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Nature and Ancient Indians- Part IV

Yoga & Well-Being

Geeta Verghese

The universally timeless principles of Yoga are as relevant today as they were in ancient times. In Sanskrit, Yoga means "to uniteā€ and aims towards harmonizing mind, body and soul to achieve a state of oneness with the universe. By eliminating, stress, ill health, and anger, yoga aims to achieve a state of peacefulness, vibrant health, and love towards all creation. The Yogic system lays down elaborate prescriptions for gradually gaining physical and mental control and mastery over the "personal self", both body and mind, until one's consciousness has intensified sufficiently to allow for the awareness of one's "real Self" (the soul, or Atman). So, even though the techniques are important in yoga, it is the ultimate goal that should always be kept firmly in mind.


There are three main aspects of yoga. These are:


The various yogic asanas while making the body flexible and strengthening the muscles, aim to improve blood circulation and functioning of specific organs in the body.


Pranayama is an effective tool to calm and energize the body and mind. All these asanas are to be properly coordinated with inhalation, exhalation and holding of breath.

Mediation is a means to still the mind's restlessness. Regular meditation trains the mind to be calm, centered, relaxed and detached.

 By helping us to get in touch with ourselves, Yoga heightens our senses and makes us sensitive to the natural order of the non-human realm. Yogis devised their asanas partly by observing how animal instincts work in the wild. They observed how animals like cats relaxed by instinctively stretching and arching the spine in both directions.  Animals sit in different kinds of positions. Getting down on all fours stimulates the pranic flow while sitting in chairs tightens the hamstrings and the lower back. Asanas are also based on a sound knowledge of human anatomy and physiology. Yogis knew that placing the body in certain positions would stimulate specific nerves, organs and glands.


 Hatha Yoga lists several poses named for animals. Some examples are the Cow Head's Pose (Gomukha-asana) the Tortoise Pose (Kurma asana) the Rooster Pose (Kukkuta asana) the Peacock Pose (Mayur asana) and the Lion's Pose (Simha asana). Other asanas named for animals, include the Serpent Pose (Naga asana), the Cobra Pose (Bhujanga asana), the Locust Pose (Salabha asana), the Crow Pose (Kakasana), the Eagle Pose (Gauruda asana), the Frog Pose (Manduka asana), and the Scorpion Pose (Vrischika asana), to name a few.


The practice of such asanas has an emotional effect that goes beyond mere strength or flexibility of the body. In the performance of the Peacock pose, one feels a sense of balance, a sense of pride, an affirmation of one's ability to move competently in the world. In the Cobra pose, one feels both a tremendous gravity and a rising up, a sense of being weighted and glued to the earth, yet yearning and stretching to rise above. In the Lion pose one feels positively regal, refreshed and energized.


Yoga involves recapturing our animal physicality by reconditioning the body to establish itself within a non-technologically enhanced environment. In that sense, we learn to be empathetic and connected with the natural world from our experience of and relationship with animals.

Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)                                Cobra


Locust Pose ( Shalabhasana)                               Locust


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