YOGA: 5 THOUSAND YEARS TAKING CARE OF BODY, MIND AND SPIRIT

Exclusive to “Adventures in History,” Francisco Kaiut explains the benefits of the practice and its growth in the last decades.

Published 25/04/2021.

An ancient activity dating back over 5 thousand years, yoga unifies physical, mental, and spiritual practices.  In speaking about these practices, Francisco Kaiut is one of the best-known Brazilians, who tells us of the history of yoga’s emergence and the way it has grown over the last decades.

About 5 thousand years ago, there emerged in India an activity that drew together mental, physical, and spiritual exercises.  Since then, and while expanding throughout the world, yoga acquired variations according to the regions where it is found.  Be that as it may, the essence of yoga was not lost, and, rather than losing it, found it reinforced by new practioners in the very same places.

According to Francisco Kaiut, “Yoga is an ancient practice that combines the use of the body and mind with the purpose of aligning ourselves with our ancestral nature. In other words, it is a practice that uses the human body as a tool that balances body and mind, restoring natural functions and mobility to the human body, which for a long time suffered from diverse forms of underutilization. Yoga was never physical exercise[;] it instead a practice that affects every cell, joint, and the entire nervous system. It promotes the recovery of the body’s systemic functions, [making them] active and ready for modern life.”

He reminds us that [yoga] “is a practice of self-care and self-knowledge, personal and intimate.  It’s not about complicated positions and contortions; it’s about functional positioning necessary for each individual body with its own particularities.  It’s about building today the body and the mental state you would want to have to live well at age 80. It’s about achieving a chronic state of presence.”

Where It All Began

Without a doubt, the most drastic human lifestyle changes in history occurred during the transition to agriculture during the Neolithic period.  Changes in diet, living conditions, and subsistence activities had a huge impact on human health, although there were varied effects from region to region.

For a long time, yoga was confined to a few cultures, mainly Eastern ones. Techniques were passed down by instructors from generation to generation, who taught their disciples the most profound knowledge.

“Meanwhile, in the West, science had not yet progressed to a point that allowed us to recognize [the benefits of yoga], and, so, for thousands of years Western culture was deprived access to individual benefits that yoga practice offers,” says Professor Kaiut.

Now, right now in the 21st century, it is possible to confirm that “scientific research is already able to recognize the connection between energy and matter,” emphasizes the professor. In addition, it is worth remembering that branches of physics “have now looked meticulously at the ability of yoga, meditation and breathing techniques to alter bodily energy, producing many beneficial transformations, not only for the practitioner, but also for the environment the surrounds her/him,” he adds.

But after all, what does Yoga mean?

The word yoga has its origin in Sanskrit, the ancient language of India and Nepal, with its root is “yuj,” meaning “to unite” or “to integrate.” But the real meaning of yoga goes far beyond the mere translation of the term from Sanskrit into our language, because it represents the idea of union and reintegration of body with mind, leading to the equilibrium of our being, through which one can reach the highest state of existence.”

It is not by chance that when, as teacher Francisco Kaiut reminds us, one starts practicing yoga, one perceives that there is a world of discoveries behind this practice. “It becomes evident that yoga goes far beyond bodily movements.  When searching deeply the fundamentals of its philosophy, it is possible to find references to such greats as such as B.K.S. Iyengar and Patanjali, the latter the collator of these [yoga] teachings in the ‘Yoga sutras’, making it possible for

yoga to be understood in a much broader and, therefore, also more transformative way.”

The Kaiut Yoga Method, it is worth remembering, uses the nomenclatures of teacher and professor.  The reason for this is, he explains: “Teacher comes from the Latin word ‘professus,’ meaning ‘one who has declared in public.’ The term is also linked to the verb to profess, from the Latin “profitare,” which speaks to sharing information before a group.

In this way, a teacher is defined as someone who shares knowledge, who builds knowledge with his or her students. This is how we see our teachers: as professionals capable of sharing the richness, depth, and evolution of knowledge.

[By way of contrast], an instructor merely gives instructions, repeats formulas, and does not necessarily possess the complete knowledge that needs sharing.”

