5 Points of Yoga
1. Proper Exercise (asana)
Yoga regards the body as a vehicle for the soul on its evolutionary journey. Accordingly, yogic physical exercises or asanas (steady pose) are designed to develop not only the body but also the mind and spirit. Performed slowly and consciously, each asana is a physical exercise resulting in increased flexibility and strength, as well as an exercise in concentration and meditation.
Yogis understand that the body is as young as it is flexible and yoga asanas stretch the entire body, toning the muscles, joints, spine and skeletal system. They stimulate the internal organs and glands and invigorate and energise all bodily systems, including the nervous, circulatory and immune systems, resulting in radiant physical health.
On the mental level there is an increase in concentration, emotional balance, vitality, contentment, calmness and a sense of being grounded. And on a deeper level still the asanas expand our consciousness and awareness of our connection to the universe.
The benefits of practising asanas (yoga postures) on all aspects of our physical health and mental and spiritual well-being are now universally acknowledged as far-reaching and wide-ranging.
2. Proper Breathing (pranayama)
Breath is life. We can live for days without food or water, but we die in minutes when deprived of breath. Proper breathing should be deep, slow, and rhythmical; nevertheless, most people are accustomed to shallow breathing. Yoga teaches us how to use the lungs to their maximum capacity and how to control the breath to enhance vitality and mental clarity.
Pranayama, which literally translates as “control of prana,” consists of specific breathing techniques that increase oxygen intake and encourage the absorption of prana (vital energy) into the body’s subtle energy channels (nadis) and energy centers (chakras).
By controlling the prana through the breath, we render the mind calm and clear and experience increased energy, well-being, and peace of mind.
3. Proper Relaxation (savasana)
The average person spends much of their physical and mental energy on chronic tension due to the stressors of modern life. We forget that rest and relaxation are nature’s way of recharging the body, mind, and soul, and can find it difficult to unwind. Yoga emphasizes the importance of proper relaxation as a way to regulate our energy and create a sense of balance, which enhances our physical and mental health.
By learning to relax every muscle in the body, we can rejuvenate the nervous system and attain a deep sense of inner peace. This practice is done in Savasana (relaxation pose or corpse pose) and can help us attain physical, mental, and ultimately spiritual relaxation.
4. Proper Diet (vegetarian)
Eating simple, healthy, and vegetarian foods that are easy to digest notably have a positive effect on the mind and body, as well as the environment and other living beings. A yogi eats with awareness, choosing food that has the most positive effect on the body and mind and the least negative effect on the natural world. Yoga states the purpose of eating is to supply the body with prana (vital energy) and advocates a lacto-vegetarian diet as the best way to maximize our pranic intake while keeping the body healthy and the mind clear.
A simple and natural diet based on seasonal fruits and vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and organic milk optimizes physical and mental health and fosters harmony with the world around us.
5. Positive Thinking & Meditation (vedanta & dhyana)
According to Swami Vishnudevananda, Vedanta (the philosophy of positive thinking) and dhyana (meditation) are the most important of the five points of yoga because our thoughts define who we are. Every thought we have has a vibration that impacts us personally and the world around us. An optimistic outlook and the ability to focus create uplifting vibrations, making for a healthy, peaceful, and joyful life.
As such, we should strive to maintain a positive and serene mind and can develop this skill by following the teachings of Vedantic philosophy and practicing meditation. These methods are the keys to achieving true peace of mind and eliminating negativity in our lives.