The five points of yoga provides a structured and holistic approach to achieving holistic health. Covering both the physical and the spiritual, these principles cater to the entire human experience, ensuring harmony between body, mind and spirit.
Rooted in ancient wisdom, these five points are also the core principles of the practice of Sivananda Yoga, a school of yoga founded by Swami Sivananda and growing worldwide. This integrative approach is not merely a mode but a philosophy, urging you to reconnect with your inner nature and the profound truths of existence. In this article, LotusBuddhas will tell you what the five points of yoga are, and its importance in yoga practice!
1. Proper exercise (Asanas)
Proper exercise, represented by the practice of Asanas (or poses), is one of the fundamental pillars of yoga. Different from the conventional concept of exercise that emphasizes physical strength or endurance, Asanas are geared towards the holistic development of the individual.
These poses are inspired by the natural movements and postures of animals and are designed to not only improve muscle strength, flexibility and coordination, but also promote optimal performance. of internal organs, circulatory system, respiratory system and endocrine system.
The systematic practice of Asanas brings stability of the body and stillness of the mind, prerequisites for advanced stages of meditation. Furthermore, each Asana serves as a tool to better understand one’s body, face and resolve its limitations, and achieve a balance between physical and mental. By emphasizing proper alignment and conscious participation, the asanas teach the practitioner to approach challenges with focus, patience and grace.
Furthermore, the sequence and choice of asanas, when practiced mindfully, can have therapeutic benefits, addressing specific ailments or disorders. The deliberate stretch, hold, and release mechanisms inherent to Asanas stimulate blood flow, aid in detoxification, and enhance metabolic processes. The balance between strength and flexibility cultivated through Asanas helps in preventing injuries and ensures long-term health.
In the broader context of yoga, Asanas serve not only as physical exercises but as a means to prepare the body as a vehicle for higher spiritual activities. The stability, awareness and discipline fostered by regular practice of asanas form the foundation upon which deeper yoga experiences are built. Therefore, proper exercise through Asanas is not only a part but also an integral path in the holistic journey of yoga.
2. Proper breathing (Pranayama)
Proper breathing, expressed in yoga by the term Pranayama, refers to the art and science of controlling the breath. Derived from Sanskrit, where “Prana” means life force and “Yama” means control or restraint, Pranayama is conscious awareness and breathing regulation.
This practice goes beyond the basic act of breathing; it delves into subtle energy channels known as nadis and vital energy centers known as chakras, both of which are integral to yoga philosophy.
Breath in the yogic context is not merely a physiological function but a bridge between the body and the mind, the intangible and the intangible. The rhythmic patterns of inhalation, retention, and exhalation in Pranayama serve multiple purposes. First, they ensure an optimal intake of oxygen and the efficient expulsion of carbon dioxide, enhancing cellular respiration and overall vitality. This enriched oxygenation of blood has cascading benefits for the cardiovascular, neurological and metabolic systems.
Beyond the physical, Pranayama influences the mental and emotional states. Different techniques of Pranayama, such as Anulom-Vilom (alternate nostril breathing) or Bhastrika (bellows breath), can either stimulate or soothe the nervous system. This modulation aids in the management of stress, anxiety, and other emotional imbalances. By bringing the usually autonomic process of breathing into conscious control, Pranayama fosters mindfulness and present-moment awareness.
The significance of Pranayama within the overall discipline of yoga is paramount. It acts as a preparatory stage for deeper meditation and spiritual practices. As one gains mastery over the breath, the fluctuations of the mind, as described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, begin to subside, leading to a state of inner stillness and clarity. This mastery, in turn, lays the groundwork for Dharana (concentration) and Dhyana (meditation), essential components of advanced yogic practices.
Proper breathing is not merely an act but a journey – a journey from the gross to the subtle, from the outer physical world to the inner spiritual sanctuary. Therefore, its importance in the practice of yoga cannot be overstated; it is both a gateway and a path in the quest for total self-realization.
3. Proper relaxation (Savasana)
Proper relaxation, epitomized by the posture Savasana, often translated as the “Corpse Pose,” is an integral component of yoga that emphasizes the conscious release of physical, mental, and emotional tensions. While the act may appear passive, especially when contrasted with the dynamic nature of Asanas or the concentrated effort of Pranayama, Savasana is a deeply active process of intentional relaxation and rejuvenation.
Physiologically, during Savasana, the body is placed in a neutral position—lying flat on the back with arms and legs comfortably spaced apart, palms facing up natural, eyes closed, and breath. This posture facilitates blood circulation, aids in the reduction of muscle tension, and encourages the body’s homeostatic processes. Additionally, it aids in the integration and assimilation of the benefits derived from preceding Asanas and Pranayama, allows the body to recalibrate itself.
On a cognitive level, Savasana offers an opportunity for the practitioner to turn inwards and scan the body and mind for residual tension or restlessness. This introspective observation promotes mental clarity and fosters a deep sense of awareness. By consciously releasing these, the mind achieves a state of equanimity, paving the way for deeper meditative experiences.
