Is Yoga a Religion?

Often deep in our unconscious states of mind, yoga has been associated with Hinduism. Chanting divine mantras, reciting the sutras of Patanjali yoga or Bhagavad Gita and using symbols and idols of Shiva, Shakti, Ganesha etc, logicallydraws the mind to think yoga as a ‘holy practice’. Or perhaps it belongs to any kind of religious and social cult.

However, yoga is closer to science than to religion. Science functions on trial and errors, assumptions and experiments. Whereas, organized religious like Hinduism, Christianity or Islam condition our mindinto a blind belief system. Every religion has their own set of do’s and don’ts which we are meant to be obeyed by their members. Science is more factual and based on doubts. Yoga is entrenchedon science. It is a full proof science of the inner self. There is no practice belief in yoga. What seems to be beneficial for one perhaps may not be suitable for the other practitioner. Hence, with yoga you need to do various experiments with different yogic tools. If the experiment works well with you then it’s good for you and if not then you need to try another method.

The second most important point that makes a religion a religion is the concept of hell and heaven. According to any religion if you are virtuous and do good deeds then you have your placed reserved in heaven or paradise. And if you do bad deeds then the hell is awaiting your presence! There is no such concept in Yoga. You practise yoga for yourself and not for any reward.

Every organized religion has a few commonly shared fundamental things which work as building blocks to a particular religion. Unfortunately these foundations are not present in Yoga. Let’s go through them briefly:

1. God-

The first thingevery religion be it Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism or Christianity needs is aGod or the concept of God. Someone who is kept at the top of the pedestal and people look up to them. Whereas, yoga means Chitta VrittiNirodha; emptying the mind from its content or obstacles. In yoga there is no one to look up too rather the person has to look within and observe his mind and body.

2. Holy Prophet-

Can you have direct conversation with God? Every religion has a proclaimer of the will of god. Every religion has different Avataras or angles who have direct contact or conversationwithGod. For instance, in Islam Muhammad is the prophet. By doing a Yoga Teacher Training in Indiayou don’t become yoga prophets. By the yoga courses you just become yoga teachers.

3. Holy Scripture

The God gives a message to the prophet and the prophet writes it down inform of scriptures which becomes a holy book. There are many holy books from the great epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata to Quran or Bible in different religion. In Yoga there is no holy book. Patanjali yoga sutras are just a few basic guidelines given by Sage Patanjali to facilitate the a yoga practitioner.

4. Holy Priest-

The son of God, reincarnation of God or whatever you call it has a few special chosen people to whom he shares his knowledge. They become the holy priest. These priest recites the scriptures to the layman which are given by the prophet through the holy book. In Yoga there is no priest who commands you to a certain way of living. There are just a few people who have long experience in yoga sadhana and are willing to share their experience to help a new sadhaka in the field of yoga and meditation.

5. Holy place-

And lastly to conduct these ‘holy’ things you need a special destination; a holy place. Every organized religion has a pilgrimage where the devotes go and worship God. Temples, mosques, synagogue and churches are a few to name. In Yoga there is no holy place. You can practice yoga anywhere and everywhere. Ranging from your bathroom doing various yogic kriyas like JalaNeti or Dhauti to practising asanas in your balcony you can do yoga anywhere!

So you see how yoga is different from the various organized religions. Yoga is based on experiments and doubts. Yoga has various types of practises which works towards making your body and mind healthy. It aims brings about a feeling of wellness and well-being to oneself. MYT Yoga is a platform where you can have a bird-eye-view of Yoga and meditation. We give our students various methods and techniques of yoga which can bring about a holistic change to the individuals body, mind and spirit. Visit the about uspageto know more!

The history of Iyengar yoga props and its benefits:

“For me, prop is not only for the asana. It should contribute to the position of the body which in turn can let the mind be calm and state of “Chitta Vritti Nirodha” be experienced. Body is my first prop. The body is a prop to the soul.”- B.K.S Iyengar.

Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengarpopularly known as B.K.S Iyengar is the founder of ‘Iyengar yoga’. This form of yoga is practised as a tool for attaining therapeutic and non-surgical treatments of the body.By focusing on precise body alignment in a yogasana with the usage ofversatile yoga props one can safeguard themselves from physical injuries, obesity and inflammatory diseases.

Iyengar guruji started his journey as a teenager. His yoga guru cum brother in law-Tirumalai Krishnamacharya initiated him to start practising yoga in Mysore along with another famous yoga master of modern times, PattabhiJois.

After learning from his master, Iyengar went to Pune, Maharashtra to start his  well-renowned yoga institute named after his wife; Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute, Pune.

