Foundation of Yoga is Built on Five Principles

For longtime yoga instructors and students, the five principles are the foundation of their interest in practice.  The five principles create the foundation of the practice of yoga and are the keys to a sound mind and body, the conduit through which all benefits flow.  By utilizing the five principles, yoga practitioners can achieve a level of enlightenment that can affect all aspects of their life.

The five principles are based on the ancient Indian science of health, life and longevity known as Ayurveda, which suggests that each of the principles be adhered to individually and within specific seasons to achieve health and well-being.

So what are the five principles?  Simply put, the five principles of yoga are proper exercise, proper relaxation, proper breathing, proper diet and medication.  Let’s examine each one.

Proper exercise is the principle based on the concept that our bodies need movement and exercise to maintain good health.  To maintain good health, the body must be put through special yoga asanas, or postures, that are designed to strengthen and maintain all parts of the body by enhancing flexibility, toning the muscles and improving circulation.  In addition, the proper exercise also improves mental functions as well by relaxes the body and improves the performance of the systems within.  By utilizing the proper exercise, the body and mind are taught to work in harmony.

Next, proper breathing (also known as Pranayama) teaches the body to maintain control of the prana, or life force, and in turn control its mental condition.  By learning proper breathing, a yoga student can learn how to increase their mental clarity and energy by practicing slow, deep, measured breathing.  Learning proper breathing can also allow a yoga practitioner to refresh their body and remove stress at times when tension may be high.  Proper breathing leads to a more focused and restful mind.

Proper relaxation, also known as Shavasana, means teaching the muscles to relax, thereby reducing stress and recharging the nervous system, leaving the yoga practitioner relaxed and with inner peace.  This feeling of inner peace can have an impact on your entire life, as you learn to release tension more easily and eliminate the chance of wasting energy.  When done in the right manner, proper relaxation involves the mind and spirit, as well as the muscles.

Proper diet helps the yoga practitioner achieve a pure mind and body, and yoga promotes this by offering a pure (satvic) diet which is made up of food that is A) easily digested and B) promotes health in the body and mind.  Natural, organic foods such as grains, vegetables, nuts, fruit and dairy products, are the most common components of a yoga-based diet, with vegetarianism also popular.  Many yoga practitioners believe that eating meat and meat products makes the body sluggish and restless and that the process required to digest meat takes away energy from the body that could be used elsewhere.   A proper diet to yoga practitioners means also eating in moderation and only when you are hungry.  In short, eating is another part of the process of maintaining a healthy mind, body and spirit.

Proper meditation is the final principle of yoga and it is considered, by many, to be the most important of the principles.  The mind controls every other aspect of the body and sustaining it involves practicing techniques that help keep it peaceful and relaxed.  Whether it is a few minutes a day to clear your mind of stress and tension, or a longer weekly session aimed at achieving an overall well-being, meditation can keep the entire body in a state of peace.

When combined into a complete yoga lifestyle, each of these principles can help the practitioner reach a state of mental and physical well-being that can have a positive affect on one's entire life.   The five principles are the building blocks of a life of peace and harmony.

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