Rajesh Rai - Cofounder | September 10

Yoga, not just for health benefits

Sahoja’s values are based entirely on the yamas, which are values of yoga. Sahoja is inspired by creating a digital world whose framework is embedded in them. Patanjali, in his yoga sutras, describes the yamas as universal values, which are not confined by time or space.

Sahoja believes these values can be practiced by anyone, anywhere and in any time, and this includes, in a digital world. This is the inspiration for our vision and mission in which:

we envision a world where online communities support our universal longing for connection and make spreading kindness our norm” 

and 

“we seek to provide online spaces to make it easy for people, companies, and nonprofits to build a better world together - one that puts humanity and the planet first.”

September is national Yoga month in the USA. The month was first designated as National Yoga Month in 2008 by the Department of Health and Human Services and it was to bring awareness of the health benefits of yoga. 

Things certainly have come a long way since 2008, and that is a lot to do with yoga’s phenomenal growth in recent years. 

Yoga alliance and Yoga Journal estimated, in a study they conducted in 2008 that 15 million people were practising yoga in the US. By 2012, this number had doubled. It is estimated by 2020, this number would have passed 55 million in the US alone.

The number of scientific studies reporting the benefits of yoga have, unsurprisingly, also increased significantly. The reported health benefits of yoga include: relieving anxiety (including panic disorders, phobias, PTSD), can reduce depressive symptoms, may provide relief for lower back pain and could improve the quality of life for conditions such as prostrate cancer, stroke, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, stimulates brain function, may reduce risk factors for heart diseases. And the list goes on and on and on.

It is now apparent we are a lot more aware of the health benefits of yoga postures since the first yoga month in 2008, but many of these benefits have been known for a very long time. Observations and insights have been passed down from teacher to student and books written, especially by the early teachers of yoga who travelled from India to the USA in the 60s and 70, describing each posture and their health benefits. Two favourites are Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar and Asana, Pranayam, Mudra Banda by Swami Satyananda Saraswati.  To reinforce the teacher/student relationship, it is no surprise that these legends of yoga in the West, BKS Iyengar and Satyananda Saraswati, were students of yoga’s luminaries, Krishnamacharya and Swami Sivananda.

Satyananda Saraswati’s Asana, Pranayam, Mudra Banda, describes; the postures, contra indications, benefits of each posture which are written in broad but understandable terms. In fact, in the introduction to the book, Swami Satyananda Saraswati states that “Physical and mental therapy is one Yoga’s most important achievements”. Examples of the health benefits of each posture in Asana, Pranayam, Mudra Banda would include for example: 

Sukhasana (a simple seating posture), “facilitates mental and physical balance without causing strain or pain” 

Shavasana (the corpse pose, lying on your back) “relaxes the whole psycho physiological system”

Makarasana (crocodile pose), “very effective for people suffering from slipped disc, sciatica, lower back pain or other spinal disorder. Asthmatics and people who have any other lung ailments should practise this simple asana regularly with breath awareness as it allows more air to enter the lungs”

Padashtasana (head to foot pose), “is useful in eliminating or preventing stomach or abdominal ailments. It reduces excess weight in the abdominal region, improves digestion and helps top remove constipation. It improves blood circulation, makes the spine supple and tones spinal nerves.”

Ek Pada Pranamasana (one legged prayer pose), “develops nervous balance, strengthens leg, ankle and foot muscles”

But the benefits of yoga are not confined to just physical health, just as yoga is not confined to postures. Classically, there are eight components to yoga. The third component is posture (Asana) but the first component to yoga is not about posture. It is about values, which are known as the Yamas (restraints). They provide fundamental values that can be practiced in the world we live in. There are five yamas:     

Ahimsa                   (non-violence)

Satya                       (truthfulness)

Asteya                     (non stealing)

Brahmacharya    (discipline/youthfulness)

Aparigraha            (non possessiveness)

Just as there are benefits to practicing yoga postures, there are also benefits to practicing these values of yoga. 

The codifier of yoga, Patanjali, describes the benefits of practicing these values in his Yoga Sutras, written almost two thousand years ago. And this is how Patanjali describes the benefits:

In the company of a yogi established in Ahimsa (non-violence), animosity vanishes.

When a yogi practices Satya (truthfulness), actions begin to bear fruit

When a yogi practices Asteya (non-stealing), all gems manifest

When a yogi practices Brahmacharya(discipline), he has the capacity to transmit knowledge

With a yogi practicing aparigraha (non possessiveness), comes complete understanding of the whyness of birth.

September has been designated yoga month to bring awareness of the health benefits of yoga. This has generally been known for many years. In recent years, science has also began to recognise these benefits. 

Maybe it is now time to also bring awareness to the benefits of the wider world of yoga.