Roshitha Girish has been associated with Yoga for close to a decade. Having worked at various companies & finally at Bain Capital for close to 10 years, she quit the Corporate World as destiny had other plans for her. After a long corporate stint in Mumbai, Roshitha did a formal Yoga course at Kavalayadhyam and Pranayama course from Athmaboth Yoga Centre. She is now a Yoga Instructor and a passionate painter.
My Mat is my canvas and Yoga my art
People associate Yoga with just the asana practice and the physical aspect it has on one’s body externally. There is no doubt that yoga is a fantastic form of physical exercise to keep one fitter and younger looking, but sadly people miss out on the finer aspects of yoga. Yoga does not limit itself to only the physical benefits but also immensely helps the mind and soul. Hatha Yoga is the traditional practice of yoga when the sadak or practitioner holds the poses for a long duration. Its slow paced yoga but the benefits you reap for your internal body are phenomenal. The longer you hold the more your muscles are activated and in-return it stimulates the internal organs helping them function better. I would like to list down a few important aspects of yoga and pranayama practice that a lot of people may not be aware of.
Ashtanga Yoga – Eight Limbs of Yoga
First Limb -Yama: External Restraints: Helps to guide the practitioner while living in the outside world. There are 5 Yamas-
- Ahimsa – Non Harming: Causing no harm to others or to yourself, neither by thoughts, words or actions.
- Satya - Truthfulness: This involves honesty, forgiveness and being non- judgemental.
- Asteya – Non Stealing: This involves not taking resources from others and requires developing a sensitive self-sufficiency.
- Bhramacharya – Self Recontrol: This involves how you manage your emotions and how you direct your energy.
- Aparigraha –Non Possessiveness: This involves letting go of greed and seeking only what is needed.
Second Limb - Niyama: internal Disciplines: Helps the practitioner to clear his internal world, to understand his personality better.
- Saucha – Purity: Means keeping your thoughts, speech and body pure.
- Santosha- Contentment: Means being happy and grateful as you are without feeling the need or desire to change things from how they are in the present moment.
- Tapas – Purification: Means Austerity or discipline.
- Swadyaya - Self Study: To analyse yourself. This includes reading, reflection and meditation.
- Iswara Pranidhana: Surrender to God: This means being devoted to your divinity rather than your personal desires.
Third Limb - Asana – Postures: Asanas are postures for health and meditation.
Fourth Limb - Pranayama – Regulation of vital force/ breath control: Helps in health and vitality of the body, increases focus, balances emotions and promotes a feeling of contentedness.
Fifth Limb - Pratyahara – Sensory Withdrawal: It’s a state of internal focus. It’s a state achieved by quietening the outside stimulation and concentrating of the mind.
Sixth Limb - Dharana – Meditative concentration: Is a state of one point in concentration. In the state of Dharana the mind has a single point of concentration and avoids other thoughts.
Seventh Limb - Dhyana – Deep meditation: In Dhyana, the consciousness of the act of meditation dissolves and there is only the consciousness of being and the pure concentration on the object of focus.
Eigth Limb - Samadi – Merging: Final stage of deep meditation, where the ego mind too dissolves and the meditator totally merges with the object of concentration. This is the most satisfying stage. Becoming equal to the creator Adi.
To summarise the eight limbs of yoga, it’s a system for refining and developing the body and mind as a whole system, ultimately to achieve peace, bliss and union.
Some Key points:
Yoga isn’t about executing the poses perfectly or having the best balance. Yoga is connecting with yourself. Yoga is learning to breathe peacefully again, taking a moment from your stressful upbeat life and remembering you have a soul that needs tending too.
Yoga is a powerful vehicle for change as you build strength you start to believe in your own potential.
Yoga frees you from the drama, the tragedy, the saga your mind creates and allows to experience your true self.
Pranayam according to Patanjali is Tasmin Sati svasa-prasvasa- yor-gati vicchedha pranayama.This means once a person has mastered the practice of asana, the pause between inhaling and exhaling that you experience is pranayama.
Pranayam means expanding the life force. The Pran Shakti or life force enters the body through breath. The oxygen we breathe is cosmic energy that gives life. Pranayama helps in the flow of pranic energy in the nadia or nerves. Helps to control the ‘Chitt’ or Mind. Helps to bring in awareness. Creates super consciousness. Regular practice for Pranayama leads to Ekagrata or concentration. Trains the brain to live in the present, not in the past or future. Helps you to take decisions. The three important aspects of Pranayama – Spiritual: Expands life, Physiological: controlling the involuntary system and Physical: controls the physical aspects of the body.
There are 72864 nerves or nadis in our body.The three most important nadis are ‘Ida nadi’, starting from the tip of the left nostril going down all the way upto the base of the spine. The ‘Pingla nadi’ starting from the right nostril going down all the way to the base of the spine and the ‘Sushmana Nadi’ the one the is between the Ida and Pingla nadis, starts from the brain and goes down to the base of the spine. There are 10 energy points or chakras in our spine. They are, Agi Chakra located at the perineum, Mooladhara Chakra located at the tail bone just above the anal opening, Swadhistana Chakra found just above the genital organs, Manipura chakra found at the base of your naval, Anahita Chakra found near the heart, Manas Chakra found near the right armpit, Vishudha Chakra found near the vocal cords, Agya Chakra forund between the eyebrows, Soam Chakra found above the left eyebrow and the Sahisrara Chakra found near the crown of the head.
I would like to stress on few aspects one must consciously follow while practicing pranayama. One can sit in any meditative asana – Sukhasan, Swastikasan, Samasan or Padmasan. The most ideal meditative asana for practicing Pranayam is Padmasan as it creates a balance in the body. Your spine should be absolutely straight so that the chakras are aligned in one straight line. Every time you practice pranayama one must focus on the chakras or imaginary lotus flowers.
There are three phases in pranayama. Purak, i.e inhailing, Rechak i.e exhailing and Khumbhak i.e holding on to your breadth. During Khumbhak phase one can hold the breadth inside or outside the body but in Hatha yoga tradition one hold the breadth inside (Internal retention of breadth).
While holding on to the breadth the pressure inside the chest and abdominal cavity increases, to cope with that we use Bandhas. There are three bandhas, the Mula Bhandha i.e contraction of the anal muscles and lifting it up slightly. Jalandhara Bandha – Bending the neck forward and pressing the chin on the upper part of the sternum. Uddiyana Bandh – the chest is expanded completely and the diaphragm gets tense pulling the abdomenmal wall inwards. Purak to Rechak should be 1:2 ratio and Khumbak should be double or four times Purak.
Different types of Pranayama as er HathaPratipika- Suryabedhan, Ujjayi, Sitkari, Sitali, Bhastrika, Bhramari, Murccha, Plavini. Please note Kapalbhati belongs to the group of Yogic practice called Shodan Kriyas. Anulom Vilom practice falls under Nadi shodan Kriya.
Kapalbhati and Anulom Vilonm can be practiced one after the other followed by pranayama. One needn’t practice all eight pranayama in one day. Practicing Kapalbhati and Aunulom Vilom on daily bases helps one to maintain overall health in the long run.
Pranayama must be practiced the right way otherwise it can wreck your entire nervous system.