The professor remembers that “Yoga practice was born between the Agricultural Revolution and the appearance of the Vedas, that is, between 5 and 10 thousand years ago.  Of this beginning, it is believed that [yoga] was a tribal practice, devoid of religiosity and doctrines.  Over time, however, yoga was transformed, and its history ended up mixed with the history of Hinduism, because early records date back to the Vedic period of Indian civilization.”

One of the most referenced works of yoga is the Sutras by Patañjali. In them, there is an exposition of yoga’s 8 steps: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.  Their definitions are as follows:

1. Yama

Ethical values that, if adopted as daily routine, make possible access to a virtuous state of consciousness and that evolves on the yogic path.  Examples of these among the Yamas are: non-violence, commitment to the truth in ethical action, [noting] the importance of compassion, etc.

2. Niyama

Understood as an orientation toward what should be cultivated in our relationship with the external world, which is expressed through

purification and study, for example, such as maintaining contentment, seeking knowledge of oneself, and also searching for total surrender.

3. Asana

For those who don’t know, this is the most well-known among the parts [limbs] of yoga in the West, because it involves bodily postures.  But the asanas [foremost], allow the individual to reach a state of contemplation, and, therefore, show that their effects are not merely physical[;] they also bring benefits to the mind and [to our] daily energy.

4. Pranayama

Is the famous [link] between body and mind. Pranayamas are known as breathing techniques that raise levels of vital energy (prana), reducing mental activity, bringing calm and deep relaxation.

5. Pratyahara

Is related to the control of the senses. The senses are constantly connected to the external world[;] in the Pratyahara [state], the yoga practitioner brings his/her consciousness to his/her internal world.

6. Dharana

Defined as the state of mental concentration, whereby the practitioner achieves a meditative mental state in which his attention focuses on a single point.

7. Dhyana

In this meditative state, the practitioner is conscious of his/her contemplative act as well as the object of meditation, and is able to keep his mind on the object of contemplation for some time.

8. Samadhi

The deepest state of meditation, whereby the practitioner him/herself becomes the object of contemplation. It is the highest yogic state, which is the name given to the practitioner of yoga.

“Much of what is in the Sutras and other classic works of yoga are intrinsically connected to Eastern religions, doctrines, and customs. In the yogic universe, these writings obviously have great historical and [sentimental] value, serving as the basis for many strands [of the practice],” explains the professor.

The Kaiut Method, however, focuses on its own [singular] and independent path.  Francisco harbored many questions about the Sutras, [in the end] choosing not to make them guides for his practice.  For example, he questions [the emphasis] on breathing (Pranayama).  He believes that when a yoga practice focuses too early on different breathing [techniques], it ends up negatively interfering in the process [of breathing], because our modern habits [inevitably] show up, [for example], underutilization of the thoracic cavity, diaphragm, and muscles. He also questions the separation between meditation (Samadhi) and the use of body (Asana) because it lumps these together as if they were the same thing, not as if one prepared us for the other.

Never disrespecting or denying the historical value of classical texts, the Kaiut Method considers everything neuroscience and quantum physics have taught us in the last centuries, [and thus] rethinks yoga to create a practice that works for a modern human.

In the Method created by Francisco, recovering a pre-Vedic yoga, that is, pre-religious, original to the forests, is the starting point for a consistent practice with real [palpable] results.

What are the types of yoga?

There are several paths throughout yoga, and they all aim for the same objective, Kaiut emphasizes: “Achieving the union and integration of body with the mind, as mentioned earlier. Furthermore, these different paths unite to bring benefits in the most complete form that this yoga provides.” The types of yoga are:

Hatha Yoga

The most classic type of yoga as a set of asanas or physical postures. Its purpose is to purify and prepare the body for meditation.

Karma Yoga

Places the individual at the service of everything and everyone’s needs,

without expecting anything in return. It is to be as nature [itself], which offers everything it has, and is always available to everyone.

Bhakti Yoga

A state of surrender and total devotion, where, in a moment of pure and divine love, the divine aspect in everything and everyone becomes manifest.

Gyana Yoga

The path of knowledge and wisdom.  It is an inquiry into one’s own nature, seeking to understand that in truth there is nothing that separates a person from the divine, and everyone is divine.

Raja Yoga

Through which one knows reality, complete harmony and control of the mind, the state of enlightenment.