Emotionally, Savasana provides a sanctuary—a brief respite from the incessant stimuli of the external world. In this haven of stillness, you can confront and process late emotions, traumas, or stresses, facilitating emotional healing and resilience.
In the overall context of yoga, while Asanas and Pranayama engage and energize the body and mind, Savasana ensures that this activation does not lead to exhaustion or burnout. It reminds you of the importance of balance—of exertion and rest, of activity and stillness.
In essence, Savasana is the embodiment of the yogic principle of surrender. It teaches one to let go, to relinquish control, and to trust the innate wisdom of the body and the universe. This lesson, integral to the philosophy of yoga, underscores the importance of proper relaxation not just as a pose but as a profound life practice.
4. Proper diet (Vegetarian)
Proper diet emphasizes the principle of “Ahimsa” or non-violence, often manifesting in the recommendation of a vegetarian diet. The premise is rooted not only in ethical considerations but also in the understanding of how food impacts the physical body, energy levels, mind and spiritual practices.
A vegetarian diet, as advocated by many yogic traditions, consists of foods that are Sattvic in nature. The term “Sattvic” originates from the Sanskrit word “Sattva,” which means purity, wholesomeness, and harmony. Sattvic foods are believed to be pure, clean, and energetically balanced, having the power to promote mental clarity, physical health, and spiritual growth.
Such foods include fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy products, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains. These nourishing items are contrasted with Tamasic (stale, over-processed, or fermented foods) and Rajasic (stimulating foods like spicy or caffeinated items) foods, which are believed to induce lethargy or restlessness respectively.
From a physiological perspective, a vegetarian diet provides essential nutrients without introducing excessive fats or toxins commonly found in processed or non-vegetarian foods. This ensures that the body remains light, energetic, and free from ailments, making it conducive for practices like Asanas and Pranayama. Moreover, the efficient digestion of Sattvic foods ensures that energy is not unduly expended in metabolic processes, leaving the practitioner with a surplus of vitality.
On a cognitive level, the purity and simplicity of a vegetarian diet have been linked with increased mental clarity, reduced anxiety, and a stable emotional state. Consuming foods that align with the principle of non-violence can also foster a deep sense of harmony with the environment and all living beings.
In the broader scope of yoga, proper diet transcends mere nutritional intake. It reflects a conscious choice to consume not only what is beneficial for the individual but also what aligns with the larger cosmic balance. The act of eating becomes a spiritual practice in itself, a form of Yama (ethical restraint) and Niyama (positive observance).
5. Positive thinking and meditation (Vedanta and Dhyana)
Positive thinking and meditation, encapsulated by the terms Vedanta and Dhyana respectively, constitute the mental and spiritual dimensions of the holistic yogic practice. These components address the intrinsic nature of thought, perception, and consciousness, guiding practitioners towards self-realization and transcendental wisdom.
Vedanta, derived from “Veda” (knowledge) and “Anta” (end or conclusion), is a philosophical system that delves into the ultimate truths and realities of existence. It explores the nature of the self (Atman) and the universe (Brahman) and their interrelation. By studying and contemplating the teachings of Vedanta, one cultivates positive thinking.
This is not merely optimism but a profound understanding that transcends dualities like pleasure and pain, success and failure. The wisdom of Vedanta equips an individual with the discernment to see challenges as opportunities, transient moments as part of a cosmic play, and every experience as a pathway to growth.
Dhyana, on the other hand, refers to meditation—a state of deep contemplation where the practitioner is fully immersed in the object of meditation, be it a concept, a sound, or the very process of meditation itself. Dhyana seeks to cultivate a stillness of mind, free from the constant flux of thoughts, emotions and perceptions. As one progresses in this practice, the distinction between the meditator, the act of meditation, and the object of meditation begins to blur, leading to a profound state of unity and bliss, often referred to as Samadhi in yogic literature.
The importance of positive thinking (Vedanta) and meditation (Dhyana) in the realm of yoga is paramount. While Asanas and Pranayama address the physical and energetic aspects, Vedanta and Dhyana cater to the mind and spirit. Through Vedanta, one refines the thought process, aligning it with universal truths. This refined mindset then becomes conducive to the practice of Dhyana, enabling deeper states of concentration and meditation.
These components, when integrated, lead to a balanced and harmonious life. The clarity and wisdom derived from Vedanta allow one to navigate the complexities of life with equanimity. Concurrently, the tranquility cultivated through Dhyana ensures that one remains centered, irrespective of external circumstances. Together, they propel the practitioner towards the ultimate aim of yoga: self-realization and union with the universal consciousness.
As you can see, the five points of yoga is a comprehensive blueprint for holistic wellness. From the right exercise through the postures, to a healthy diet and mind training… all of them together create a path to solving physical, energy, emotional problems and mental of the individual. Each point acts as a stepping stone, guiding the practitioner towards balance, harmony and enlightenment.