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YOGA FOR YOU (July, 2003)

This is Yoga for you.
In our earlier newsletter, "yoga" was described as a means of "all round personality development at physical, mental, intellectual, emotional and spiritual levels". Four different streams or paths of practicing this were "Karma Yoga", "Bhakthi Yoga", "Jnana Yoga" and "Raja Yoga". All these paths are interconnected repeatedly and are not mutually exclusive. You may follow predominantly one or more of them as per your convenience and inclinations. All the paths lead in the same direction and anyone can change lanes at any time. In daily practice there are general guidelines and fairly flexible rules, which can be followed by anyone of us.

Briefly the four streams of yoga may be described as follows:

  • Karma yoga involves "doing action with an attitude of detachment to fruits of action".
  • In Bhakthi yoga the key factor is "control of emotions" in the form of worship.
  • Jnana yoga is attempting to analyse and understand the very purpose and goal of life itself.
  • In Raja yoga gives practical method of culturing the mind or psychic control to achieve higher states of consciousness.

To understand these in detail, one needs to study in great depth and also learn by study and interaction with experts, or teachers (Gurus) in this field. But the common tools which can be used by all of us irrespective of our chosen path, can be used with great advantage by all of us with great benefit. These tools help any one of us to improve the efficiency of our body, mind and spirit.

Do Karma Yoga !
Whatever you are doing now, as a student, as an employee somewhere or as a businessman or as a professional or a housewife, you can very easily DO KARMA YOGA. This is doing your alloted duties in life in a commonly accepted and proper and principled way. Do your job well; do it very well and be in constant pursuit of excellence in your chosen field of activity, without harming others, without cheating others and without taking undue or unfair advantage of your fellow beings. Also do not be too greedy to get extra ordinary rewards or results. "Success" or "failure" or something in between, is bound to follow your action. Not being unduly or excessively happy with success or too sad with failure, like being a "good sportsman" in sporting activities is also doing Karma yoga. Being considerate and kind and helpful to others, and keeping in mind the welfare and rights of all other fellow beings in your day to day activities is also karma yoga. One has to resist temptations to gain unfair advantage of another person or a customer, when such opportunities may come. Karma yoga is doing all these at home and at work and at all times. One has to develop this frame of mind by constant effort and persistent practice. This frame of mind can be developed by regularly following a disciplined set of activities in our daily life. These may be called as "Yogic" practices and should be part of our daily routine throughout our life.

Helpful Yogic Practices:
Helpful simple practices, which you can follow in the comfort of your own home are "Pranayama", "Meditation", "Relaxation techniques" and some simple "Asanas". Although these can be learnt and practiced by self study of relevent materials, a short stint of practical experience in a formal way at a yoga centre is preferable.

"Prana" is the basic life principle in all living beings in the universe - everything in God's creation has Prana. Man has the faculty of conscious discrimination and has the ability to understand and analyse and enhance this power to his advantage. An important goal in our life should be to understand and experience this divinity in us. Understanding and regulating this "Prana" is PRANAYAMA. This technique of pranayama is an important component of "Yoga".

Place for pranayama - in your own home, a place where you will not be disturbed, there is not much noise, maybe on the floor on a mat or a comfortable chair. Take the telephone off the hook.

Time for practice - early morning or evenings; avoid after heavy meals; a cup of beverage - ok.

Position :
Sit on the floor cross legged and comfortably, back erect - a position you should be able to maintain for 15 - 20 minutes. Or sit on a chair, feet side by side & flat on the floor, legs uncrossed and back straight and supported - use a small pillow, if need be, for comfort.

Right hand position (Mudra) - Fold the index & long finger on the palm, thumb and 4th & 5th fingers Straight; This is gently placed on the nostrils, thumb on right and other two fingers on left nostril. The Fingers are gently kept on nostrils and used to close and open one or the other nostril to allow breathing In or out through the other. This position of hand is called "nasika mudra".

Clearing the nostrils - sitting in the comfortable position on the floor or a chair, keeping both hands lightly on the thighs near the knees, clear both nostrils by jerky and forceful breathing repeatedly. Wipe away any discharge from nostrils. This is called "kapaalabhaati". CAUTION : To be avoided in those with high BP, heart disease, vertigo, fits, hernia & slipped disc and spondylitis. Women during menses and later months of pregnancy should also avoid this.

Technique of Pranayama:
ONE of the several varieties of pranayama to be practiced is simple deep and methodical breathing; the technique to be described is called "naadisuddi pranayama". Sitting comfortably with left hand on the thighs and right hand in "nasika mudra" on the nostrils, start by breathing out through right nostril. Take a deep breath through Left nostril, close it and breathe out slowly through right nostril - time taken for "in" and "out" being 1:2. Then breathe in through rt. nostril and breathe out thro' left slowly in 1:2 proportion. This is ONE cycle of pranayama. Then start II cycle, breathing in thro' left, out thro' rt., in thro' rt. and out thro' left to complete second cycle. Do a total of 9 cycles. All the time during practice, keep your eyes closed, concentrate on breathing, and if mind wanders, bring it back to concentrate.

After this pranayama, you may sit quietly in silent "meditation" for some more time - say 5 - 10 minutes. Simply sit in a relaxed and comfortable position, breathe normally and concentrate on the breathing or mentally chant any soothing words or "mantra" like "AUM ". Then open your eyes, slowly get up and resume whatever other activity.

Some basic information on "Meditation", "Relaxation techniques" and few "Asanas" will be given in forthcoming newsletters.

For fuller details read the following: Yoga, by Dr. R. Nagarathna, & Dr. HR Nagendra; Pub. By : Swami Vivekananda Yoga Prakashana, Bangalore-18.

Be Healthy in body, mind and spirit.


Dr. M.Mohan Rao, MBBS,MS,FICS,MCH,

M.D. & Chief Surgeon, Dr. U Mohan Rau Memorial Hospital.


Updated on 01.07.2003.

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