Body Wisdom

Understanding Yoga as the Integrated System of Holistic Wellness

With the emphasis on application promotion of the applied benefits of yoga, people are waking up to the potential that it holds. An increasing number of people is taking up yoga as a means to contain the low or high BP, keep it within the reference range or address diabetes or the hyperthyroid or hypothyroid. Though the application of yoga in any capacity is useful, however, it is time to invite people to pursue it in an integrated manner for holistic wellness.

When we talk about the yogic application in an integrated manner, we mean that it can be used to work on all three aspects body, spirit, and mind simultaneously and harmoniously. There have been some curative schools which work on one aspect at a time. Especially talking about the modern form of treatment, they focus primarily on body and to some extent on the mind, they don’t address the impact of inattentive lifestyle, on instinct and psyche, and spirit.


What does the integrated system mean?

The integrated system of yoga encourages us to look at how our health is impacted by our attention to the ‘head,’ ‘heart,’ and ‘hand.’ Choosing our food habits with an inquisitive mind, observing the impact of breathing practices and asanas is the application of mental faculty. Engaging in activities that helps us keep fit like playing, practicing some of the static and dynamic postures, and doing the chores refer to the application of hands. Investing time in distressing activities like listening to music that makes us calm, concentration practices, and revisiting the day’s activity before retiring are also some of the tasks which nurture the head. It expands our understanding beyond, ‘what is a healthy meal,’ ‘which are the foods for nourishment, easy assimilation, and elimination’ etc. We add ‘why,’ and ‘how’ aspect in our quest of wellness. It also provides us space for acceptance of our current challenges, and look for a gradual change rather than an overnight transformative approach. Application of mental faculty helps us understand that food and exercise is one component. To attain holistic wellness, we need to apply the understanding from different forms of yoga in our daily life. Let us consider two of the possible challenges we face in our everyday life in this context.


First example: Stopping an unhealthy habit

Suppose a person needs his or her morning chai to derive the energy to get out of bed, push through the chores. To STOP having ‘chai’ entirely won’t be practical advice for the person, and if he or she does it forcefully for whatever reason, it won’t be permanent. Here, we need first to accept the current situation and then add something to it. ‘Nishedh’ (disengagement) must be in sync with the ‘Pravritti’ (proper engagement). What will be advisable is that one adds a vegetable juice before continuing about the routine habit of sipping the first chai. Once this new habit is formed, and the taste buds get used to it, then giving up will be easier and lasting.

Another example: Binging the food of our liking such as dairy or non-veg with guilt

Giving in to cravings and harboring the guilt every time we binge could be a very strong deterrent. Even when we feel that ‘dairy causes mucous,’ wheat is glutinous and allergic, or ‘non-veg is not a healthy option’ we find it difficult to resist, and then we allow the guilt, rage or shame to seep in. In such a situation, we need to know what can be the counter step. The idea is not to repress the ensuing guilt but to think of adding the corrective habits like adding healthy foods like salad or fruits in the next meal or giving the dietary rest by observing fast after that. Some of us may not be very comfortable in following a strict food regimen. In this case, one may think of supplementing his habit with supportive asanas, pranayama intervention, or bowel cleansing (part of shatkarma) practices.


Interpreting the essence

The essence we derive from various forms of yoga can be implemented to nurture the integrated understanding of wellness from a yogic perspective. I find it interesting to incorporate the knowledge of integral yoga in our wellness pursuit. Cultivating an unbiased mindset on what food should we include in our daily meal, what should be the proportion, how we should eat will form the base of our ‘Jnana Yoga’ pursuit while working on an uplifting, creative pursuit as means to channelize the troubling emotions will form the base of ‘Bhakti Yoga’. Regular practices of asanas and pranayama practices (even of a short duration of 5-10 minutes) in feasible intervals that can be comfortably pursued in our schedule during the day rather is better than inconsistent practices for 30-40 minutes or longer duration in a day. This is a mental exercise which will form the basis of ‘Raja Yoga.’ Working on Asanas, Pranayamas, and Mudras to achieve physical and mental-psychic energy balancing will form the basis of ‘Hatha yoga.’ It is also referred to as lunar and solar energies in the being in yogic terminology.


Interpreting various forms of yoga

The purpose of yoga is to discover our inherent potential and in the integrated form of yoga propagated by institutions like Bihar School of Yoga imbibes the essence of various types of yoga for effective transformation of a person. These precepts can also be applied effectively to become a healthier person, mentally, physically, and emotionally.


Preyash's yogic insight is inspired from Bihar School of Yoga. To know more about the approach and tradition of its founder, Paramhamsa Swami Satyananda Saraswati please click

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