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Contributed by : Darshan Goswami
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Yoga can be used effectively as a preventive medicine to slow down the aging process by reducing the catabolic process of cell deterioration and defy aging.

By Darshan Goswami, M.S, P.E.

Modern living is full of potential stresses and strainsmental, physical and emotional. More people are turning toward the principles and practice of yoga, which can be effectively used to slow down the aging process by reducing the catabolic process of cell deterioration. Yoga provides a natural counterbalance to the stresses of modern life; it can help you to achieve a sense of inner peace.

Yoga can help you improve your physical health by developing a fit and beautiful body, tone your muscle and internal organs, relieve inner tension, reduce weight, and strengthen your bones. Recent scientific studies have shown that the practice of yoga combined with meditation can have a beneficial effect on a variety of medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels, arthritis, asthma, chronic fatigue, arteriosclerosis, anxiety, stress, and postural problems. The regular practice of yoga can also improve self-esteem, boost your energy and vitality at any age of life, increase your powers of concentration and discipline, and improve heart conditions.

What is Yoga?
The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit term yuj, meaning "union" of mind, body, breath and spirit, and most importantly of the self to the divine. Hatha yoga, the type most commonly practiced in the West, concentrates on the physical body as the way toward self-realization.

Why Do Yoga?
With regular practice and over time, you will feel a subtle change in your lifethrough toning and relaxing the body and stilling the mind, you begin to achieve inner peace, which is your true nature. Yoga can help you slow the aging process by keeping the body parts well lubricated and reducing the catabolic process of cell deterioration. As you age, you may discover aches your body never knew before. Sometimes ailments like diabetes or cardiovascular problems start showing up. You can reverse this aging tide by doing yoga, which also produces counter-hormones that keep insulin under check.

Yoga keeps your body happy, especially in old age. It improves mood; promotes relaxation; strengthens muscles, tendons and ligaments that support joints; contributes in pain relief; strengthens bones; improves blood circulation; enables deep concentration that promotes thinking; and fights stress. Most importantly, it enhances self-awareness.

Yoga is especially good for people with arthritis. Today the concept of aging is changing because yoga exercises dramatically increase cardiovascular fitness, raise metabolic rate, and improve brain function as well as reaction time so much that a fit 60-year-old may have a better reaction time than someone in their twenties. Yoga works on activating the parasympathetic nervous system.

Alice Christensen, founder of the American Yoga Association, writes in the book Age Eraser for Women, "So many things you do in your life are energy users. But yoga provides a constant source of energy. When you practice yoga, you actually have more vitality and vigor. I really think it can make you feel younger."

Deep Relaxation
Relaxation is an essential part of yoga practice. Most people find it difficult to relax because they have never learned how to do it. The best way is to breathe; to consciously inhale and exhale through the nose to regulate breathing. Extending an exhalation promotes relaxation. Doing slow, deep and rhythmic diaphragm or abdominal breathing delivers oxygen fully into the lungs, so that the body receives the amount necessary to nourish cells. When you breathe properly, more oxygen reaches the lungs and more waste products like carbon dioxide are expelled. Breathing exercises can be done lying on your back or stomach, sitting in a chair or standing upright.

The Five Principles of Yoga
Before beginning any yoga postures (asana), it is important to ease yourself into the session by warming up the muscles and joints for five minutes.

1.Relaxation: Rest your entire body and release tension in the muscles (yoga exercise and relaxation can restore the body's normal energy flow and calm the mind).
2. Exercise: Performed regularly, the yoga postures (known as asanas) help to stretch and tone all the body muscles and strengthen bones, improve circulation, and help to relieve depression by increasing endorphins in the body.
3. Breath Control (known as pranayama): Proper breathing technique increases the capacity of the lungs. It can help to strengthen the internal organs, improve mental clarity and control, and deepen your ability to relax.
4. Well-Balanced Diet: A well-balanced diet will boost the immune system, ensure better health, and calm the mind.
5. Meditation and Power of Positive Thinking: Yoga promotes positive thinking. It can train you to control your mind, and lead to self-realization.

How to Practice Yoga
Anyone can practice yoga. You don't need special equipment or clothes. All you need is a small space and a strong desire for a healthier and happier life. The yoga postures exercise every part of the body including joints, muscles, the spine, internal organs, glands, nerves, and the entire skeleton. A yoga mat and a small pillow can be very helpful in yoga practice. In addition, it may be helpful to find a teacher who is able to provide in-depth instruction on poses, breathing and mental awareness. Under the guidance of an experienced teacher, each person can modify the practice to complement her own physical and mental condition.

Benefits of Yoga
Yoga poses take a body through a range of motions, including sitting, standing, bending forward and backward, inversions and lying down. The stretching, bending and twisting in yoga increase flexibility of the muscles and joints, and message internal organs and glands. Yoga increases the capacity of heart and lungs, and improves the immune system. While the physical benefits are all well and good, the greatest gifts yoga brings are those of strength, awareness and self-love or self-acceptance.

"Yoga exercises burn extra calories, reduce fat and balance hormones in the body," says Marie Schum-Brady, M.D.,an Arlington, Virginia, doctor and yoga practioner who emphasizes preventative medicine and good nutrition in her medical practice and uses medications only as a last resort.

Yoga also improves the circulation, providing a rich supply of nutrients and oxygen to all the cells of the body. One of the most significant benefits of the yoga asana is strengthening and purifying the nervous system, the spinal cord and spinal nerves. The stress relief afforded by yoga practice allows the neurological system and the blood circulation to function effectively. As the body starts to relax, certain physiological changes will occur, such as a drop in pulse rate. Yoga also helps reduce fatigue, releases and expel toxins, and revitalizes the entire system.

Once you start to incorporate yoga into your daily life, it will quickly become an enjoyable and natural habit rather than a chore. Many people also use yoga to fulfill the spiritual gap in their lives caused by the fast and stressful pace of modern living.

Yoga shows us that happiness is not something outside ourselves. We all have it already. We just don't realize it. Yoga provides a higher state, a gradual rise of consciousness and stilling of the mind. The practice of yoga also brings more compassion and caring. The ultimate message of yoga is that happiness comes through control of mind. Remember, yoga can be effectively used as a preventive medicine to slow down the aging process by reducing the catabolic process of cell deterioration and help us achieve inner peace.



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