18 Jan

Patanjali's eight limbs of Yoga; 7 Reasons to add Yoga to your toolbox for wellbeingIf you wish to fortify the portfolio for your wellness, consider these 7 Reasons to add Yoga to your toolbox for wellbeing. What is Yoga? The origin of the word yoga is the Sanskrit word Yuj which means “to bind,” “to unite,” or “to join.” Yoga is a vast collection of physical, mental and spiritual practice aimed at integrating mind, body and spirit to achieve a state of enlightenment and intimacy with your core and the forces that bind us together and with the universe. Why Yoga, the reader may ask? First, for full disclosure, I am a physician, a surgeon to be more specific. I have no formal training as a Yoga instructor. However, I firmly believe that modern medicine, which I completely and fervently believe in, does not have all the answers to the physical, mental, emotional, psychological and spiritual ills that plague mankind. It is in that spirit that I present these 7 Reasons to add Yoga to your toolbox for wellbeing.

Patanjali, the sage and compiler (may be author) of the Yoga Sutras (Threads) clearly defines the eight limbs of Yoga. This monumental work produced around early third century BCE (Before the Common Era) is a series of 196 aphorisms. It is worth the time of anybody who wishes to dig deeper beyond the superficial infatuations of our world today. At this stage in my life, I have significant control over my schedule and allocation of my time. So, this past fall, I took a semester (15 weeks) course in Yoga at one of our local Community colleges in Maryland. Unlike the other students, young men and women who took the course for credit, I did not need the credit. Still, I attended all the sessions, except for one absence, and I participated actively in all the floor practices. I also completed all the homework assignments, both theoretical and practical.

Yoga class; 7 Reasons to add Yoga to your toolbox for wellbeing
Yoga class; Asana practice

So, does this make me an expert in Yoga? Absolutely not. What it does is that it made me to really appreciate the positive effects of Yoga, not just in the physical realm, but in the realm of mind-body interaction, and in the spiritual realm. The lessons and practical sessions have given me a good foundation which I can use to explore this fascinating, and very deep physical and philosophical aspect of the Human Being. So, I have no hesitation in suggesting these 7 Reasons to add Yoga to your toolbox for wellbeing. Many of these benefits are explained by the Yogis not from the traditional Western medical viewpoint of classic Anatomy, Physiology, Biochemistry, Pathology, Immunology etc. but from the Yogis’ views and understanding of human composition and functionality. I found these expositions particularly intriguing. For instance, let us consider the Chakras. For those not familiar with Yoga, Chakra is a Sanskrit word which means wheel. Chakras are energy centers in and around your body. Chakras, according to Yogis, are the energy centers that are a part of a human energy shell. They absorb vital energy-informational particles of different spectrum from the environment and in turn, they also release energy-informational particles from the human body. The following are the locations of the seven chakras in the human body according to Yogis:

1st chakra, Muladhara, the Earth or Root Chakra, located in the perineal region at the level of the coccyx. It is symbolized by the color red and a lotus with four petals.

2nd chakra, Svadisthana(sweetness) Sex Chakra, located in the pubic area in the lower abdomen, symbolized by the color orange and a lotus with six petals.

3rd chakra, Manipura(lustrous gem) Solar Plexus Chakra, located in the navel area between the belly button and the bottom of the rib cage, symbolized by the color yellow.

4th chakra, Anahata,  Heart Chakra, located at the heart level, mid chest and symbolized by the color green.

5th chakra, Visuddha, Throat Chakra located in the throat area and designated by blue color.

6th chakra, Ajna, which means “to perceive”, and also called the Third Eye Chakra is located in the forehead, in between the eyebrows. It is represented by the color indigo.

7th chakra, Crown Chakra or Sahasrara, which means “thousand petaled lotus” is located at the top of the head, and represented by violet color.

The Chakras; 7 Reasons to add Yoga to your toolbox for wellbeingIt certainly should take very little for any physician, surgeon or basic scientist who is not open minded, to raise his or her eyebrows, not only about the symbolism, but the scientific basis of several, if not all the seven Chakras. However, wether one agrees with the theory or the science behind the Chakras and other aspects of Yoga, the fact of the matter is that one cannot argue with the results of the practitioners of Yoga. Based on my personal experience, the benefits are substantial as long as you take lessons from a certified Yoga Instructor and you follow the instructions. Also, make sure you check with your doctor(s) if you have any medical condition that would be a contra-indication for Yoga practice. It is often recommended that the practice be performed at least five days a week, 30 minutes to 45 minutes per session. So, here are 7 Reasons to add Yoga to your toolbox for wellbeing. The first four reasons might be referred to as the somewhat superficial benefits, though not insignificant by any means.  At the deeper level are the last three reasons which relate to the metaphysical and spiritual dimensions of Yoga.

Yoga improves your posture and balance.

Yoga improves flexibility and muscle tone.

Yoga improves endurance and strength. Runners or joggers who also practice Yoga will attest to this.

Yoga is a viable component of conservative treatment for various aches and pains caused by musculo-ligamentous sprain, for instance in the joints, and even in the lower back. However, check with your doctor(s) first and make sure any surgical issues have been excluded and that you are medically fit to perform the Yoga activities.

Yoga improves your focus and concentration. It relieves stress and anxiety, resulting in relaxation.

Yoga helps to develop Mind-Body union/ interaction. This is one of the benefits that are difficult to quantify and quite often invisible. Thus, because the signs of any progress may not be readily visible, this particular benefit may not be readily appreciated by the Yoga student. However, with time the student and others around him or her would notice the greater patience and tolerance towards others.

Yoga is a force and gateway toward the “mysterious” underpinnings of the human condition. It attempts to connect us with the essence of our existence and our Being.

This post is an introduction to a personal experience with Yoga, especially from the viewpoint of a surgeon. We will dig deeper into this experience in future posts. It is not an advertisement or absolute endorsement of Yoga. However, it asserts unequivocally that when practiced appropriately after taking classes and lessons from respected certified Instructors, Yoga is a valuable component of our armamentarium for wellness, wellbeing and living a life with meaning. So, while the above 7 Reasons to add Yoga to your toolbox for wellbeing is not all inclusive, hopefully it provides a starting point for further exploration of this amazing physical, philosophical and spiritual practice.













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