Yoga Is.....

St. Francis Prep. Physical Education 788


Yoga is concerned with the health and beauty of the organism as a unified whole. Weight control, Slimming, firming, relief of tension and stiffness, improvement in general health, emergence of hidden beauty, emotional stability and a positive mental outlook will be experienced by all those who apply themselves diligently.

  • Your exercise clothing should allow for complete freedom of movement.
    • An ancient Yogic: "You are as young as your spine is flexible"
  • Plan to devote 20-30 min to each day's practice. Anytime of the day is satisfactory but always wait at least 90 minutes after eating. (You will find your body more flexible in the afternoons and evenings.)
  • The Yoga exercises are performed in a series of graceful, rhythmic slow motion movements with a brief "holding" (completely motionless) period for certain of the positions. Poise and balance are maintained at all times and the attention is fixed unwaveringly on the movements being executed.
  • We attempt to approach each practice session in a serene frame of mind, having temporarily put aside all thoughts and activities that might be distracting. Before beginning the days exercises, assume the cross-legged posture and spend one minute in allowing your body and mind to become quiet.

The stiffer you find yourself, the greater your need for the gentle stretching movements of Yoga. A stiff, inflexible body cannot be a truly healthy and beautiful one. Remember that you must never strain, jerk or fight to achieve a more extreme position. Just go as far as can, regardless of where it may be, and have the patience to hold as indicated. The " hold " will gradually impart the elasticity needed to accomplish the most extreme positions.

Young people whose spines have grown rigid will appear to be much older than their actual years. Conversely, people who have retained the elasticity of their spines and limbs appear youthful and "alive" in middle age and beyond. Therefore, a number of our exercises will be practiced for the express purpose of promoting the health, strength and flexibility of the entire spine, from the cervical vertebrae in the neck to the lowest of the lumbar vertebrae.

The Chest Expansion, Back Stretch and Cobra exercises learned today are not only powerful loosening techniques but they help to release energy that can be trapped in the spineand joints. You must never become discouraged or decide that any of these positions is too difficult.

Many centuries ago, in that area of world now known as "India," men of great intellectual and spiritual stature perceived in a very direct way that human beings are disjointed. That is, the body, emotions, mind and spirit pull in their own directions as each, in turn, demands the fulfillment of its own needs and desires. this causes a continual separation and prevents the individual from functioning as an integrated whole wherein his full potential is realized. To make possible an integration of the body, mind and spirit, to unify the diverse aspects of the organism and end the "split", These wise men (gurus) of ancient timesevolved and perfected, over the centuries, a system of self-development known as Yoga, a Sanskrit word meaning "union" or "joining together."

There are several different types of Yoga each employing different techniques but all designed to achieve the same unifying objective. The two major Yogas that concern us are Raja (meditation) Yoga and Hatha (physical) yoga, with the emphasis on the latter.The objectives of Hatha Yoga are twofold; (1) to cultivate the natural beauty of the body and attain a high state of health; (2) to awaken a great power that lies dormant in the organism and utilize it for developing one's own unique, individual potential; that is, to achieve self realization.

From the above you can understand that Yoga is not simply another system of exercising. The word "exercise" is used in this book as a convenience. More precisely, Hatha Yoga is composed of a series of postures or poses (asanas in Sanskrit). As you perform the asanas you must be aware that they have been carefully designed to promote health and beauty as well as stimulate energies that will be of extreme importance in the days to come. Hence the necessity for poise, balance and concentrationat all times during practice.

Inherent in most systems of calisthenics is the need to execute many quick repetitions of the exercises. Huff, puff, perspire and experience general discomfort and fatigue. Often it is only the point of complete exhaustion that many women feel they have benefitted from their "workout." But meaningful exercise, which as I define in terms of methodical body manipulation, need contain none of the above. Indeed, the Yoga sessions is designed to be a highly pleasurable experience in which, as you now know, the exactopposites are true. That is the movements are performed in relaxing, slow motion with very few repetitions, no strain should ever be felt and the practice sessions leave you feeling elevated and revitalized, not drained.

Contrasting the two concepts further, we find that in most systems of calisthenics it is not partcularly important what the mind is thinking or where it wanders as long as the body is executingthe required movements. As a matter of fact, in many calisthenics classes music is played as a type of distraction; the mind is encouraged to disengage itself from the boredom and discomfort that the body is experiencing. BUt again, the exact opposite is true of Yoga and it is the point that wee now wish to impress strongly on the student. Throughout the Yoga practice sessions we attemptto fix the consciousness fully on all the movementsof the exercisesand not allow it to wander. We become totally involved in what we are doing. You must feel what is happening in your organism, especially during the hold periods; learn to feel the stretching, becomethe stretch and do not run away from it; feel the stimulation; feel the release of energy within you;feel the relaxation. If you percieve that your attention is wandering, bring it back, gently but firmly to what you are doing. before beginning each day'sexercises remind yourself of this procedure.

The practice of deep concentration on the movements (excluding all interfering thoughts) results in a pronounced increase in the effectiveness of the exercises.

"Life is in the breath; who only half breathes, half lives" This Yogic proverb attempts to impress upon us that the way in which we breathe directly affects our physical and mental well-being and determines to a great extent the length and quality of our lives!

The body can go for many weeks without food and many days without water or sleep but life will expire in a matter of minutes without air. Thus, the primary source of our sustenance is derived from an element in the air we breathe. In Yoga, this subtle element is known as prana or life-force. Prana is not the air itself but the subtle life-giving element extracted from the air.

Most people have the habit of shallow breathing, using only the upper part of the lungs.

Complete Breath, learned today, is to utilize the lungs in their entirety and extract the most life-force possible.

A secondary objective of the Complete Breath is to help make breathing slow and rhythmic whenever possible. The Yogi contends that people who are breathing in a rapid erratic fashion develop nervous body and minds and shorten their lives. You will experience a very immediate, positive effect on your emotions and mind from