Yoga Lineages

According to Professor Kaiut, “when speaking about yoga as it is

known and practiced here in the West, we end up identifying with an emphasis on the physical practice of this science, that is, the practice of asanas. It behooves us to recall that there are several different lineages and types of yoga that also work these postures in different ways, that in the end bring the same benefits. Taking these forms into account, it is possible to identify some of the types of yoga most practiced in several countries and in Brazil, such as:

Hatha Yoga

Classical yoga at its peak.  It combines breathing exercises and bodily postures that help with physical conditioning, increasing the demand on the body and its strength.  Highly recommended for those who are beginning to get to know yoga and is the most widespread in the West.

Ashtanga Yoga

Combines yoga and breathing sequences in an accelerated performance. This practice activates the internal fire helping the body purify and detoxify.

Vinyasa Yoga

Sequences of postures that follow fluctuations of movement combined with breathing. This is a more dynamic type of yoga.

Iyengar Yoga

Focuses on the student’s body correct alignment, utilizing tools such as blocks, elastic bands, belts and ropes so that the practice is commensurate with the bodily limitations of the participant.

The Kaiut Yoga Method

Yoga practiced in many forms for thousands of years. However, as time passed, societies, forms of social interaction and, mainly, the use of the body, underwent profound changes. Today’s body does not have, is not even close to having, the same uses as those of our ancestors. The comforts of the modern world ended up creating limitations and blockages, thus we find high degrees of physical underutilization.

Reflecting on these changes led Francisco Kaiut to an understanding that the practice of classical yoga needed adapting for it to make sense and yield palpable results for the modern human being[; namely, to] a human being that sits for hours, moves on wheels, has ergonomic furniture, and many other ways of underutilizing the body.

Motivated also by his own chronic pains, Francisco, with [experience] and knowledge as a chiropractor, traveled Brazil and the world over, researching, reading, studying, and practicing a great variety of yoga.  Throughout this period in his life, it dawned on him that disregarding social evolution in the practice of yoga was eviscerating the founding principles:[namely, as a practice] that recovers the body’s natural functions. Classical poses done without any [functional movement] in mind, and under the heavy influence of the Western world’s “fitness” [craze], transformed yoga into practice divorced from its origin, circumventing the potential for healing and restoration.

This is how the Kaiut Yoga Method emerged, almost 30 years ago.  [Francisco’s] is a yoga practice quite different from all others, precisely because it considers the social evolution and the changes in the use of the body among modern humans, and consequently, it adapts positions in pursuit of real results that promote a better life.  Consistent practice recovers mobility, reduces and removes the effects of anxiety, and promotes longevity.

Where to start?

According to Francisco Kaiut, the answer to this question is very simple: “begin,” he says. “The stages of yoga are already part of every person’s life since they are nascent in us, which is why it is necessary to reconnect with this path. Take babies and toddlers, for example. They do yoga postures all the time[;] they fully embody many of the principles and foundations of ancient yoga, without any any effort,” adds Kaiut.

“So, at the beginning, keep in mind that yoga needs to be effortless. Something light, that allows the person to better know their body, to understand and accept or even overcome their limits, and above all, [practiced in such a way that permits] each person to discover a new world of possibilities in their [own] life and in their relationship with themselves. Yoga is for everyone!” celebrates the teacher.

The Benefits of Yoga

In view of the evidence cited here, Kaiut recalls that “yoga offers improvements to the physical body, but it also goes beyond, for it allows the discovery of a universe of knowledge within each person.”

Yoga brings physical and mental health benefits; the teacher [Francisco] highlights some of them:

– Flexibility and strength of body;

– Calmness and focus of mind;

– Harmonizes emotions through breathing;

– Reduces heart rate and blood pressure;

– Helps in the treatment of depression;

– Decreases the production of cortisol, the hormone responsible for stress;

– Diminishes anxiety

– Improves the quality of sleep;

And so, with this, concludes Kaiut, “Yoga has an incredible power to transform life. And yet, it is important to remember that these benefits come with regular practice. Just a little bit every day, and in a short time you will feel the benefits.”

Translated by Eduardo Drivon

Subscribe Our Newsletter