Yoga by definition comes from the Sanskrit word “Yuj” meaning to yoke, join or unite. This implies integrating all aspects of the individual – body with mind and mind with soul – to achieve a healthy and balanced life.
Today though, when we think of yoga we think only of the pretzel like postures for the body, even though this is just one limb of the philosophy.
The ancients developed these exercises to loosen up their muscles and mind so that they could sit for hours in meditation. Yoga is about self mastery and dedicated effort to haul ourselves away from constant brooding about the past and non-stop worrying about the future, so that we can seek instead, a place of eternal presence from which we may regard ourselves and our surroundings with poise.
You won’t be surprised therefore if I said that in the middle of a crazy work day the practice of yoga or these ancient postures have often brought me immense calm.
Imagine your day starts off as completely normal. You wake up at 7:30 am with your alarm and put it on snooze for 10 minutes. You shower, eat breakfast and leave home. You get to work and before you finish checking your mail you’ve been called into a meeting to fill in for your boss. The meeting lasts till little past lunch time. You barely have time for lunch at your desk when its 4 pm and you’ve not even started work. You finish off whatever you can in 3 hours and take work home. It’s now 7:30 and you have work to finish before tomorrow morning plus your household chores.
Take out your yoga mat.
Start with some warm up stretches first and then move on to some slightly more difficult ones. The trick is to hold the postures for more time than you would normally find easy to do.
Stretch out your whole body by standing on your ankles with your hands stretched out towards the sky. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
Get back on your feet and stretch sideways for 20 seconds first one side then the other.
Stretch backwards pulling your arms as far as you can reach for 20 to 30 seconds and then forwards pulling only your torso with your legs firm and straight.
Next bend down and touch your toes without bending your knees for 30 seconds.
Move on to your favourite postures. One of my favourites is padmasan or the lotus pose. First bring your head to the floor in front then to both knees and then lie back, each of these for 20 to 30 seconds.
Do two or three pairs of surya namaskars. Hold each posture and your breath for 10 to 20 seconds.
You get the drift.
What this will do is make you focus so completely on the task at hand, (concentrating for 30 seconds in a difficult posture is no easy task) that for half an hour you will not be able to think even for a moment about anything in the future or past and your utmost concentration will be in the moment.
This is one of the most relaxing things you can do for your mind while your body does all the work, try it!