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Let us celebrate the “International Yoga Day”

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Do you want to achieve the full potential of your own body, remain fit and healthy and live a long productive life? Then you should make yoga as part of your daily living. Daily practice of Yoga can be used as an adjunct for primary and secondary prevention of many chronic ailments. 

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Every year we celebrate June 21st as the International Yoga Day. Thanks to the great effort by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, a practicing yogi himself, the UN General Assembly declared in the year 2014,  June 21st as the ‘International Day of Yoga’ every year, a decision that was embraced wholeheartedly by majority of the countries. In his original address Hon: Narendra Modi said:  “Yoga is an invaluable gift of ancient Indian tradition. It embodies the 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 about discovering the sense of oneness with oneself, the world and nature. Let us work towards adopting an International Day of Yoga.”  These words are still relevant today.

What is Yoga?

The word ‘yoga’ means ‘union of mind and body.’ It’s not just another series of exercise routines but consists of:

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1. Asanas or Yogasanas: These are postures that will strengthen and improve the stability and flexibility of your body and will help with the balancing skills needed to prevent falls.

2. Pranayama (Breathing exercises): This improves the lung capacity and oxygenation of the tissues, essential for the vitality of your body. You have heard the old saying, “You are only as good as your last breath.” So let us keep our breaths going.

3. Meditation:  This is the best way to train your mind, so you can control your wandering thoughts and focus on what you are doing. Relaxation, stress relief and positive thinking are the primary benefits which in turn will lead to lowering of your blood pressure and heart rate and improved blood circulation. After meditation for ten minutes every morning, I can sense a feeling of calmness washing over me.   

Yoga as Medicine

What was introduced to the public in 2000 BC  by the great Indian Sage Patanjali, the Father of Yoga, who codified all the yoga principles into ‘Yoga Sutras’ has gained worldwide acceptance now, the reason being its unique benefits to the body and mind. As a physician who has been practicing cardiology and internal medicine for over fifty years and practicing yoga for the past few years, I can personally vouch for its effect on health and healing.  Whether you are bothered with chronic back pain or cancer, diabetes or depression, regular yoga practice can help you in controlling the problem. 

Take the case of Catherine D, 64, who came to see me some time ago with severe back pain. She had tried various anti-inflammatory medications and occasional narcotics with only mild temporary relief. She did have a lot of spinal arthritis in the lower back. Surgery was one option, but she was afraid of any operations on her body. Finally, she agreed to go for regular yoga practice, got herself a guru, and after a few months, felt much better. 

Currently our country is in the grip of the deadly Coronavirus pandemic and we must take every step to prevent the disease. Daily practice of Yoga is very helpful to maintain your fitness and improve one’s immunity. Specifically, yoga is very beneficial for these common ailments.

  • Hypertension and Heart Diseases: By reducing the blood pressure and heart rate yoga improves the heart muscle function.  
  • Lung disorders: Pranayama, improves lung capacity and oxygenation to every organ in the body.  
  • Back pains: Many of those back-stretching exercises provide you with blessed relief of those nagging back pains.
  • Memory and Mental acuity: Yoga can certainly help you to attain that elusive ‘placidity of mind,’ and keep your emotions under control. 
  • Stroke: Yoga-based rehabilitation workout helps to improve balance following stroke. 
  • Depression and anxiety: Many psychosocial disorders like depression and anxiety improve with regular practice. 
  • Insomnia: Dr. Andrew Weil, the Integrated Medicine guru, says a few minutes of pranayama before you go to bed can help you to get a good night’s sleep. 
  • Diabetes Mellitus: A trial from London’s Biomedical trust and a study from New Delhi showed improvement with regular yoga.
  • Improves sports performance in many games like golf, running, tennis and more.  

 

Practice makes everything perfect, right? Same with yoga too. Yoga is 99% practice and one percent theory. The more effort you put into it, the more you gain. Once I started practicing it regularly, I was pleasantly surprised how simple the whole discipline is. My stiff back and creaky joints seem to welcome the gentle stretching and flexing. All you need is a body, a willing mind, some floor space, a little bit of time and some motivation. Oh, yes, a good instructor too, at least till you learn the technique. A yoga mat is welcome but not a must, so are the belts, blocks, balls and the designer yoga outfits! 

In these days of high stress from corona pandemic, lock-down and confinement anxiety along with all the nationwide race riots and protests, yoga combined with meditation would go a long way in restoring your peace of mind. Yoga will help all of us to attain the inner experience of unity that transcends all racial, ethnic, religious and other differences and helps to restore peace in this world. So start practicing yoga and meditation and discover the full potential of your own precious body and mind.

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