Benefits of Yoga

Yoga

Today being international yoga day, I felt it only necessary to write a couple of lines about yoga and its benefits.

What is yoga?

Yoga is a way of living that aims towards ‘a healthy mind residing in a healthy body’. Contrary to the belief, it is not a religion. Which means that even if you hate Hinduism you can still safely practice yoga. Although just like everything that has originated in this country and been there since millenniums, yoga has its roots in the Hindu culture.

What is the use of yoga?

The benefits of yoga mostly depend on the lifestyle one follows and the kind of asanas one practices. But even after regularly practicing yoga for just a few weeks, here are some of the benefits one may experience:

  1. Improved flexibility
  2. Muscle strength
  3. Better posture
  4. Better blood circulation
  5. Lower stress levels
  6. Relaxed body and mind
  7. Better focus

What are the advantages of yoga?

The relaxation techniques incorporated in yoga can lessen chronic pain, such as lower back pain, arthritis, headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome. Yoga can also lower blood pressure and reduce insomnia. The various poses and deep breaths help the heart do its job, increasing blood flow throughout the body, and improving the entire circulatory system. Yoga is also known to relieve stress, reduces muscle tension, strain, and inflammation. It also sharpens attention and concentration.

Can yoga get you in shape?

While yoga is not an intense workout as running or aerobics would be, but you can still get in shape if you stick to a regular workout schedule.

What is the ultimate purpose of yoga?

The goal of yoga is to help the individual transcend the self and attain enlightenment.

यदा विनियतं चित्तमात्मन्येवावतिष्ठते |

नि:स्पृह: सर्वकामेभ्यो युक्त इत्युच्यते तदा ||

Which means, when a perfectly disciplined mind gets freedom from all desires and becomes absorbed in the self alone, a person is said to have achieved yoga.

But this is easier said than done and takes years of devotion, practice, dietary restrictions and control over senses to reach such a state. As for the ordinary person, it improves circulation, posture, flexibility, muscle strength, helps relax the body and the mind, brings down stress levels and helps sleep better.

In 2014, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggested United Nations to celebrate June 21 as the International Yoga Day as it is the summer solstice; the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.

“Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. This tradition is 5000 years old. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help in wellbeing. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day.” — Narendra Modi, UN General Assembly, September 2014.

If you still haven’t welcomed yoga into your life, it’s never too late.

Diwali : Light that transcends religion

indian festival diwali vector background

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Contrary to the general belief, Diwali is not just a Hindu festival. It is a festival also celebrated by Jains, and Sikhs and some Buddhists.

Etymology

Diwali (or Divali) comes from the Sanskrit word Deepavali which literally means “series of lights”. Diwali is also known as dipotsava “festival of lights”.

diwali-fireworks

History

Diwali dates back to ancient times in India, as a festival after the summer harvest in the Hindu calendar month of Kartika. The Persian traveler and historian Al Biruni, in his 11th century memoir on India, wrote Deepavali being celebrated by Hindus on New Moon day of the month of Kartika.

goddess-lakshmi

Hinduism

  1. Diwali falls on a no moon night. To honor the homecoming of lord Ram people illuminated oil lamps. On this day lord Ram returned to Ayodhya, along with his wife and brother. 20 days ago and on the eve of Dussehra, lord Ram had killed demon Ravan.
  2. According to Mahabharata, on the eve of Diwali the Pandavs returned after spending 12 years of Vanvas (residing in a forest) and one year of Agyatavas (disguise).
  3. On the night of Diwali goddess Lakshmi chose lord Vishnu as her husband and they were married.
  4. Many Hindus in Odisha and West Bengal, worship goddess Kali, instead of goddess Lakshmi, and call the festival Kali Puja.
  5. In Braj and north central regions of India people mark Mount Govardhan, and celebrate legends about Lord Krishna. In other regions, the feast of Govardhan Puja (or Annakoot) is celebrated, with 56 or 108 different cuisines prepared, offered to Krishna, then shared and celebrated by the local community.
  6. In West and certain Northern parts of India, the festival of Diwali marks the start of a new Hindu year.

amritsar-golden-temple-00

Sikhism

On this day Guru Har Gobind freed himself and some Hindu kings from the Gwalior fort, from the prison of Mughal emperor Jahangir and arrived at Golden temple in Amritsar. The Sikhs celebrate Diwali as Bandi Choor Diwas.

mahavir

Jainism

Lord Mahavir attained Nirvana on this day at Pavapuri on 15th October 527 BCE. Jains celebrate Diwali as a day of remembering lord Mahavir. On Diwali morning, Nirvan Ladoo is offered after praying to lord Mahavir in all Jain temples all across the world.

buddha-face

Buddhism

The Newar people in Nepal, who are Buddhist and revere various deities in the Vajrayana tradition, celebrate the festival by worshiping Lakshmi. The Newar Buddhists in Nepalese valleys celebrate the Diwali festival over five days, in the same way and on the same days as the Hindu Diwali-Tihar festival.

A prayer for Diwali

shanti-shloka

Shanti Mantra (Mantra of peace). Brihadaranyaka Upanishads (1.3.28).

My Diwali message:

  • Light the lamp of love in your heart and stop hating people who do not agree with you.
  • Light the lamp of knowledge in your home to dispel the darkness that surrounds you and your family.
  • Light the lamp of compassion in your life and give something (howsoever small) to the impoverished.

References

Navratri and the 9 forms of Durga

durga

Navratri is a festival celebrated by people who follow the Shakti sect of Hinduism. It is celebrated throughout India, and is famous for its social as well as religious importance.

The word Navratri means nine nights. During this period the
nine forms of Goddess Durga are worshiped. This pious period occurs four times a year:

  • Chaitra Navratri
  • Sharad Navratri(most significant and widely celebrated)
  • Maha Gupta Navratri
  • Ashadha Gupta Navratri

The nine forms of the Goddess Durga worshiped during the period of Navratri are:

Day 1: Shailaputri

Goddess Shailaputri is the absolute form of Mother Nature.

Shailaputri.JPG

Day 2: Brahmacharini

The goddess Brahmacharini wears white clothes, holds a japa mala(rosary) in her right hand and Kamandal, a water utensil in her left hand.

Brahmacharini.jpeg

Day 3: Chandraghanta

She is believed to reward people with her grace, bravery and courage. By her grace all the sins, distresses, physical sufferings, mental tribulations and ghostly hurdles of the devotees are eradicated.

Chandraghanta.JPG

Day 4: Kushmanda

She is believed to improve health and bestow wealth and strength.

Kushmanda.JPG

Day 5: Skandamata

Her name comes from word, Skanda is another name for war god Kartikeya and Mata is the term for mother.

Skandamata.JPG

Day 6: Katyayini

She is associated with the fierce forms of Durga.

Katyayini.JPG

Day 7: Kaalratri

She is regarded as one of the many destructive forms of Mother Goddess.

Kalratri.JPG

Day 8: Mahagauri

She has the power to fulfill all the desires of her devotees.

Mahagauri.JPG

Day 9: Siddhidaatri

She fulfills all the divine aspirations and completes the mundane.

Siddhidatri.JPG

On the tenth day, the idol of the Goddess is immersed in water.

References: