Rishikesh: The Yoga Capital of the World and Its Timeless Connection to Inner Wellness

Reading Time: 9 minutes Rishikesh: The Yoga Capital of the World and Its Timeless Connection to Inner Wellness What would you say if I told you that I know a sure-shot healing method to alleviate the effects of that occasional nagging stress headache, that resident constipation, those tired eyes, the slowly emerging pot-belly etc. etc. Yes, you got it right! There is one superpower that can be used by all of us for a healthy body and mind and it is called Yoga!! You can call it the next best medicine, after laughter (as laughter is the best medicine). Yoga has now become a lifestyle, which is helping thousands of people all across the globe, to build a good body and mind and improve the quality of life.   We can trace the origins of Yoga to Rishikesh, aka Hrishikesh, which is known as the Yoga Capital of the World. It is nestled in the Shivalik Himalayan range in the district of Dehradun, in the state of Uttarakhand in India. It is a famous place having religious significance and a spiritual realm for visitors. The landscape, the ambience, the fresh air, the pleasant weather, the positive vibes, and the river banks, all, make it the ideal place to be rightly called the Yoga Capital. The word Rishikesh evolves from Sanskrit, where “Hrishika” denotes the senses and “Isha” denotes God i.e. Lord of the Senses.   There are numerous Ashrams, Schools and centres of Philosophical studies, Yoga and ancient Indian Wellness traditions situated here. As you all must know, the Beatles were a very, very famous British Rock band in the early Sixties. They were invited by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a Yoga guru (teacher) who founded the technique of Transcendental Meditation. The Beatles practiced meditation and Yoga here and being away from the limelight, they were able to relax. This calm state of mind enhanced their creativity and they wrote more than 50 songs during their stay here. These songs went on to become very popular i.e. ‘Blackbird’, ‘Dear Prudence’, ‘Everybody’s got something to hide except me’, Sexy Sadie, to name a few, which were part of their albums The White Album and Abbey Road. Little did we know that these songs were ‘made in India”, that too in the 60s!! This marked the beginning of the popularization of Yoga across the World, as people were gradually learning about the concept of inner peace and harmony towards a meaningful life.   Whereas the humble beginnings of Yoga in Rishikesh can be traced back to centuries. The ancient texts like the Vedas and Puranas have mention of Yoga in them. Historians say that Lord Rama did penance for killing Ravana in the caves and forests of Rishikesh. It is also said that Lord Shiva practised Yoga as he was always seated in Padmasana (Lotus pose) and his dance form of Nataraja is an amalgamation of Yogic postures. Historians also state that Lord Vishnu appeared to a sage Raibhya Rishi here and that Rishikesh is another name for Lord Vishnu. The Sage Maharishi Patanjali is known as the Father of Yoga, and his treatise Yoga Sutra dates back to 2000 (two thousand years)! His writings are relevant to this day as they are a simple compilation of diverse and complex historical texts. Yoga is a Sanskrit word which means “to yoke, to unite”. In simple terms, this means the union of the mind, body and senses, where they all become one, for self-enlightenment.   Yoga Sutra states that there are eight limbs of Yoga: 1) Yama – Meaning abstinence from unethical practices: We need to awaken virtues like Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (Truthfulness), Asteya (Non-stealing), Brahmacharya (Chastity) and Aparigraha (Non-Avarice). We need to stop being violent by word or deeds, always speak the truth, be content with what we have and not think of stealing from others in any situation, utilise our energy in better things instead of indulging in mindless sexual encounters and stop being greedy of wealth, position, power and possessions.   2) Niyama – Meaning Observances of positive practices: We need to follow positive practices like Saucha (Purity of mind, speech and body), Santosha (Contentment), Tapas (Self-discipline), Svadhyaya (Study of Vedas, self, and self-introspection), Isvarapranidhana (surrendering to a higher power/God). We need to cleanse our minds of bad thoughts, cleanse our speech from using foul language, clean our bodies to maintain good hygiene/health, be content with what we possess, control our desires, read-study and learn from the scriptures Vedas, learn about ourselves, learn about our inner sense and give up to the powerful presence of God.   The Yama and Niyama control our weaknesses and cultivate a sense of good character. 3) Asana – Meaning Posture: We need to practice various Yogic postures till we are comfortable and relaxed, motionless and can hold the posture/s for a short duration.   4) Pranayama – Meaning breath control: We need to control our breath by regulating and focusing on our breathing in and out, deep breaths, that bring about a sense of calmness.   5) Pratyahara – Meaning withdrawal of senses:  We need to disregard our physical senses look within and become more aware of our inner self. Instead of concentrating on the sounds around you, focus and listen to your breathing, which will bring you a deep sense of relaxation and increased awareness. Not easily done, but not impossible, either!   These three limbs cultivate control over the mind, body and senses. 6) Dharana – Meaning concentration: We need to focus on a particular object/concept/place or idea and concentrate on it. This can be done by focusing on an object/a Mantra (chant)/our breathing/our navel/the tip of our tongue. The magic here is to concentrate as this will help quieten your mind and ward off any other thoughts. This helps in stress management and improves physical and mental wellness.   7) Dhyana – Meaning Meditation: We need to focus our attention on our breath for some time. This will train our minds to concentrate on what is imperative/required and

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