The following is derived from Chinmayi’ Dore’s best-selling book, BodyMAGIC! – an End to Emotional Eating Forever, available on Amazon.
The History of Yoga
Yoga originates in India. Historians believe that its practices go back over 5,000 years. The word ‘yoga’ comes from the Sanskrit word ‘yug’ meaning ‘yoke’ or ‘union’. We have come to know yoga as a 60 or 90-minute class of holding beautiful shapes, given the names of animals and other things in nature. What many people don’t realise is that asana (postures or poses), is just one part of a holistic practice. And it’s a superb part to start with! This aspect of yoga has swept the western world with a wave of healing so big, it’s palpable. I thought it was just me, but when I started to teach, I began to hear, understand and realise just how powerful an effect yoga has on so many people, in so many ways.
About 2,000 years ago, the Yoga Sutras were compiled, by Patanjali. They are 196 verses (‘sutra’ means ‘thread’) representing, very specifically, the science of yoga. The key thing that you can observe from these verses, is that yoga has more to do with the mind than the body. The only time asana or any physical practice is mentioned in these texts is with the aim of preparing the body to sit comfortably in meditation! The word ‘asana’ means ‘comfortable seat’ and it is believed that our word for our butt – ‘ass’ or ‘arse’ (if you’re British) comes from it!
“Yoga is the practice of quieting the mind.”
What does modern yoga look like?
If you live in the ‘West’, you will find yoga is mostly a physical (called asana) class. I use the term ‘West’ lightly, as now many cultures in what is considered the ‘East’ are finding a new wave of yoga in their communities. This is called Hatha Yoga. It is the yoga for improving health in the body and mind. The word ‘Hatha’ is made up of two words, Ha (sun) and Tha (moon). In yoga philosophy these represent opposing energies. Therefore, the purpose of Hatha yoga is to balance body and mind. An effectively-balanced practice will include warming sequences (including spinal movements in all directions), standing, seated, downward and upward facing poses, balancing and twisting poses, various breathing techniques to suit aspects of the practice (called Pranayama), a relaxation (called Savasana) and maybe a meditation or focus for the class.
A class is usually 60 or 90 minutes and is done in bare feet, usually on a sticky mat. There are sometimes props available to help you to adjust more comfortably or even to go deeper into a pose. It is important to be there at the start of the class and stay until the end, because a carefully planned class will offer the balancing benefits as it progresses. You should refrain from eating anything within 90 minutes to two hours before the start time, as most of yoga works really deeply within the digestive system. Make sure you are comfortably hydrated before your class and have water ready for after the class. Yoga is extremely detoxifying. Water will help this process continue. So it makes sense to avoid as many toxins as you can, for as long as you can, either side of your practice.
A weekly class is wonderful. You will learn so much. You will see many more benefits much more quickly if your overall aim of going to a class is to learn a home practice. It doesn’t need to be a long practice and you will probably feel a bit lost in the beginning. But once you know a couple of sequences e.g. sun breath or sun salutation, you soon get into a flow. One of the benefits of home practice is that you can just move your body as it needs it. You find that your body needs some poses more than others and that may change day to day. What is certain is that you will never regret doing your yoga practice! Just get into some comfortable clothes and stretch! The MAGIC! in your personal practice is that you are moving from within the needs of your body. This connection is one of the main ingredients of BodyMAGIC!
“Yoga doesn’t take time, it gives time.”
~ Ganga White
What will it do for me?
I have hundreds of unsolicited testimonials from my students telling me what it has done for their lives. Yoga HEALS!
Here’s an overview of some of those benefits:
- Improves sleep quality and quantity where needed
- Balances, and where needed, calms the nervous system, helps with headaches, migraines and diseases of the nervous system
- Detoxifies the body through moving lymph more efficiently and massaging the abdominal organs
- Encourages deeper breathing, sending more oxygen to the cells, improving all the body’s systems, increasing lung capacity, heart health and lung detoxification
- Slows down the ageing process by improving regeneration of cells
- Boosts immunity by maintaining the proper intake of nutrients into the body from food and getting proper rest
- Reduces stress by teaching us how to relax. Most of us can sleep, but rarely do we truly relax
- Yoga asana lengthens and stretches tight muscles, reducing tension on joints, thereby preventing injury. The extra range of movement afforded by asana allows joints to shift toxins and welcome fresh nutrients that keep them supple
- It is thought by yoga experts that the health of the spine has a direct link with ageing. It is not difficult to see why. A full range of movement through asana not only improves posture on and off the mat, it prolongs the life of the discs, encouraging the movement of healthy spinal fluids
- Helps to alkalise the body, reducing the risk of all illness, disease and emotional imbalance
- Helps to balance all of the emotions and stop us overreacting to situations beyond our control. This enhances our relationships and makes for a more fulfilling life
- Reduces cravings for food and drinks that do not serve us, and other substances that are harmful to our long-term health.
