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Yoga Does Not Mean Exercise

By Yogacharya Vishwas Mandlik

The word 'Yoga' reminds us of 'Yogasana' here is a very close relationship between Yoga and Yogasana. Really speaking, 'Yogasana' is a part of 'Yoga'. We think, that Yoga itself means 'Yogasana'. Which is the most important part out of the eight different parts in our body? Every part has its own importance and peculiarity. Of course, we don't want to go deep into detail of these parts. We have to keep in mind that, Asana is one of the parts of the 'Yoga'. For the time being, we will study this part in more detail.

There is one misunderstanding in case of 'Yogasana' i.e. 'Yogasana is a type of Exercise'. This misunderstanding is there in many 'Yoga learns' and 'Yoga propagandist'. Government has also handed over the 'Yogasanas' to sports-ministry instead of education ministry. Yogasanas are being taught and studied by considering them equivalent to exercise. Hence, it is adversely affecting the existence of 'Yoga' in Asana. If we study Asana through an exercise point of view, then we may get its benefits. But these will not be the benefits of Yogasana.
We say, that it is harmful to exercise as age increases. So, we will have to apply same principle to 'Yogasana' also. On the contrary it has been said that very old people, patients can also practice Yogasana. It is very true, that exercise and Yogasana are related to the muscular system of body. May be due to this reason, Yogasanas are considered as part of exercise. But the real difference lies here. In exercise, more emphasis is given on movements of muscles whereas, in Yogasana it is given on steadiness of muscles. Yoga Maharshi Patanjali has defined Yoga as 'Steady and comfortable state means Asana'.
( || Sthirsukham Asanam || ).

If we think over this definition, it can be noticed that exercise and Yogasana are two distinct aspects i.e. they work in exactly opposite directions to each other. If you keep this point in mind, then the next explanation can be easily understood.

It is know that, Yogasana means the different states of parts of body. In this state, stability and comfort of body parts and so of muscles is to be achieved. This is called as Asana. To achieve this state, we have to practice a specific movement. It is to be practiced very slowly i.e. the movements should be very slow. If the movements are fast, then it will be difficult to attain steadiness in later states. Thus, the movements to be practiced in Yogasana have to be very steady and slow. While practicing such movements, some muscles may get stressed. At this time, if you try to keep muscles relaxed, then both the pressure and stress on them will be relived. To do so, try to concentrate on your body movements. Due to this, the muscles that are taking part in movements will be pressed to the required extent only. And the non - interacting muscles will be in relaxed state. With the help of such movements, the expected results can be experienced.

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It would be helpful to know the impact of such type of movements on other systems of body. In exercise, if we keep the speed of movements more, then muscles are under strain. So the speed of blood circulation as well as pressure increases. As this is the function of heart, it has to perform some extra work. Exactly opposite results are obtained due to Yogasana. Due to slow and steady movements, muscles do not have to work extra. Once you have undergone any particular state in Asana, requirement of blood is reduced. Also, stress on heart is relived. With the help of advance study in Yoga, functioning of heart takes place more slowly. Same effect take place on the respiratory system during exercise. Due to rapid movements, heart has to perform extra task. Similarly, due to more need of oxygen by muscles, breathing takes place rapidly i.e. Along with speed of heart beats speed of breathing also increases. Due to reduction in requirement of Oxygen in Yogasana, speed of respiration also reduces. So, there is no load on respiratory system. If speed of heartbeats and respiration increases, sweating takes place. Unlike Yogasana, sweating takes place in exercise. If at all there is sweating from body in Yogasana, then mind well, that something has gone wrong. Make the changes accordingly.

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Thus, it becomes the study of exercise more, than of the Yogasana, if the fact that Yogasana is not exercise is not understood. It results in advancement of muscles. Enhancement of muscle power is the main purpose of exercise. It's not at all expected by means of Yogasana. Due to Yogasanas, muscle power doesn't grow up. But, their capability to work for a long time increases. I.e. Due to exercise, strength is raised and through Yogasanas, stamina is raised up. The reason for this lies in the manner, how you practice both Yogasana and Exercise.

While exercising, muscles have to work extra. Thus, we feel stressed and need more rest. In Yogasana, no such rest is needed. On the contrary, muscles become active due to practicing of Yoga. Eventually, we feel more energetic.

It is very difficult to implement the fact, that Yogasana and exercise are altogether different. But it is equally true, that if we work in that direction, it will be certainly fruitful. All of a sudden the steadiness of muscles cannot be achieved so, you may feel strain in the very initial stages of this study. Sometimes, both heartbeats and speed of respiration may increase. Hence at some stages provision for breathing is also made while Performing Yogasana. It is difficult to maintain the steadiness of muscles. But it is equally easy to practice the movements steadily. In study of Yoga, all movements are important and it is easy to practice them slowly. It is worth achieving a success, if you could practice them slowly.

Many types of body movements have been mentioned in Yoga, before actually starting with study of Yogasana. In all these types, no precise steadiness is required. But 'Slow Speed' is soul of these types and it is easy to achieve it. Thus, through all these types, basic principles of Yogasana can be easily implemented. Hence, yogasanas, that are mentioned further can be practiced easily. Their good results can also be experienced. Like this, if strong base of Yogasana is built up, then you can practice further types of Asanas. i.e. Pravesh, Parichaya, Pravin, Pandit etc. in a real sense. You can certainly experience the good results of this study.

It looks like, as if out of eight stages, in the Yoga - Yogasana is same as that of exercise. But we know, that it is not to be practiced like exercise. Other stages of Yoga do not have any relation at all with the exercise. Five ethics are told in first part 'Yama' about noble behavior in society. To keep yourself healthy and mentally fit, five important things are mentioned in chapter 'Niyama'. Third system is of 'Asana' and forth Anga is of 'Pranayarana'. The whole control over respiratory system is mentioned in the 'Pranayama' chapter.

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In the fifth chapter 'Pratyahara', certain ways to control your mind are told. The last three parts are Dharana, Dhyan and Samadhi. All these parts are concerned with mind control.

From the explanation, given above, it can be easily noticed that
'Yog is not an exercise, but it's a lifestyle'.
Yoga is a riotous way to live happy & healthy life.


Reproduced with permission
Resources: with profound thanks to Yogacharya Vishwas Mandlik of www.yogapoint.com.

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