The invention of yoga props ?

It was in 1937 when Iyengar was teaching yoga to the 85 year old principal of Fergusson College, Pune that he invented his first yoga prop which was a wooden rod. Due to age limitations,the principal was unable to perform even standing poses rightly. Hence, to keep his legs stable and away from each other, Iyengar used a wooden rod between his legs so that he could attempt simple standing postures like Trikonasana and Parsvakonasana.

Since then Iyengar started using his domestic furniture and household items to help his students reap the maximum benefit of any asanaeffortlessly. Later on with the help of various doctors and engineers,guruji scientifically developed yoga props. This discovery made yoga asanas available for all irrespective of age and physical fitness which was otherwisetaught only to royal families and warriors in the ancient times.

How are yoga props useful?

All of us have different body types. An asana which is suitable for one perhaps would be inappropriate for the other. By looking at YouTube videos or Instagram reels and IGTV’s we think can we can do yoga postures easily and save that cost of going to a yoga class, don’t we? But hey! What about right alignment? What about body limitations? What about body injuries? All this is forgotten and ignored and we just want to show the world—look what I can do! Deep down in our unconscious states there is a desire for getting quick results in a short frame of time. However, I want to ask you, has any short term results sustained for a long period of time? In my opinion, No.

Yoga aims to bring molecular, cellular and structural changes in your body and mind. To bring about these changes, a yoga sadhaka needs to have immense patience, constancy and sincerity. Anything done for achieving quick results will be short lived, injurious, destructive and harmful for the body and mind.

The discovery and usage of yoga props not only helps people to perform the poses effortlessly but also prevents injuries of the body by emphasising on correct alignment along withdifferent modifications of the poses accordingly .

“Alignment is intelligence applied to yourasana practice”

Flexibility of the muscles and tendons cannot occur so easily. The body takes time to open up. One needs to be constant and dedicated towards spending significant amount of time in order to have mastery over the asana. For example- if you are a beginner and wanting to improve hamstring flexibility, you need to do simple forward flexion poses of the spine like Uttanasana, Paschiomottasana using a yoga belt. Place the belt under the arch of your feet,  holding it from either sides of your foot and buttocks touching the wall for at least 3-5 minutes daily for the results to show.

According to my experience, performing any asana without props would initially increase pain, discomfort and misalignment of postures. With the usage of various props under right guidance one can have reduced pain and direct the musculoskeletal system towards correct alignment. For instance to get relief from common lower back pains a yoga prop like Viparita Dandasanabox can a work as great quick fix.

With the use of various props one can progress in their asana practice. There are special crafted props for each asana. If you have fear in doing headstand but still are determined to practice inversions then, Sirsasanaropescan help you to reduce the fear complexity and give you a sense of physical as well as mental security. If you want practice Salamba Sarvangasana; supported shoulder stand a yoga chair is one of the most reliable tool for mastering this pose.

Props can possibly ease all the asanas and makes yoga doable and available for all irrespective of age and physical fitness. The usage of multi-functionalyoga props work as a great tool for attaining therapeutic benefits of the body. By establishing correct postural alignment and comfort in a particular asana, a yogi can integrate his consciousness for physical and spiritual wellness which in turn is the crux of yog sadhana and eastern philosophy.

The three essential yoga props:

Who says yoga is slow and boring? The practice of yoga comes in various forms and styles. A practitioner can choose any type of asana practice according one’s persona and need of the hour. Ranging from dynamic and rigorous ashtanga practice, energy boosting vinyasa flows to comforting and peaceful   restorative styles,yoga covers it all.

However, there is one thing which is commonly shared among all the styles; the use of yoga props. Yoga props are of valuable help for any level of yoga practitioner. They help to facilitate and strengthen our practice.

Let’s look at the three most fundamental and essential yoga props for one to practice alignment based injury free yoga:

1. Yoga bricks:

  • Yoga brick is one of the most popular yoga prop. Made of foam, bamboo, cork or wood this yoga prop is an essential accessory especially for beginners.
  • Iyengar first developed this prop for Sirsasana; headstand to support the back and shoulders blades by placing them close to the wall.
  • They provide a minimum height for a practitionerwith low hamstring flexibility and is unable to reach with their hands down on the mat for standing poses like Uttanasana, Trikonasana, Prasvakonasna, Ardha Chandrasana
  • From providing support to the head, spine and pelvis to help elongate the desired muscle and tendon in any particular asana this prop has a wide range of usage.
  • Seeing the solid support provided to the body there are different types of bricks invented for different asanas. For example- Semi-circular bricks for supporting the spine in Supta Virasana, round bricks for people with flat foot and so on.

