Yoga in GoaYoga in Goa

Eight Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga

The science of Yoga considers every aspect of human life. While considering an individual, Yoga has thought of both the body as well as the mind. As an individual is a subject belonging to the society, Yoga as a science, has considered the society as well. Though, this science maintains that a seeker has to shun all his requirements and pursue the sadhana in a remote place like a cave in a mountain, to achieve the ultimate goal of Samadhi, it has also admitted that such a seeker is basically a common human being. Like all others, he too has his own requirements. Apart from food, clothing and shelter, he too needs company and wants to live in a society. In fact, he relates and reacts to the society emotionally. The yoga intends to teach sadhana to such a common human being and leads him to the samadhi. Accepting this as a basis, the eight stages of progress are defined in the science of yoga, state Yam and Niyam as the first two stages. Yam and Niyam are the first two aspects of the eightfold Yoga. Rishi Patanjali has mentioned this in the second pada, Sadhana Pada in the following aphorism:

Yamniyamsanpranayampratyahardharanadhyansamadhayoshtavangani || PYS 2.29

1.  Yama(About ashtang Yoga/yama) (Principles or moral code)
  • Ahimsa - A principle of non-violence
  • Satya - A principle of Truthfulness
  • Asteya - A principle of non stealing
  • Brahmacharya - Continence / celibacy
  • Aparigah - A principle of non-hoarding or non possessiveness
2.  Niyama(About ashtang Yoga/niyama) (Personal Disciplines)
  • Shouch - Cleaning
  • Santosh - Contentment
  • Tapa - Endurance
  • Swadhyaya - Self study
  • Eshwar Pranidhan- Dedication

The third and the fourth steps in Yoga are Asanas and Pranayam. Yam and Niyam come before that. That also shows that the starting point of Yoga studies is not Asanas and Pranayam, but the study of Yam and Niyam. If one starts the study of Yoga ignoring these Yam and Niyam, he will not be in a position to experience the results of the studies as expected. Hence, to seek the desired results from the Yoga Studies, these Yam and Niyam should be faithfully observed. One cannot negotiate in this aspect. If the Yam and Niyam are not observed fully, the benefits of the studies will also fail to accrue fully. This is true regarding any science.

We can take the example of the electricity which is used daily. To use the electric power, one has to install wiring as per the defined rules. One has to use the electricity conductors and the chokes. One has to apply to the electricity board, pay the required amount, install the meter and in general observe the rules and regulations. Failure to observe the rules will result in loss of connection. It may also lead to accidents due to electric shocks. People generally do not say that they should be able to use the electric power without observing the rules. In fact, one will be laughed at if one says like that. And even if one insists on doing that, he will have to suffer the results. However, in the case of Yoga, many ask why the Yam and Niyam are to be observed. What will happen if they are not observed? How the benefits of the asanas and Pranayam study will depend on the observance of Yam and Niyam? Can one not study Yoga without observing Yam and Niyam? However, a simple answer to all these questions is if one studies Yoga and Pranayam without observing Yam and Niyam, one would not get the desired results.

Uptill now, it is stated that Yam and Niyam are conditions or restrictions. It is stated in that manner so that the meaning can be easily grasped. However, Yam and Niyam are not actually restrictions, but freedom from restrictions. Ordinary common people do not understand what are restrictions and what is the freedom from the restrictions. Yoga starts with freedom from such restrictions. In our daily life, we ourselves impose certain restrictions. Certain restrictions arise due to our karma. The study of Yam and Niyam is in reality freedom from such restrictions.

3.  Asana - (Yoga Postures / positions) A stable and comfortable posture which helps attain mental equilibrium.

4.  Pranayam - (Yoga Breathing) Extension and control of breath.

Pranayam -A Science of Breathing
Breath and Prana

Breathing is a vital process which starts at the time of birth and stops at the death. The important Oxygen is provided to all the parts, organs and cells of the body. The maximum time a person can survive without oxygen is about 4 minutes. All the metabolic processes require oxygen. Oxygen is life, a vital force. This vital energy is called Prana.

What is Pranayam?
The process of controlling the Prana is called Pranayam. So pranayam is the science related to vital force supplying energy and controlling the body mind complex.
Breathing is the process of taking in this vital energy and removing the waste products out of our body and mind. Generally breathing includes inhalation and exhalation but pranayam includes retention of breath (known as "Kumbhaka" in Sanskrit) as well. This is a very important process. The air can be retained in the lungs or out of the lungs. The ancient texts say that retention of air, increases the level of prana (energy) in the body, also it regulates the flow of pranic energy through out the body. So pranayam helps remove all the ailments and also can stop the aging process of the body.
Breathing Process And Mind
Breathing is a continuous and very important process. The observation of this process helps to establish the fact that breathing and mind has a definite connection between them. When the mind is under tension or under emotional pressure, the breathing rate increases and when the mind is calm and quiet, rate of breathing decreases.
It is interesting to know that to some extent we can easily control our breathing with will. So we can easily control our mind to some extent.

Breathing is under the control of the metabolism & emotions. Metabolism is reduced to minimum level with the help of steady and relaxed posture of Asana. The emotions are also reduced with the Asana posture. This results in a very low rate of respiration with little quantity of air in inhalation and exhalation. The mind is directed towards the breathing. As the breathing becomes slow, the mind also becomes calm and quite.
Mind and breath,
The mind, consisting of thoughts and emotions is closely related to the breath. When the mind is calm and relaxed, the breathing is smooth and slow. If you are stressed breathing is fast & shallow but mostly through chest. When one gets angry, the breathing becomes fast and forceful, in depressed states sighing, when in pain gasping, in anxiety shallow and rapid. In this way, the mental and emotional states affect breathing.
Rhythmic Breathing is Pranayam -
All the processes and organs like heart, brain, digestive organs, and endocrine glands in the body have rhythms. Also the breathing has specific rhythms. Pranayam is Rhythmic breathing, bringing the breath in natural rhythm by controlling the process of inhalation, exhalation and retention.

