Regular daily practice of yoga gives unimaginable benefits to body, mind and spirit. I write from my personal experience. In your body, you maintain elasticity and muscle tone, and awake subtle sensory perceptions. In your mind, you acquire a growing clear thinking and serenity, never felt before. In your spirit, you experience the vitality and dynamism of the energy flow. And that happens exactly in this chronological order, day after day. The feeling of well-being is infinite.
Now, in the execution of the postures, yoga is a very well known and widespread discipline also in gyms. Often, it can happen to see people, who practice outdoors in public parks. In the Seventies, with some publications, the first attempts to spread it in its theoretical aspects were made. Attempts which, more than intrigue and induce readers to practice this holistic discipline, might have intimidated them and compelled them to give up.
These texts contain mainly technical terms in Sanskrit, which explain its theoretical concepts. I found, for example, the comic-strip book of yoga translated from French. It is certainly the right idea to better illustrate the various positions, but in the theoretical part it is really heavy. It has the same heaviness, which I expected and which I found in the “Treccani” encyclopaedia of that time. Maybe, it was a way to give official character and authoritativeness to an Eastern discipline that was new for that time.
A dictionary of the Eighties of Italian language describes yoga this way: “A Sanskrit word, which literally means “union” from the verb of Indo-European origin yunákti “to join”. Philosophical-religious system of ancient India, which aspires to the mystical union of one’s own essence with the Supreme Being through a propaedeutic technique of the domain of body and senses, with the acquisition of special faculties and with the enhancement of paranormal powers. Usually, a gymnastic technique of breathing and of movements from a far Eastern origin and influence”.
Since, unfortunately, yoga has become a gym discipline, reading again its real theoretical basis can be useful and interesting. It allows to clarify and to avoid misunderstanding. Below, there is what is written, briefly, in the books of the Seventies that I read.
Yoga is not a philosophy, nor a gym practice, nor a religion. It is a discipline, which considers people in the union of their mental and physical parts and which guides them to the discovery of their innermost essence. The physical body corresponds to the anatomical body, as we already know it, and is also traversed by circuits (Nadi), through which the vital energy (Prana) flows. Prana is a principle of life both physical and mental. It is a kind of dowry (vital and mental energy) assigned at birth to each being, which can be preserved through two systems open on the cosmos: the respiratory system and the digestive system.
Prana is connected to breathing. At birth, we have a certain number of breaths (or of energy) available. If we slow down the rhythm, our life time should be longer. Furthermore, the daily practice of breathing would act on nutrition, reducing the amount of food needed for our body.
A person, who practice yoga, is called yogi and is vegetarian or vegan. During mastication, the prana, that is the energy, contained in food is absorbed by the body.
The practice of yoga allows to wind up the rhythms of the body to the cosmic rhythms.
Yoga compares a person to an onion with an internal physical body (sharira), an intermediate subtle body, and an external causal body. The physical body has a single sheath (or covering, or coffer, known in Sanskrit as kosha), which is that of nourishment. The subtle body has three sheaths: one of vital energy, one of discursive thought, and one of intelligence. The causal body has the sheath of happiness.
In the body there are also seven centers of latent energy called chakras.
The full practice of Indian yoga, intended as an ascetic itinerary, develops in eight stages: five prohibitions (or repressions), five requirements (or observances), positions, breathing, withdrawal from senses with inner concentration, focusing attention on only one object of thought, meditation, and ecstasy. Yoga means “yoking”, precisely with reference to the discipline, which the ascetic imposes on its spontaneous psychological and physiological processes. It is essential to have an experienced teacher (guru) as a guide in these stages.
The yoga origin is mysterious, it is lost in the mists of time and in the uncertainty of the place of origin. This discipline was taught and handed down in great secret in the East. It arrived in the West only at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Yoga, when practiced regularly, is happiness and joy.
Paola Morgese, PMP
Civil Hydraulic Engineer
M.S. Sanitary and Environmental Engineering
Maud Forget, Ghislaine Andrèani, Max Lenvers, Lo yoga – Un’arte per vivere felici, Longanesi & C., Milan, 1977
Various authors, Lessico Universale Italiano, Istituto dell’Enciclopedia Italiana Treccani, Rome, 1976 – 1981
Nicola Zingarelli, Vocabolario della lingua italiana, Zanichelli, Bologna, 1988
Translation of the Italian blog post: Paola Morgese, Yoga anni Settanta