We live in a world saturated by images and where visual stimuli abound. It is not easy to keep your mind from wandering living in such a climate. There are just so many things to distract our mind and thoughts and make us lose focus off things that really and truly matter in our lives. Also, apart from that, our mind has this tendency to wander, daydream, get lost in fantasy, fret about future, relive past moments of happiness, etc. Although these may not seem to be harmful enough at first, they actually are, because a wandering mind serves to disconnect us from our body, and therefore from the present moment. Yoga recognizes this problem and many of the yogic relaxation practices and techniques are therefore geared towards helping us retain focus, develop a trained mind and achieve a real communion with our body and our true inner self.
Yogic techniques can be broadly divided in three separate practices, that of asana or postures, pranayama or breathing, and drishti or focusing. These techniques, practiced together, will help one gain vital energy, perfect physical health, and a state of bliss and happiness. Yogic practices in the west generally tend to focus more on the postures or asana practices, but breathing and focusing are just as important in achieving focus and finding inner peace.
It is not even that you practice these techniques in separation. Most yoga items will combine all of these techniques together. Yoga is, in fact, a practice of holistic self-care. So, even when you are practicing certain yogic postures, you are required to control your breathing the proper way and focus your gaze so that your mind does not wander.
Let us, for a moment, look at the importance of proper breathing practices and breath awareness. Generally, as we pass through daily life and activities, we do not tend to think about breathing. Our body has developed the function of breathing automatically, which means that we do not need to employ conscious awareness for breathing. However, focusing our attention on the breathing process help us to connect with the present moment. Breath awareness makes us more conscious of our body, which is also our present, the moment of the now. Becoming conscious of our body is also a way of transcending our ego which serves to separate us from others, and thus from ourselves, too. This also shows how the yogic practices are closely related to philosophic thoughts and had emerged out of them.
Similarly, the practice of drishti or focusing is meant to still our mind and keep it from wandering into distractions. These practices help us attain a perfectly trained mind. So, even when we are faced with difficulties in life or are tempted by a myriad distractions, we can control our mind and thoughts more effectively and can continue focusing on things that really matter.
On the scientific base of yogic systems, we may mention how yoga relates to SNS and PNS – the two nervous systems in our body. The SNS or sympathetic nervous systems quicken our breath rate, increase blood pressure and heart rates, and stimulate our nerves. While this may be necessary in situations of challenge and hardship, unnecessary stimulation, triggered by unproductive stimuli, can result in health consequences such as migraines, ulcers, heart disease, etc. PNS, or parasympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, reduces blood pressure and slows down breath rate. This means that the blood can then freely travel to glandular, digestive, reproductive, and immune systems – these systems are made up of organs essential to long-term good health and well being. Now, studies show that yogic relaxation practices such as focusing or deep breathing stimulate PNS actions and thus help attain our mind a stillness and our body its healing powers.
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