Benefits of Yoga

Hatha yoga, the yoga of physical postures, is not a separate yoga science in its own right; rather it is the physical discipline of the integral teaching known as Raja Yoga. On a physical level union (yoga) signifies the complete harmony of all parts of the body.

Yoga (the neutralisation of the waves of feeling) returns man to his natural state. Applying this teaching to the body, we may understand that disease and other symptoms of bodily inharmony are not natural to man. If one can return to his natural state, disease will vanish as a matter of course. Western medicine, lacking this philosophical foundation, treats disease as a natural phenomenon, one to be conquered, to be driven out of the body with new, man-made nostrums, as if the conquest of disease were possibly only by battling the natural processes, by going against nature.

The yoga postures help to harmonize the body with natural law. The yogi is shown how to develop his own latent powers rather than lean weakly on some outer agent for his physical well-being. Inasmuch as ill health is the unnatural, not the natural, condition of the body, primary emphasis in hatha yoga is placed on freeing the body of any impurities that may prevent it from functioning as it should, rather than on introducing outside forces strong enough to destroy all disease.

Yogis and Western medical doctors both say that the toxins in the body soon leave the bloodstream and settle in the joints. Yogis go on to say that old age, too, settles first in the joints. Western medical doctors have actually stated that the spinal discs of many people, even in their twenties, already show signs of deterioration. Western systems of physical exercise - sports, calisthenics and the like - do not develop the limberness necessary to keep the joints free of toxins and the spinal column well irrigated with life force. In both of these matters, the science of hatha yoga stands supreme.

Hatha yoga also exercises a gentle massage on the internal organs and glands, gradually strengthening them to the point where providing outside aid for them becomes unnecessary. Much emphasis is given in yoga to the elimination of waste from the body. One form of waste not commonly regarded as such, is tension. Tension blocks the natural flow of energy in the body, paralysing one’s normal sense of physical and mental harmony. Human ills all derive from impairments in the body’s energy-flow. The main reason for eliminating waste from the body is to permit the free flow of energy. Thus the secret to success in yoga is relaxation, not strain. One should not force himself into a new condition, but seek only to free himself of tensions and inharmonies that have prevented him thus far from being fully himself.

Extract from The Art and Science of Raja Yoga by Swami Kriyananda