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Yoga: 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. 

Fortunately, escaping 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 them.

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?

In 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.

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Written by Angela Dogançay in dedication to Heilke Podack, aka The Girl from Tarrytown, and all like-minded soul mates.

This issue dedicated to such distinguished author Karen ARMSTRONG &
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