International Yoga Day will be held on 21 June.
India prepares to break a record.
International Yoga Day on June 21 is expected to see a record participation with nearly 60,000 people performing in unison in a quest for the Guinness record. Daily yoga practitioners from the network of yoga schools in the city did not turn up for the practice as they perform the exercises regularly, but will constitute the core during the main event on June 21.
Yoga’s history has many places of obscurity and uncertainty due to its oral transmission of sacred texts and the secretive nature of its teachings. The early writings on yoga were transcribed on fragile palm leaves that were easily damaged, destroyed or lost. The development of yoga can be traced back to over 5,000 years ago, but some researchers think that yoga may be up to 10,000 years old old. Yoga’s long rich history can be divided into four main periods of innovation, practice and development.
The beginnings of Yoga were developed by the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India over 5,000 years ago. The word yoga was first mentioned in the oldest sacred texts, the Rig Veda. The Vedas were a collection of texts containing songs, mantras and rituals to be used by Brahmans, the Vedic priests. Yoga was slowly refined and developed by the Brahmans and Rishis (mystic seers) who documented their practices and beliefs in the Upanishads, a huge work containing over 200 scriptures. The most renowned of the Yogic scriptures is the Bhagavad-Gîtâ, composed around 500 B.C.E. The Upanishads took the idea of ritual sacrifice from the Vedas and internalized it, teaching the sacrifice of the ego through self-knowledge, action (karma yoga) and wisdom (jnana yoga).
In the pre-classical stage, yoga was a mishmash of various ideas, beliefs and techniques that often conflicted and contradicted each other. The Classical period is defined by Patanjali’s Yoga-Sûtras, the first systematic presentation of yoga. Written some time in the second century, this text describes the path of Raja Yoga, often called “classical yoga”. Patanjali organized the practice of yoga into an “eight limbed path” containing the steps and stages towards obtaining Samadhi or enlightenment. Patanjali is often considered the father of yoga and his Yoga-Sûtras still strongly influence most styles of modern yoga.
A few centuries after Patanjali, yoga masters created a system of practices designed to rejuvenate the body and prolong life. They rejected the teachings of the ancient Vedas and embraced the physical body as the means to achieve enlightenment. They developed Tantra Yoga, with radical techniques to cleanse the body and mind to break the knots that bind us to our physical existence. This exploration of these physical-spiritual connections and body centered practices led to the creation of what we primarily think of yoga in the West: Hatha Yoga.
Meditation place in modern science.
Scientists have known for a few years that people who meditate have different brain structures from the rest of us. What hasn’t been proven is that it’s actually the meditation that affects our grey matter. Now a landmark study has not only shown that there’s a direct connection, but that meditation can change our brains for the better in just eight weeks – even if we’ve never done it before.
In a study published in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging earlier this year, US researchers measured the brains of 16 people who had never meditated before, and then did so again after the group had completed an eight-week meditation program. During that time, the group spent an average of 27 minutes a day practising mindfulness meditation, a particular style of meditation which focuses on non-judgmental awareness of sensations, feelings and states of mind.
After the program, tests done on the group found there was increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, the area of the brain associated with learning and memory, and in other brain structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection. There was also a reduction in size of the amygdala, the part of the brain which controls anxiety and stress.
In other words, the silent practice of meditation changes the structure of our brains, boosting the areas that help us focus, remember things and be self-aware, while reducing the areas that can make us feel anxious and stressed.
US-based meditation master Thom Knoles, who is visiting Australia this month, says this research proves what long-term meditators have known for thousands of years.
“Practising meditation helps us see things clearly, have a stronger sense of self and puts the stresses in our lives into proper perspective,” he says.
“Research indicates the effects of meditation are not just that the brain is growing more grey matter, but that the brain is learning how to repair itself organically. It would not be out of the question to assume that the brain is actually regenerating brain cells.”
This article has been prepared with a variety of information on the International Yoga Day. And your understanding of the Atlantic.