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Modern yogis face modern problems, but they face them armed with ancient solutions. The ancient science of yoga is quickly becoming a viable remedy to many prevailing health problems our society faces today. With ailments like obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease on the rise, the contemporary yogi can’t help but weigh the risks of these diseases against their own health.
The onslaught of certain diseases caused by lifestyle choices can be eradicated with a pure, yogic lifestyle. Through regular diet and exercise, the risk of these diseases drops tremendously.
While sudden illness or injury cannot be prevented or predicted, and a yoga practice should never be considered a literal substitute for health insurance, one should view their practice as a long-term investment into their health.
Generally, yogis go above and beyond what is socially considered a “healthy” lifestyle. Proper diet, daily exercise, pranayama and meditation are all part of the yogi’s daily schedule. As a result, they enjoy enhanced health and well-being. Have you ever thought of the money a yogi saves on health care due to maintaining this type of lifestyle?
With the cost of health care on the rise, and nearly 50 million Americans living sans health insurance, it is safe to assume yogis are among the under-covered and uninsured. Could maintaining a yogic lifestyle be the answer to your health-care woes? Though certainly not the panacea, it is a step in the right direction. Shri Yogi Hari, a world-renowned South Florida yoga luminary, advocates a full-spectrum practice to his students as a way to prevent sickness and disease.
“Health is not the responsibility of doctors and insurance policies,” Shri Yogi Hari explains, speaking to a room full of students. “It is your responsibility.”
Shri Yogi Hari advocates Sampoorna Yoga, the yoga of fullness. He developed this system of yoga after spending almost ten years immersed in studying at the Sivananda Ashram. Its basic teaching is that health, peace and joy are already inside of you—it is up to you to uncover them. Sampoorna Yoga integrates Hatha, Raja, Bhakti, Jnana, Karma and Nada yoga into a deep, simple and practical approach to daily life.
“Today’s trend is toward fragmentation, getting lost in one detail and losing sight of the whole,” Shri Yogi Hari says as he explains how in the West, health care consists of reacting to and treating specific ailments, rather than treating the body as a whole. “An integrated practice of yoga and right understanding will lead to physical, mental and emotional health.”
Proactive vs. Reactive Health Care
Living a yogic lifestyle is fundamental to a proactive, rather than a reactive, approach to your health. When you live your practice, you are maintaining a daily balance within your body. After you become accustomed to this balance, any problems that arise can be detected early.
As a yogi, your practice is an investment into preventing future illness. Every day, when you are sweating on the mat, enjoying a fresh salad in lieu of that cheeseburger and taking time-out to de-stress, you are empowering your health.
Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga, supports this idea. Dating back 5,000 years, this ancient system of healing approaches the body as a single functioning unit. It teaches that when maladies manifest into illness, they are a result of an imbalance within the body. Therefore, the body must be treated as a whole to bring it back to a state of balance. Merely treating individual symptoms is just a way of masking a greater problem rooted deep within body. Incorporating just a few Ayurvedic principals, such as eating for your dosha, or body constitution, will have a dramatic impact on your well-being.
Maintaining the Yogic Lifestyle
The first thing that must be understood is how to approach your practice as a lifestyle, rather than a class you attend a few times a week. Yoga truly is a life science, encompassing and influencing everything from your diet to the way you approach and react to the world around you.
To attain the optimum health benefits from your yogic lifestyle, incorporate these five principles into your daily life:
Asana—A daily hatha yoga practice should be coupled with an active lifestyle to build strength and increase stamina and flexibility within your body. Yoga works to maintain the health of the spinal column, which houses the nervous system, which is vital to overall well-being. With a regular practice, you will notice your energy, stamina and vitality increase.
Diet—A fresh, vegetarian diet is encouraged. Study upon study has shown the long-term health benefits of a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. By following a vegetarian diet you will enjoy a reduced risk of obesity and a reduced risk of certain types of cancers. A vegetarian diet supports a green environment and is also in accordance with the principle of Ahimsa, or nonviolence.
Meditation—Make space in your life for daily meditation. Set aside a time of day that works best for you and your schedule, preferably in the early morning or evening, where you will not be disturbed. There are many different approaches to and disciplines of meditation. Choose the one that works best for you.
Pranayama—This breathing technique involves powerful exercises that increase lung capacity, decrease stress levels, help to eliminate toxins from the body and steady the mind, and should be practiced under the guidance of an experienced teacher. Begin with mastery of abdominal breathing, followed by the full yogic breath, eventually working into more advanced exercises. Proper breath will be developed over time, and soon you will find yourself incorporating the breath into your everyday life to combat stress or increase energy levels during hatha yoga.
Relaxation—Both physical and mental relaxation is required for optimum health. When the mind and body are overworked, the body’s ability to perform efficiently diminishes. Set aside time each day to detach from your worries. Also make sure to keep a regular sleep schedule.
Armed with this understanding, you can save yourself from the costs associated with health care and eradicate behaviors that bring on preventable disease and illness. You will enjoy a longer, happier life and you will take more pleasure in life’s greatest wealth—your health.