2. Yoga belt:

  • The second most common prop widely in use today generation is a yoga belt.
  • Drawing the inspiration from a luggage belt by the people of France, Iyengar thought that a belt can be of great help to provide grip to the shaky arms and legs.
  • Belts work as extension of your arms to prevent the collapsing of the chest and compression of the anterior spine in forward folds like Uttanasana, Paschiomottasana, Janu Sirsasana.
  • Belts help in giving right direction to the muscles and bones in an asana. For example, in all inversions like headstand, handstand, elbow stand the elbows need to be correctly aligned in order to have balance and alignment. Tying a belt around the elbows help in keeping the elbows close to each other and aligned to the shoulders especially for people who have hyperextension of elbows.

3. Yoga blankets and bolsters:

  • Yoga blankets and bolsters are widely used to generate a feeling of restfulness in any asana particularly for yin, therapy and restorative yoga styles.
  • Due to their soft texture they act as cushions for the head, neck, vertebral column and pelvis. The props are also used for pranayama and meditation.
  • The usage of other props would be limited without blankets and bolsters.
  • Blankets and bolsters are used as height to sit on in most of the sitting poses like Paschiomottasana, Janu Sirsasana, Marichyasana, Baddha Konasana By sitting on the height the knee joint tends to be lower than the hip joint thereby making the spine straight.

 

The use these props would be of great help to initiate one to bring out the qualities of blissfulness and cheerfulness in one’s yoga practise. Our basic 5- day workshopsandyoga teacher training course in India will enable to you to have at least a gist of how to use these props to make your daily practise safe and easy. Try it out for yourself and feel the expansion of your prana energy while you are performing an asana.

5 Tips to practice safe regular yoga at home

The pandemic has caused enormous changes in the way we do our activities of daily living. Either we have risen higher in our heath conditions or gone below to a matter of fact deteriorated our body and its physiology. This imbalance in the body due to our jumping and over-secreted hormones have not only impacted our physical body and its fitness but also declined mental health significantly.

In a worldwide study conducted by SAP and Qualtrics, over 40% of people have said their mental health to decline due to the Covid-19 outbreak. This global rise in anxiety and stress needs to stop. Well, what’s better than Yoga and meditation in helping to combat that?

Yoga and mindfulness as we all know is for deep relaxation and a practice to rejuvenate our minds from all its pessimistic attributes. However, in times of the pandemic it might not be a good idea to join a yoga school or studio to practice. Yoga at home can be really effective if you have the right guidance. So let’s look at five tips to practice yoga at home:

1. Have a space for yourself
One of the foremost tip for practising yoga at home having a space for yourself. Trying to make your own buddha space would having soothing effects on the body and mind and you can practise yoga easily with comfort. Try to make your space beautiful by lighting up an incense, have tender plants and mild lights to alleviate your vibe. Disturbance is one of the major cause of ill-health. So when you practice yoga try not to be distracted by your home surrounding.

2. Choose your time

Choose a time which is suitable for you and your working conditions. Everyone cannot be a morning person, yoga can be practised even before going to sleep. You need to find out what time suits you and your schedule and be consistent in your practice.

3. Practice according your physical condition

Yoga has various styles of traditional asana practises. From high intensity ashtanga practice, moderate intensive hatha vinyasa yoga practices to low intensive restorative or yin practice yoga has it all. One needs to choose the style according to their body structure, function and fitness level. Everyday our body condition is not the same. Hence, the practitioner needs practice rendering to their physical and mental state every day.

4. Include Pranayama

A yoga session is incomplete without pranayama. Pranayama is one of the great tools to tranquil and de-stress our minds. Through breath awareness our emotions can become manageable and observed. The active ones like Kapalbhati and Bhastrika can be done before the asana practice. Whereas, the passive ones such as Anulom Vilom, Bhramari, Sheetkari etc are sure ways to calm the mind and help in detoxifying the body at the end of the practice.

5. Use yoga props to help

Lastly no yoga practise can help you if you don’t practice with intelligence. If you are a beginner the use of yoga props is a must for you all. Through the use of yoga accessories one can practice safe alignment based yoga and prevent themselves from getting caught with any injury or re-injury.

By looking at a few tips to practice safe yoga at home one can have great benefits on the physical and mental bodies. Our online 5-day yoga workshop or online yoga teacher training courseapt for you to get started with practising safe yoga. Our team of experienced teachers will guide you throughout the courses and curate the right nutrition plan according to your body and mental conditions.