A path to a longer, mindful and peaceful life

Table of Contents

Medicine has altered the course of human history in the last two centuries. The average life expectancy has increased significantly, with the development of the smallpox vaccine in 1792, which led to the prolongation of human life from an average of 36 years to a hopeful 46, and currently stands at a glorious 80. The industrial revolution would not have been possible if medicine did not advance, and we probably would be living in a word very different from the current one. Two hundred and thirty years later, humanity evolved to identify and treat viruses like Covid-19 within months, producing vaccines that save lives without discrimination.

Meanwhile, when the world was moving from industrialisation to globalisation, a handful monks and yogis in the Indian subcontinent held on to ancient doctrines, wrongly perceived to be in conflict with science, that revealed to them a system, a philosophy, and a myriad techniques that paralleled the effects of advanced medicine. Even the British were baffled by accounts of  Swami Trailanga, who was believed to have lived a life of 280 years between 1607 and 1887! Similarly, on the banks of the river Yamuna, in the city of Mathura lived another ageless saint called Devraha Baba, growing to prominence in independent India and passing away in 1990.

These astonishing accounts revealed an aspect of ancient India that may have been overlooked, even by the very people who inhabit the subcontinent: the hidden power of yoga. Patanjali, the ancient Indian philosopher, mystic, and yogi compiled the Yoga Sutras, a comprehensive text outlining the theory and practice of Yoga. In the Yoga Sutras, a chapter named ‘Vibhuti Pada’ is mentioned that speaks about the powers of manifestation, and is believed to hold the answer to living a longer life. Hence, it comes as no surprise that yoga has reached corners of the world, putting India on the global map, presented with a dynamic system of ideas, meditative techniques and asanas that have proven to be effective and helpful in aiding people with all kinds of health-related concerns.

In light of tangible evidence, contemporary research on yoga reveals a number of beneficial health and well-being advantages. The effects of meditation on the sympathetic nervous system, the access to control of the default mode network present in humans through a range of breathing techniques or pranayama, and sequences consisting asanas that render flexibility, strength, balance, awareness, focus and attention are encompassed in the practice of Yoga. Described as a metaphorical ‘tree,’ the practice encapsulates eight branches for a healthy life, as systematised by Patanjali. The practice is aimed at controlling different forms of energy, situated among the various sections of the spine, and known as chakras. With aims of achieving balance, harmony, awareness and compassion, the philosophy of Yoga combines asanas into sequences, the consistent and regular practice of which can be used to activate and refine the various forms of energy or chakras. The long-term advantages provided by yoga include enhanced respiratory and cardiovascular functioning, strengthening and conditioning of organs, muscles and bones, in turn leading to better posture, confidence, energy and productivity. The impacts on anxiety, depression, trauma, and a range of other psychological issues of yoga are eminent. While ordinary people may not live for as long as two centuries, the life thus lived can be healthy. And as the saying goes, ‘a healthy mind dwells in a healthy body.’



Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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