On the physical level, one could argue that yoga is like other forms of exercise. Yogis however, will naturally affirm that yoga has something extra to offer as a practice of physical exercises alone.
Physical culture promotes muscular growth and strength. Its exercise routines - including resistance training, stretching and posture correction - develop body muscles, but in the process encourage violent movements of the muscles. Rapid movement causes strain on the heart, fatigue, muscle stiffness and injury. The development of muscular body in competitive sports doesn't always mean a healthy body and mind.
Yoga is a way of life that lasts for life. Unlike competitive sports - which usually become too demanding with age - in yoga there is no rivals or competition, and one doesn’t compete with oneself. The yoga approach and practice differ from physical culture by whole-hearted attention that is given to the postures without straining, forcing, frowning or teeth clenching present in competitive sports.
Not only can yoga practice cultivate muscle strength and the mental abilities of the mind, but it also helps to relieve muscular tension. A yogi can develop control over the involuntary muscles of his body.
In yoga, all movements are calm and gradual, including proper breathing and relaxation. This allows the practitioner to understand his or her body and, by mindfully focusing on the movements to quieten the busy mind.
Any excess carbon dioxide produced by working muscles stimulates the heart to beat more strongly without straining. Yogic exercises resist violent muscle movements because they produce a lot of lactic acid in the muscle fibers, causing fatigue. Unlike tiredness in physical culture, relaxation and alertness at the same time, are the products of an effective, correct yoga practice.
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Trataka is a form of focus meditation, concentrating on a single object.
Trataka, or steady gazing is one of the six kriyas, the purifying methods of Hatha Yoga. It aims to clear the vision.
As a kriya, trataka requires the practitioner to maintain the gaze until the eyes begin to water. In the practice of concentrative visual meditation one can blink naturally, and as the eyes get tired, close them and imagine the object of contemplation in the inner vision, before your mind’s eye.
When focusing the eyes on an object, whether internal (like the tip of your nose) or external, with practice the mind becomes absorbed in the concentration on the object, and consequently when concentration is maintained with ease, one can explore the deeper levels of consciousness.
One begins to simply look and see the object for what it is, its essence, rather than its verbal and mental label. This leads to stillness and clarity of the mind that in turn allows the practitioner to experience Samadhi, the ultimate goal of yoga.
Steady Gaze Meditation is therefore a great concentrative preparatory technique of meditation.
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