An Ancient Tradition for the New Millennium
In today's fast-paced environment, and even more so
in the wake of Sept. 11, individuals increasingly feel
stressed, anxious and disoriented. Many people try to
overcome their fears and insecurities by resorting to
antidepressants, alcohol, drugs and other unhealthy
habits, only to be left feeling more depressed and empty.
from this stressful world just became a little easier.
Yoga has finally made its way into mainstream America
as a tool to help us get grounded in a more wholesome,
healthy way. The art of yoga was perfected in India
thousands of years ago as an integrated system of education
for the body, mind and spirit. However, since yoga deals
with universal truths, its teachings are as valid today
as they were in ancient times. Yoga is a practical aid
-not a religion- that can be practiced by Buddhists,
Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus and atheists alike.
Yoga is union of all.
In accordance with yoga's
teachings, our body is the temple of our soul; we must
take good care of this temple and not indulge in harmful
actions. This implies that we should lead a balanced,
healthy lifestyle by following a nutritious diet (we
are what we eat!) and exercising regularly, as well
as keeping our thoughts and actions pure.
Yoga is a physical exercise
that is well suited for anyone. In relation to other
sports, yoga is more convenient because it requires
no equipment and can be practiced anywhere. There are
many types of exercise, but the yogic system of asanas,
a Sanskrit word meaning -steady pose,- is the most complete
since it benefits far more than just the physical body.
The fundamental components
of yoga, physical and mental, are stress flexibility,
balance and strength through stretching, as well as
forward and backward bending poses and breathing exercises.
These exercises, based on the principles of non-violence
and non-competitiveness, emphasize deep breathing, relaxed
movements and mental concentration without the stress
of competing against oneself or others. Yoga participants
never push themselves beyond their physical limits,
and realize they are the masters of their own body and
mind. As the body becomes more supple and flexible,
the exercises become easier and more relaxing. While
yoga is a physical discipline, it also helps develop
mental discipline. Through yoga, individuals gradually
learn to calm their minds through various breathing
exercises, resulting in an increased focus and concentration.
This heightened awareness of our body, as well as our
surroundings, provides a greater understanding of our
own actions and the consequences that may come with
Yoga is a wonderful tool
in acquiring physical and mental well-being. Those who
realize the interconnectedness between body and mind
will reap the benefits of this ancient practice. A healthy
and moderate lifestyle that inherently respects nature,
our environment and all sentient beings will lead to
an elevated consciousness and spirituality, ultimately
leading to peace within ourselves, as well as those
around us. Isn't that what the world needs right now?
an ideal world, a balanced, calm mind shields us against
the harmful influences and assaults on our senses that
we experience every day living in this highly materialistic,
fast-paced, information-driven world. Feelings of greed
and fear gradually will subside and make room for a
greater sense of fulfillment and a more relaxed approach
to life. This may sound utopian, but it is definitely
within our reach. It's all about mind over matter. Once
we come to this realization, we will be stronger and
more prepared to deal with the ups and downs of life.
I strongly encourage everyone to give yoga a try because
by improving ourselves we can help make this a better
world. Start with this small step and be assured you
will be helped along your new path. As the old adage
goes: When the student is ready, the teacher is there.
- - - -
by Angela Dogançay in dedication to Heilke Podack,
aka The Girl from Tarrytown, and all like-minded soul mates.