The ultimate objective of yoga is very simple: to bring about harmony between human mind, body and soul. Derived from the Sanskrit root, “Yuj”, which means “to unite”, the sole aim of yoga is to unite individual consciousness with the universal. Those who achieve this oneness of existence are termed “Yogis”, having attained freedom or “Moksha” from the cycle of reincarnation. Although the roots of this spiritual exercise can be traced to Hinduism and Buddhism, Yoga does not adhere to any particular religion. People from any background or ethnicity can benefit from the physical and mental wellbeing that is a by-product of Yoga, whose goal is to achieve the highest level of consciousness and harmony with cosmic forces.
Then why do advocates of different religions feel so conflicted by this exercise regime that only has health benefits to offer? Is it because of the chanting of “Om” during yogic meditation, as this chant is considered by Hindus and Buddhists to be the most primordial sound that brought the universe into being? Or is it due to some yogic positions like “Surya Namaskar,” which is a mark of respect for the Hindu Sun God?
Whatever their reasons, doing Yoga does not make anyone a Hindu, despite arguments to the contrary by Priest, Father John Chandler, who defended his decision to ban a Yoga class in a church hall of UK by stating, “Being a Catholic church, we have to promote the gospel, and that’s what we use our premises for”.
Yet, kneeling down for a yogic posture doesn’t necessarily mean praying, hence Muslims need not feel guilty of betraying Allah only because they are practising Yoga. The rationale behind Yoga and meditation is simply to bring about a stillness of mind that empties it off all thoughts – good, bad or neutral. It is not to fill the mind with religious beliefs.
Irrespective of naysayers, the fact remains that doing Yoga regularly bestows numerous health benefits on people, not limited to the few listed below:
- Improves flexibility
- Builds muscle strength
- Perfects the posture
- Increases blood flow
- Protects the spine
- Betters bone health
- Develops inner strength
- Fosters self-confidence
- Improves body image in one’s eyes
- Eases tension and anxiety
Note: Before you undertake a new exercise regimen, be sure to consult your doctor. The health benefits listed above are not a substitute to advice by your health practitioner.