- Overall improvements in health can reduce our dependency on all medications and therefore their potential side effects are eliminated
- Increases our confidence, which helps us stick to our goals and enhances our personal power to show us that we are in control. Yoga strengthens our instincts
- Increases focus and concentration. Yoga helps to de-clog the mind so that we are able to find more creative solutions to life’s challenges
- Helps to balance all hormones. This is great news for diabetics (helps lower blood sugar and regulates insulin), for those suffering with PMT/PMS, menopause or difficult periods, and for stress sufferers (reduces cortisol and need for excess food)
- Can balance circulatory problems, reducing hypertension and increasing circulation to extremities, strengthening the heart and cleansing the blood
- Depending on the practice, yoga can be very strengthening and weight-bearing, so particularly useful in the prevention of osteoporosis
“Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.”
~ B.K.S. Iyengar
These have been excerpts from Chinmayi’s book, BodyMAGIC!
In the book she gives you much more information, such as
Different Styles of Yoga,
How to Breath and even a
Beginners Practice with a link to a Short video.
“The act of giving your attention to only one thing, either as a religious activity or as a way of becoming calm and relaxed.”
~ the Cambridge Dictionary
As you will know meditation and yoga are actually different facets of a practice with the same goal – to be happy.
However, of all the concepts, options and practices in this book, meditation is the most important. It has already been proven to get results, and I will stand by it and shoot its benefits like fireworks from the rooftops for as long I live!
If the idea of sitting with your eyes closed, without thinking about your task list horrifies you then take a deep breath, make yourself a hot drink (without caffeine!), and open your mind. This will be a game-changer for you. It will break the circuit of suffering you have trudged around time and time again, trying to live in the body you dream of. It’s time to figure out exactly what goes on in your mind, whether it’s real and whether you really need to feel the pain of what is in it. Meditation is the key to the door of peace and self-knowledge. In The 7 Spells of BodyMAGIC! meditation is the Focus and Self-knowledge is the Understanding. It will help you, which is why meditation is the most important part of your daily practice.
The Science and the Stigma
Meditation is not a religion. In the yogic tradition, meditation is known as a state. It is part of yoga, not separate from it. Many people believe that yoga is Buddhist or Hindu. It is neither. Yoga, as the practice of meditation, has probably been around for 5,000 years.
Within the Yoga Sutras, meditation is referred to as one stage on the path to enlightenment. If you want to go deeper into traditional practices, now or in the future, the Sutras are worth studying. They were written in the ancient language of Sanskrit but there are many good translations.
It is a practice that helps us not to react to the things that can cause stress within the mind and body. It helps us to see the bigger picture, and learn that most of our negative thoughts are not real. It is always these reactions that cause us to overeat.
“Rather than being your thoughts and emotions, be the awareness behind them.”
~ Eckhart Tolle
It is not a particularly relaxing practice, although one can feel more relaxed afterwards, and with regular practice more relaxed in general. But actually practising meditation can feel like the opposite to relaxation. It can feel quite challenging at times. But guess what? These are likely to be the times when you need it the most.
A relaxation practice is usually quite different. Meditation is usually working on the mind. Relaxation is usually focused on relaxing the body. However, remember that both are connected.
Meditation is a science. Each session is an experiment. Every time you close your eyes in meditation, you are changing your physical, mental and emotional energies.
Modern science has proven what tradition has always known. Meditation really helps with all stress, including eating-related stress.
Eating behaviour is psychologically motivated. Researchers understand the emotional process in eating and are aware that increasing mindfulness, through the regular practice of meditation, changes emotional drives and will help us to have more control when we choose what we eat, how much and how often. It will help us to stick to our plans for losing weight.
What a result!
Mindfulness is one style (of many) of meditation that has really increased in popularity over the last few years. It has a clear structure, framework and practice, and because of this has been very popular in the corporate setting. However, it is a structure that is based on a very traditional practice that has been around for many centuries.
“All man’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone.”
~ Blaise Pascal
Benefits of Meditation
I really do believe that meditation can have an effect on just about every aspect of the mind and body, but here’s a taster to whet your appetite. Meditation:
- Relaxes the nervous system – calms stress and creates a relaxation response in the body
- Reduces negative thinking – allows us to see the bigger picture
- Balances hormones – especially those involved in stress, such as reducing adrenaline and increasing serotonin
- Improves immunity – by bringing all of the body’s systems back into balance
- A reduction in stress reduces the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular conditions
- A reduction in stress reduces the risk of digestive disorders such as Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome and other conditions related to acidity
- Slows down the ageing process
- Helps with chronic pain management
It is important to practice regularly and stick with it!
Within a week or two, you will start to feel subtle, but quite profound benefits.
For further reading, tips and even a free mediation recording, including a script that you can record yourself, please consider investing in Chinmayi’s book, BodyMAGIC! where she devotes a whole chapter to Meditation and it’s importance in overcoming emotional eating.