A recent lecture highlighted the spiritual elements of yoga, looking not only at yoga's history, but the ways in which it continues to benefit those who practice it.
Lecturer Ritcha Mehra-Chaudhary and the MU Vedic Society performed a demonstration and about the roots of yoga and spirituality in Pickard Hall in November.
After a humble salutation, "Namaste," the MU Vedic Society did a short demonstration of chanting that was a prayer to Ganapati. The prayer is done before starting anything in order to remove all obstacles.
The history of yoga spans the history of India within the Indus Valley Civilization, Mehra-Chaudhary said.
“Today, yoga is a $6 billion industry in the U.S.,” said Arthur Mehroff, academic coordinator of the Museum of Art and Archaeology.
One definition of yoga is an addition or union of self and supreme consciousness.
“Yoga is not just postures or exercises; it's spiritual oneness,” Mehra-Chaudhary said.
Some studies show that people who are spiritual heal faster, have lower blood pressure and are less likely to die in surgery.
“Spirituality and healing go hand in hand, studies show,” Mehra-Chaudhary said.
For a beginner, yoga contains three components: breathing exercises, physical postures and meditation.
Studies show these components can help those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety and insomnia. Some research shows they may even help cure asthma, Mehra-Chaudhary said.
Breathing exercises and physical postures not only help improve physical fitness, they also can improve lung capacity by controlling breath, according to one study.
One breathing exercise is the recitation of Om. It is done by breathing in and exhaling the sound “Om.” It is said that Om was the sound that was created when the universe was born, Mehra-Chaudhary said.
Another breathing exercise believed to help allergies and asthma is alternative nostril breathing. It is done by closing one nostril with you finger and inhaling, then alternating nostrils on the exhale, repeating on each side.
Deepika Menon, a member of the MU Vedic Society, demonstrated a sun salutation. The sun salutation is an exercise, but also is a prayer to the Hindu Sun God, Surya. A statue of Surya is part of the current exhibit at the Museum of Art and Archaology at MU, "Seeing the Divine in Hindu Art."
“Spirituality is a journey into self awareness,” Deepak Chopra, a physician and writer, once said. “And to me, yoga is too,” Mehra-Chaudhary said.