Yoga is a part of the ancient tradition and philosophy of wellbeing called Ayurveda. It has 5 pillars, all equally important for a healthy body, mind and energy. When Yoga is reduced to a physical activity, the practice becomes a series of postures only, such as gymnastics or pilates. But when all five parts are included in the practice, they support each other, and the yoga practice becomes a lifestyle beyond the Yoga room. I believe everyone can do Yoga. No other practice is as accessible and efficient for a healthy lifestyle.
The Yogi is grateful for the body and doesn’t take it for granted. As Patanjali says in the Yoga Sutras some 4000 years ago, our bodies are vehicles for our souls and a gift that allows us to learn and get experiences in this earthly life form. It means that to abuse and neglect the body and/mind/energy, would be an act of arrogance, and a waste of life that has been offered as an incredible gift. This gift is the chance to experience and learn what the soul couldn’t learn and experience without the body.
The yogic thinking is very simple and pragmatic; the soul needs the body, mind and energy in this earthly experience. The body provides the senses (touch, hear, see, taste and smell) to experience and take in messages from the surroundings, and the mind processes the messages so that we can learn, get wisdom and hopefully contribute to universal consciousness. Through the ages we have speculated on what we have to learn, or why are we here. The Yoga texts don’t offer a solution to the reason for living. It simply accepts that we live, and that we don’t need to know why we live to enhance life. Not just ours, however, as all forms of life are considered one and the same in that they come from the same source, but in different forms of expression.
If we neglect and abuse our bodies, and other lifeforms, we abuse life and therefore ‘God’ or ‘the Creator’. An aggressive act is a distancing of oneself from all life and its creator.
There are five parts to consider to stay healthy and we teach them all at our Olive retreats:
- Nutrition – A clean non-refined plant-based diet is recommended for everyone in all ages. It offers health beyond one’s own overall health. A vegetarian (dairy and eggs) diet is accepted if you can’t cook but animal sourced food is seen as “low-value” food and to eat animals will steel energy from you and make you sluggish. Plants are high value Sun energy, and if produced in a fertile and clean soil will enhance your energy. Food should be fresh and not over-cooked.
- Breathing – It has the same word as Life in the ancient texts, but it is probably the most neglected part of the five. Most people don’t use their breath fully and are not aware of it, leading to a bad posture and a malfunctioning body. The technique to enhance your respiratory capacity and your health is called Pranayamas.
- Exercise – A healthy body is a flexible, energetic and strong body, just as the mind. Yoga Asanas (the postures) are an excellent method to get all three at the same time. Our bodies want to be used, but not abused. They cooperate with us and help us adapt to our environment. A cell that is not used is “told” to deteriorate and reintegrate with the ecosystem.
- Rest – Relaxing is equally important for the whole of us (body, mind, and energy). Sleep is one form of rest, but we need more in a hectic environment. It re-charges us and prepares us for activity. It’s equally neglected as the breathing. Our moral value of being lazy if we rest in combo with a hyperactive society, creates an overload of information and stress. A relaxed body and mind live, stressed ones are only alive but don’t live. Yoga teaches us to rest in a healthy way but always in stillness, laying down or sitting.
- Meditation – As opposed to relaxation it’s done with a conscious mind focusing on something or nothing. It can be done sitting, standing, walking or while doing something. Yoga is a form of meditation focusing on our body’s movement and breath. Golf can be that too, when you relax the body and only have the ball in focus. A meditation practice is highly rejuvenating, and has to be a natural part of a healing lifestyle. It’s a way of concentrating to the point of allowing us to transcend time, space and causation. Meditation steers the concentration to the inside, sitting still, allowing us to “take in” with our sense. The ancient yoga and meditation tradition also teaches us to practice allowness, non-judgment and kindness in our everyday life, which helps us to become aware, connect with other lives and reach a state of oneness, the highest form of being.
The five parts will be explained more in depth in coming blogs. In the meanwhile I hope you enjoy your practice of life.