Physiology of Yogic breathing - In process of breathing, one uses diaphragm, intercostals muscles in the chest. The diaphragmatic breathing is called vertical breathing and is considered a more efficient way to inhale air than inhaling while expanding the chest which is called horizontal breathing. .
In Pranayam, one should utilize the diaphragm efficiently to get more oxygen without making more efforts. The diaphragm is attached to the organs like heart and lings, also the liver, spleen, pancreas and stomach from the bottom side. Efficient movement of the diaphragm makes the functioning of these organs more efficient.

Practice Deep Breathing
Since we want to control the breathing after studying the process or system of respiration, it is better to try deep breathing as the first state in that direction. We do not control the process of quiet breathing. But the control is to be exercised while practicing deep breathing. For this, two things are to be considered chiefly: First, the movements concerned with inhaling and exhaling are to be controlled in order to further slow down the breathing, at the same time the need of oxygen for the body is to be lessened, so that the speed of breathing can further, slowdown. The constitution of the body is such that if the need or use of oxygen is not reduced, it becomes difficult or rather impossible to control the process of breathing. The easy way to reduce the need of oxygen is to stop the movements of the body and try to relax all the muscles. Obviously, while practicing deep breathing, it is necessary to keep the body in the stable and relaxed position. And this is possible in any sitting position of meditation. However, Padmasana is the best Asana position. The other preferable Asana in sitting position are Vajrasana and Swastikasana. But once the Asana is taken up, it should be blissfully stabilized until the study of breathing is over. Any strain anywhere will cause distraction in breathing. Therefore the Asana position should be stable and pleasant, while doing meditation. The hands should be in Dhyana Mudra. The straight upright position of the neck, the spine and closed eyes help in attaining concentration without making any movements. Relax the muscles and concentrate fully on breathing. This will slow down the breathing and bring it to a particular point of speed and will get stabilized at that point. This is the ideal state of smooth breathing. This is free from any control. No movement is seen on the chest. It is confined to the movement of the muscles of the abdomen and the lungs. After having such smooth breathing for some time, the movements of the abdomen and the lungs should be brought under the control of the mind, and the movement should further be slowed.

The practice of deep breathing begins after deliberately having inhaling and exhaling at ease. Initially one should practice prolonged inhaling and prolonged exhaling. The constant practice enables the person in having repetition of such prolonged inhaling and exhaling. After some time it becomes difficult to have more repetitions of prolonged inhaling and exhaling. At such point one should come to natural smooth breathing. After some rest, deep breathing should begin again. Practicing deep breathing in this way for some days, attempt should be made to bring time limit to the period of inhaling and exhaling. Initially one should practice prolonged inhaling and prolonged exhaling. The constant practice enables the person in having repetitions of such prolonged inhaling and exhaling. After some time it becomes difficult to have more repetitions of prolonged inhaling and exhaling. At such point one should come to natural smooth breathing; after some rest, deep breathing should begin again. Practicing deep breathing in this way for some days, attempt should be made to bring time limit to the period of inhaling and exhaling. Initially equal time should be allotted for inhaling and exhaling. That is, the time given to inhaling, the same amount of time is given to exhaling. This is called deep breathing, with equal time and speed: "Samakal, Samagati, Deergh Shwasan". While practicing deep breathing, the numbers should be counted mentally. For instance, if inhaling takes four counts, the same period should be taken for exhaling. On such occasion normally it is noticed that exhaling completes at the second or the third point. So one should be alert regarding the speed of exhaling right from the beginning and try to maintain the balance. Of course after a few days' practice one successfully adapts this system. To maintain the time record, one can use the second system in a watch. The study of deep breathing with equal time and speed should continue for 10 to 15 minutes without pause. Apparently this system seems easy, but that is not so. One finds oneself out of breathing. But as said earlier constant practice helps in acquiring this system successfully.

After practicing deep breathing with equal time and speed successfully, one should start studying it by increasing the time for exhaling. If inhaling (Puraka) is in four seconds, then exhaling (Rechaka) shall take 5 to 6 seconds instead of four. This needs special efforts. When a person succeeds in doing inhaling and exhaling at the ratio of 1: 1 for 10 to 15 minutes, he should double the time for exhalation. The ideal ratio for inhaling-exhaling is 1: 2. Many times or Pranayam also the same ratio is stated. If the period for inhaling goes up to four seconds, then exhaling should be lengthened up to eight seconds. But both the operations should have the equal speed. That is, the speed of inhaling from the first second to the fourth one and the speed of exhaling from the first second to the eighth one should be the same. Of course it is not possible until one acquires control over the breathing system. One should practice deep breathing in the aforementioned way for 10 to 5 minutes at a stretch. In deep breathing one can further progress by increasing the period of inhaling and proportionately that of exhaling. That is the period of inhaling can be increased gradually from five to fifteen seconds and naturally that of exhaling from ten to thirty seconds. Observing this system carefully one can have as many repetitions as one can. In this system holding of breath is not included and hence this operational system is written as 1:0:2. The practice of deep breathing not only strengthens the lungs but also greatly helps in increasing the concentration of the mind. Then, there is a tremendous increase in zeal in day-to-day work owing to the good breathing and nice blood circulations, the twin gifts of deep breathing. Besides one starts acquiring control over the process of breathing.

To know more about breathing, click here ....

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