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The word ‘Yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit word yuj which means “To Join”, ie, to join mind and body for a happy, healthy living, in principle.
Yoga as a way of life appears to have been practised even in pre-historic times. Evidence of this was found in the ruins and excavations dating back to pre-Aryan times at Mohenjo Daro at Sindh, now in Pakistan. Terracota figurines of the dancing Shiva obtained from there show poses which probably was the basis of yoga.
The science and art of Yogic Practices have been handed down to succeeding generations over thousands of years and today it has become very widespread not only in India but in most overseas countries. People have begun to realise the therapeutic as well as the practical advantages of Yoga in maintaining a healthy mind and a healthy body free of degenerating conditions that set in with advancing years.
One thing to be clear here is that yoga practices are not for body building or muscle toning. It is more for mental and spiritual happiness which in turn results in sound physical health and contentment.
Unfortunately, during the Colonial Era and before, with so many invaders coming into India, an erosion of yoga as a culture was all but lost. But, a few dedicated believers and practitioners, who kept the enlightenment alive, ensured continuity.
It was Sage Patanjali who has been credited with the authorship of Patanjali Sutra, which is a detailed treatise on Yoga, and remains widely practised even today.
The Patanjali Yoga Sutra encompasses the eight arms of yoga called the Ashtanga Yoga, which is compared to an eight petalled Rose, These are:
- Yama (non violence)
- Niyama (body care)
- Aasana (physical postures)
- Pranayama (breath control)
- Pratyahara (mind control)
- Dharana (meditation)
- Dhyana (concentration) and finally,
- Samadhi (illumination and enlightenment)
These 8 arms of the sutra constitutes Hatha Yoga. The scope of the word ‘yoga’ is very wide. It includes Gyana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga,.Laya Yoga, Tantra Yoga, Raja Yoga etc. -- each one fine tuning the Practice, but all leading to the ultimate goal of tranquility, mental peace and body/mind synthesis. Thus all forms of fine arts and music fall into the Laya Yoga category. While Bhakti, Gyana, Tantra are widely practised, only Tantra Yoga being psychic in nature is not so well established.
Physical well being is the prime cause of Yogic practices. So it is even more well suited to senior citizens, who have to battle with advancing years that brings about physical exhaustion and age related debilities. The regular practice of even the basics of Hatha Yoga brings about an amazing rejuvenation for seniors. Life becomes tranquil and starts radiating dignity and an amazing grace that should be the hallmark of all senior citizens.
A positive frame of mind can be achieved by yogic practices in combating disabilities. The human body is basically composed of five elements -- fire, water, earth, air and space. The yogic science is based on the assumption that any imbalance in these elements in the body creates discomfort and ailment. The prime object of yogasanas and kriyas is to achieve a physical wellbeing through the medium of mental tranquility and internal cleansing, thereby rejuvenating our vital organs. This in turn de-stresses the body and refreshes the mind, and thereby removes the imbalances.
Basically, the human body has the power to revitalise itself and fight disease, as long as we don’t abuse it. But unfortunately, the lifestyles and the rat race of our daily life induces unwanted stresses at every stage. Sedentary lifestyles and over indulgence are a curse of modern times. The practice of yoga helps in negating these adverse effects and restore sound health.
In so far as senior citizens are concerned, they must keep themselves mentally occupied and physically active, and practise detachment from petty concerns and undue mental tensions. The practice of Pranayama, and meditation will be the most effective and easy option.to achieve this.
A regular practise of basic yoga asanas even for a short while daily, will help you attain this goal and greatly diminish the common old age ailments, providing a lot of happiness. The only precaution is that beginners should be under the guidance of qualified instructors.
So let’s rejoice that old age need not be a hurdle but an opportunity to continue to enjoy all the good things of life, bereft of domestic responsibilities.