāhāra, Mantra-japa, Yukta-karma, etc.

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Yamas are restraints and Niyamas are observances. These are considered to be pre- requisites for further Yogic practices. Āsanas, capable of bringing about stability of body and mind, “kuryat-tadasanam sthairyam”, involve adopting various psycho-physical body patterns and giving one an ability to maintain a body position (a stable awareness of one’s structural existence) for a considerable length of time.

Prānāyāma consists of developing awareness of one’s breathing followed by willful regulation of respiration as the functional or vital basis of one’s existence. It helps in developing awareness of one’s mind and helps to establish control over the mind. In the initial stages, this is done by developing awareness of the “flow of in-breath and out-breath” (svāsa-prasvāsa) through nostrils, mouth and other body openings, its internal and external pathways and destinations.

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Later, this phenomenon is modified, through regulated, controlled and monitored inhalation (svāsa) leading to the awareness of the body space getting filled (puraka), the space(s) remaining in a filled state (kumbhaka) and it getting emptied (rechaka) during regulated, controlled and monitored exhalation (prasvāsa).

Pratyāhara indicates dissociation of one’s consciousness (withdrawal) from the sense organs which connect with the external objects. Dhārana indicates broad based field of attention (inside the body and mind) which is usually understood as concentration.

Dhyāna (meditation) is contemplation (focussed attention inside the body and mind) and Samādhi (integration).

Bandhas and Mudras are practices associated with Prānāyāma. They are viewed as the higher yogic practices that mainly adopt certain physical gestures along with control over respiration. This further facilitates control over mind and paves way for higher Yogic attainment. However, practice of dhyāna, which moves one towards self-realisation and leads one to transcendence.

Śaṭkarmas are detoxification procedures that are clinical in nature and help to remove the toxins accumulated in the body. Yuktāhāra advocates appropriate food and food habits for healthy living.

 

Guiding Principles

A Yoga practitioner should follow the guiding principles given below while performing Yogic practices:

 

Before the Practice

  • Śauca means cleanliness – an important prerequisite for Yogic practice. It includes cleanliness of surroundings, body and mind.
  • Yogic practice should be performed in a calm and quiet atmosphere with a relaxed body and mind.
  • Yogic practice should be done on an empty stomach or light stomach. Consume small amount of honey in lukewarm water if you feel weak.
  • Bladder and bowels should be empty before starting Yogic practices.
  • A mattress, Yoga mat, durrie or folded blanket should be used for the practice.
  • Light and comfortable cotton clothes are preferred to facilitate easy movement of the body.
  • Yoga should not be performed in state of exhaustion, illness, in a hurry or in acute stress conditions.
  • In case of chronic disease/ pain/ cardiac problems, a physician or a Yoga therapist should be consulted prior to performing Yogic practices.
  • Yoga experts should be consulted before doing Yogic practices during pregnancy and menstruation.

 

During the Practice

  • Practice sessions should start with a prayer or invocation as it creates a conducive environment to relax the mind.
  • Yogic practices shall be performed slowly, in a relaxed manner, with awareness of the body and breath.
  • Do not hold the breath unless it is specially mentioned to do so during the practice.
  • Breathing should be always through the nostrils unless instructed otherwise.
  • Do not hold body tightly, or jerk the body at any point of time.
  • Perform the practices according to your own capacity.
  • It takes some time to get good results, so persistent and regular practice is very essential.
  • There are contra-indications/ limitations for each Yoga practice and such contra-indications should always be kept in mind.
  • Yoga session should end with meditation/ deep silence / Śhānti paṭha.

 

After Practice

  • Bath may be taken only after 20-30 minutes of practice.
  • Food may be consumed only after 20-30 minutes of practice.

 

Food for Thought

A few dietary guidelines can ensure that the body and mind are flexible and well-prepared for practice. A vegetarian diet is usually recommended, and for a person over 30 years, two meals a day should suffice, except in cases of illness or very high physical activity or labour.

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How Yoga can Help

Yoga is essentially a path to liberation from all bondage. However, medical research in recent years has uncovered many physical and mental benefits that Yoga offers, corroborating the experiences of millions of practitioners. A small sampling of research shows that:

 

  • Yoga is beneficial for physical fitness, musculoskeletal functioning and cardio- vascular health.
  • It is beneficial in the management of diabetes, respiratory disorders, hypertension, hypotension and many lifestyle related disorders.
  • Yoga helps to reduce depression, fatigue, anxiety disorders and stress.
  • Yoga regulates menopausal symptoms.

 

In essence, Yoga is a process of creating a body and mind that are stepping-stones, not hurdles, to an exuberant and fulfilling life.

Common Yoga Protocol

  1. Prayer
  2. Sadilaja/Calanakriyas/Yogic SukshmaVyayama
  3. Tādāsana
  4. Vṛksāsana
  5. Pada-hastāsana/Uttānāsana
  6. ArdhaCakrāsana
  7. Trikonāsana
  8. Bhadrāsana
  9. ArdhaUṣtrāsana
  10. Śasankāsana
  11. Vakrāsana
  12. Bhujangāsana
  13. Śalabāsana
  14. Makarāsana
  15. Setubandhasana/Catuśpādāsana
  16. Pavanamuktāsana
  17. Savasana
  18. Kapālabhāti
  19. Nadishodhana/AnulomaViloma Prānāyāma:
  20. Bhramari Prānāyāma
  21. Dhyāna

 

 

Excerpted from a booklet published by Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India, on the occassion of International Day of Yoga.