Have I ever told you how and why I started my Yoga classes?
Benny’s dad was moving to another city and so was she. I wanted to spend most of the time of the day with her, but she obviously got busy with packing her things and making other arrangements.
The only time I could meet Benny was during our Yoga classes. I was not a regular to the classes before this, but Benny was and if I had to make the most of our few days together then this was the only way. So, my goal for practicing Yoga then was- “Spending time with Benny!
Though our instructor was disciplined and strict, not allowing us to chit chat during the sessions at all, I enjoyed nevertheless. I enjoyed Benny’s company and surprisingly I also discovered that I enjoyed yoga too.
Benny left, as she was destined to, but I did not leave the Yoga class. I ultimately took the ‘Yo!’ out of the Yoga and went ‘Gaga’ over its benefits and got marching – not towards my ‘friendship goal’, but towards my ‘fitness goals’ in just a couple of months!
I’m sure that a few others too took up Yoga for some weird reasons like I did. But, do you realize most of us have ‘reasons’ to take up Yoga, and very few of us have ‘goals’?
Goals for Yoga
It is very important to have a goal fixed in mind before kick- starting your Yoga practice. This gives you a one-track mind. With your expectations from the class better defined, you know exactly where you are heading to and keep realizing on your way how you are benefiting from the practice.
Also, a goal will steer your physical and mental life better and direct each day as it comes. Goals can differ depending upon your needs, lifestyle, or circumstances. I have listed a few here which I thought are the most sought after.
Staying Fit with Yoga
Most people believe yoga is all about the poses, and spirituality is just another element. Whereas the truth is that yoga is a spiritual practice with a physical element associated with it. Think of the poses as if they were some vehicle to take you to your goals. Even if you do not want to become spiritual, you’ll get fitter.
And as we all are aware, staying fit and healthy through Yoga is the most ‘in demand’ goal these days. It targets specific body parts without costing much effort, pain or even finances!
Moreover, it’s a low impact workout so anyone can do it. Most people go for two days of yoga just to become more flexible and reduce the risk of other workout injuries. Women in my circle use it to cleanse their body from toxins, if not anything else.
So, if your goal is similar to the people I have talked about above, this is what you need to do:
1. Assess your present level of fitness using this article.
2. Set a tangible goal for yourself, for example,
“I want to be able to run a 5 k after 4 months into yoga” or “I want to be able to walk straight lifting a pail of water in each hand”, and so on.
3. Analyze the number of days or hours you can invest in yoga.
4. Hire a Yoga instructor or join a Yoga class. You can even buy Yoga DVDs (do-it-yourself kind) if you want to do it all on your own.
5. Chalk out a fitness routine or plan it with the help of your instructor who understands your requirements.
6. Get started!
Yoga: The Therapy
Yoga allows the mind and body to relax, slows down the breathing process, and helps us to focus on the present moment, thus providing therapeutic benefits to its students.  It generates energy in the body which helps cure illnesses and strengthens the immune system on the whole.
Your Yoga instructor can guide you with poses to treat a particular problem or illness and one-on-one therapy sessions will improve your health and life quality in return.
To take up Yoga as a therapy:
1. Spot the problem. Have your illness or health issue clearly stated in front of you. (For e.g., I want to keep my B.P. under check or I wish to find relief from Sciatica).
2. Hire a Yoga instructor and meet up before the session. Discuss your goal of taking up Yoga as a therapy for a particular ailment and in what ways Yoga can help you with it.
3. Fix up specific Yoga poses, a workout routine, breathing techniques and even a diet plan required to cure the ailment.
4. Follow it up with dedication and continued guidance from your instructor.
Yoga as a Way of Life
What if I told you that you can get ‘the Best Employee of the Year’ award or a salary hike at work, with the help of Yoga! It might amuse you to know that a study conducted on employees in several organisations showed that adopting Yoga as a way of life improved managerial performance, impacted leadership traits positively and enhanced Emotional Intelligence (EI) in them. 
Most of us think that Yoga is only about practicing postures, breathing techniques and meditation. Yoga is not just a form of exercise, but also a way of life. Practicing the Yoga way of life can totally transform an individual’s personality on all fronts and change the way one looks at life.
This is how you can adopt Yoga as a way of life and bring it into practice:
1. Begin with your thoughts. Your thoughts are with you all the time. So start with a change of thinking. Think positive!
2. Sleep well. Good sleep can lead to a happier day the next morning. When you start with a fresh mind, things will seem easier and nothing will irritate you.
3. Alter your food habits. Practice self-control while eating. Regulate and monitor the quantity and variety of food that you eat. “You are what you eat” does sound cliche but it still is absolutely true.
