Many people still have a preconception of Yogi as people who sleep on nails and walk barefoot across burning coals and broken glass. Some people consider yoga to be a means of physical perfection, whereas others view it as an activity connected with the occult.
According to ancient writings, yoga is first and foremost concerned with the harmony between body and soul. If the body is out of balance with the soul, then it is difficult to attain harmony in life. Harmony with oneself and one’s environment, which in recent years is becoming ever more and aggressive and brutal, can be achieved only through hard internal work. Yoga is a philosophical system which was born in India and honed its traditions for centuries. It is up to the modern person to decide independently whether he wants to adopt these traditions or not.
Modern science has made great strides in healing all possible illnesses, and conserving and extending youth. But we are gradually forgetting about methods which have passed the test of time, not only over decades but centuries. After all in the distant past people also looked after their health and searched for the elixir of youth. Women tried to remain attractive for as long as possible, and in this they were hugely successful.
In our mad century it is hard for people to cope with everyday problems, and as a result they find themselves in a state of stress, old illnesses intensify and new ones appear. Moreover, as a rule most conflicts occur in a state of extreme emotion, when emotions take the upper hand over reason. Many people who are in a state of constant tension during the day forget, and some just do not know, about the simple methods of relaxation, accessible to everyone, offered by yoga. These can be employed in everyday life: at work, during study and even on transport.
Firstly, what are breathing exercises? They represent the possibility of relaxing, escaping from one’s problems for a short time, settling down any nervous trembling and concentrating one’s mind. Breathing is directly linked to our emotions, therefore whatever emotional state we are in, our breathing will be the same. Agitation, rage and indignation lead to quickened and hindered breathing, whereas tranquility and relaxation calm it down. As a rule, people breathe with their chest or stomach, not making use of the full volume of their lungs. An exercise which yoga offers us is called “full breathing”. It enables us to make effective use of the entire volume of our lungs, regardless of the amount of inhaled air. This breathing technique allows one to significantly improve ventilation in the lungs, increase the saturation of the blood with oxygen, improve the removal of carbon dioxide and as a result, to improve one’s physical state and stabilize one’s emotional state. We should start a breath from our stomach, then inhale using our rib cage and stop at our collarbones. Breathing-out works in the opposite order.
It is not hard to master this exercise, and having practiced for 3-5 minutes every day, it is possible to achieve good results and attain skills of self-control. Moreover, if people are lifeless and not prepared to work hard, they should breathe actively, but if they are over-excited by something, then this exercise should be performed at a slow rate.
Secondly, fire can help to remove tension. In the modern world a candle can replace the roaring flame of a genuine fire. Flames have long been considered to be a cleansing force. After having looked at a fire for a few minutes, we are able to to relax and give our eyes a rest. Yoga suggests watching the rising sun every morning, because as they said in ancient times: “Anyone who has seen the rising of the sun has filled himself with energy for the whole day”.
Thirdly, a large role is played by colours, which surround us at home and at the workplace. For example, yoga considers light blue cold and calming. This colour will suit people with nervous, tense work. Yellow is the colour of joy, as it has positive energy. If you have experienced hardships, you should surround yourself with shades of yellow. In yoga green is known as the colour of nature, therefore being around the colour green allows one to relax both in spirit and body.
Yoga views massage as a rejuvenating, healthy and relaxing activity. With regular massage the muscles in the face become stronger, wrinkles smooth out and some skin problems on the face can be cured.
Yoga massage can also help with other health problems. If you rub the area between your eyebrows up and down and left to right with your thumbs, then you can get rid of a mild headache. And by making circular movements with your index fingers around the wings of your nose, you can avoid having a blocked nose, sinus trouble and some cold ailments. But you should not try to treat yourself without the help of a yogi. If you have serious health problems, then you should firstly address your doctor.
You can wash your face with melted water, as our ancestors used to do. In yoga this water is considered energetically charged and pure. Using it with herbal mixtures and natural oils is extremely therapeutic for our skin.
Most professions involve long and motionless sitting or standing. We therefore subject our bodies to undeserved “tortures”. Circulation is cut off, our muscles do not work, becoming soft, our spine becomes curved, wreaking its revenge with terrible pains.
Stretching exercises, or asans as yoga calls them, do not take up much time, and do not require a large amount of space. Sitting on a chair, lift up your arms and stretch. The muscles will first be tense but then will relax, allowing normal blood flow and relaxation.
The history of herbs and essential oils is lost in the depths of time. From ancient times people looked to nature for help, using tinctures, mixtures and oils for treating illnesses, both in rituals and in everyday life. The virtues of scented plants go beyond their antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. It is well known that the smell can revive memories, change people’s moods and improve their health. Aromatic oils grant people inner comfort and balance.
The wonder of essential oils is in the variety of their possible uses, whether in medicine, cooking, psychology, cosmetics, the perfume industry, or just every-day life. Yoga recommends using aromatic oils as a natural way of keeping in good emotional and physical shape. The aromas take away the stresses of daily life, prevent illnesses developing, remove pain and give our life variety.
Aromatherapy, just like message, has healing and rejuvenating forces. It is a way out in situations where medicine is sometimes ready just to give up. Do you have a head ache? Massage your temples with a drop of mint oil. Were you tired in the day and felt that you had run out of energy? Take a scented bath with lavender oil. Are you having trouble breathing and are getting over a heavy cough? Inhale some eucalyptus oil. Are you planning a romantic evening? Burn a rose-scented candle in the background.
We have learnt to look after our external attractiveness, but it is much more difficult to take care of our inner beauty. Modern problems, worries and fears do not help to make us younger, more beautiful or kinder. But is it maybe sometimes worth looking to ancient traditions for advice on how to live in peace and harmony with the surrounding world and ourselves? A happy person is one who has found harmony.
Translated by James Platt