4. Once all the above changes are made, your external behavior will automatically get affected for good. You will feel more confident and calm from inside which will involuntarily affect your daily habits and conduct and soon you will see how Yoga has become your way of life and changed you positively.
The best way to adopt Yoga as a way of life, is by following the eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga given by Patanjali. Begin with Yama and summarize with Samadhi as explained below:
⇒ Yama: Practice non-violence, speaking the truth and non-stealing. Avoid getting over involved in materialism and greed or temptations.
⇒ Niyama: Maintain a clean body and a calm mind. Stay contented in life with whatever you have. Surrender your existence to God. Put in spiritual efforts to attain the ultimate goal and introspect in order to know yourself better.
⇒ Asana: Practice Yoga Poses (Asanas) so that the flexibility, vitality and condition of the body improves and stays good life long.
⇒ Pranayama: Practice breathing techniques (Pranayama) regularly to alleviate stress, asthma etc. as well as develop a sharp mind and strong will power in life.
⇒ Pratyahara: Internalize the Divine and withdraw your senses from materialism. Connect to the God inside you by concentrating on the third eye and focusing on your breath.
⇒ Dharana: This is the initial stage of meditation and calls for a single point deep meditation. Dharana is all about focusing and holding steady on a single point. One can consider God or oneself as the object of Meditation and practice it.
⇒ Dhyana: Meditate in order to focus on your goal in life. It can be done with closed or open eyes and one can meditate upon a subtle or a tangible object.
⇒ Samadhi: Dhyana leads to the stage of Samadhi and is a state in which one merges with the Ultimate goal of life.
Following these eight limbs can give a major strong support to our life and guide us to lead a better life on the whole.
Yoga as a Spiritual Practice
The stress accumulated due to the busy routine these days needs to be dissipated in order to steer clear in life and this is where Yoga comes into the picture.
Yoga is not a religion and Spirituality begins where religion ends. Yoga can be taken up to fulfil spiritual purposes in life. Taking up Yoga as a spiritual practice connects us with our Inner Self and gives us inner peace in the hustle and bustle of life.
To take up Yoga as a spiritual practice, you can:
1. Get in touch with a Yoga instructor who also teaches meditation techniques and breathing techniques to students. Meditation will calm you down especially in today’s life where all of us are simply on the run all the time, physically as well as mentally.
2. Read a book on Yoga, health or fitness. Absorb the information and bring it to practice.
3. Take a walk in the nearest park alone or with a partner and observe the sights, sounds and smells you come across. Practice a bit of mindfulness meditation and feel the difference.
4. Pen down your thoughts, feelings and experiences that you have in your day-to-day life. This will help you observe and study yourself closely which will help you find ways to better yourself.
5. Keep your mind free of unwanted thoughts and impressions by doing a mental cleaning of your inner thoughts. Imagine that your soul is getting lighter and free of all unwanted matter every moment.
6. Every day before you go to sleep, sit up for 10 minutes in bed with your eyes closed. Give yourself this thought that “I surrender to God” whatever happened throughout the day and whatever shall happen in the days to come. Surrender your being to him and doze off peacefully.
How to Choose a Goal for Yoga?
Me and my list of expectations
Yoga is a low-impact exercise which can keep you fit, get you out of illness, improve your way of life and do what not.
As I told earlier, if you have health problems then make fitness goals to achieve with the help of Yoga. If you are looking for peace in life then take up Yoga as a spiritual practice. If health issues are bothering you and you want a sure shot solution, then make use of the therapeutic properties of Yoga.
Not to mention, if you want to derive full benefit from Yoga in all walks of life, then make Yoga your way of life and lead a complete contented life. More real. More achievable.
Keep realistic goals.
Be prepared to fight out any difficulties and problems that may come your way while you are on your way to achieve the goal. For e.g., if you take up Yoga to stay fit then you need to take out time to practice Yoga daily for at least an hour and you also need to put it in the required dedication and commitment.
Chuck off deadlines
Set goals; but without deadlines. Since these goals are multi-faceted you may partially attain them in no time at all; but might take some more time to accomplish them in totality. In that case, deadlines might get discouraging. So just have a rough time estimate, instead of strict deadlines, in order to achieve your goal while incorporating discipline into the practice.
References:  Woodyard, Catherine. "Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life." International journal of yoga 4.2 (2011): 49. ^Back to Top^  Adhia, Hasmukh, H. R. Nagendra, and B. Mahadevan. "Impact of adoption of yoga way of life on the emotional intelligence of managers." IIMB Management Review 22.1 (2010): 32-41. ^Back to Top^