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The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit root “yuj”, which means union, join or integrate. So the art which unifies the body, mind, and soul is called yoga. Yoga has evolved over thousands of years to embrace all the religion, caste, gender, age and all the human being on this planet earth. Yoga itself is simply a tool for exploring the depth of our human nature, of realizing the mysteries of the body, mind, and soul. Yoga and meditation are an intensely powerful way of life, that help the practitioner to explore and discover the inner energies and a true source of peace. Yoga has a holistic approach of life to invite peace and harmony and equanimity within.

In modern time yoga is taken as two main purposes; one is to achieve liberation and next as effective therapeutic procedure for healthcare which helps to cure and prevents many chronic disorders related to body and mind.  Yoga is a great way to experience true well being which takes you inward in your depth. It’s your private, long and never-ending journey till you achieve liberation.

In the west, yoga has become synonymous of physical postures and exercises. However, yoga posture (asana) is just one small branch of yoga. Yoga is like an ocean and yoga posture is a drop. Yoga is an ancient scientific art for spiritual discovery which unites individual soul to universal soul. The real aim of yoga is to unite the aspirant with God (Universal source). Yoga is the spiritual science that teaches us how the Ultimate Reality can be realized in life itself. Don’t be afraid of your thoughts process, expand your consciousness and be one with the universal soul.

The essential message of yoga is ‘to know oneself and to find the god which is hidden within you. The path of yoga leads to this common goal of union with God, but there are many pathways, yogic traditions, and styles. Yoga offers practical methods for controlling body and mind and brings them into mutual harmony. Yoga teaches how to still the mind and attain higher states of awareness.

Yoga states that our “true nature” goes far beyond the limits of the human mind and can achieve the goodness within.

In the modern world, we have become quite successful in our external achievements because of powerful technologies, we are obsessed with accumulating power, wealth, property and objects and yet we have not been able to create either individual or social peace, wisdom, or happiness. If all of us practice yoga as a part of life the earth can be a paradise that we imagine.

When you ask your friends after few months of gap about their new happenings, they would answer with excitement that they have been doing ‘yoga’. They would then start to share their experience and ideas on the subject of yoga. They would tell you that they are feeling very refreshed even though some of the parts of the body is aching. Some of your friends may have no idea actually what yoga is all about. Some of your friends would tell you they have joined yoga classes to relieve themselves from the stress and anxiety coming out of the hectic work schedule where you need much amount of mental energy. It means to say that yoga has touted as one of the most popular subjects as far as physical fitness is concerned in recent years. Moreover, it has received a huge amount of respect and response as a highly growing field of study and practice. Yoga asana has been utilized as the exercise of keeping our body fit and fine alternate of going gym or simultaneously with it. In this sense, yoga has been one of the daily activities that have been incorporated into our lifestyle. Then what yoga really is. What does it mean?

In general sense, yoga has been popularized as the synonymous with asana (physical posture). The practice of asanas has been referred to the practice of yoga by the most of the people. However, we should not misunderstand asana as exercise. Even more importantly, our understanding of yoga should not get confined to asana only even though asana is the most popular branch of yoga. The reason behind joining the yoga school is to learn about asanas and its physical benefits in life has been the real motto for many people. Indeed, it’s very one part of the greater and grandeur aspect called ‘yoga’. When you have started practicing asanas, you are actually on the journey of yoga. With your involvement in asana, you start your path to yoga.

In a deeper level, we’ve already been doing yoga even if we may not have heard and known about it. The life itself is the result of yoga. Before moving in such a profundity of yogic definition, it’s always important to figure out what is yoga. The word ‘yoga’ has Sanskrit origin. Its root is ‘yuj’ which means to yoke, to combine, to the union, to add. In wider understanding, it’s the union of individual self with supreme self. This union between small ‘i’ and big ‘I’ is yoga. The journey to assimilate with Supreme Self is the greatest goal of human being following the path of yoga. In front of this broad perspective of yoga, the physical aspect comes at the fundamental level. Through the journey of controlling our body and mind with the practice of yoga, we commence our abstract and eternal path of yoga.

Different yogis define yoga in different ways.  According to Panini, the following different meanings can be given to yoga:

  1. Yuj samadhau:   Yoga means attaining Samadhi state, i.e., state of higher consciousness.
  2. Yuj yoge: Union of the individual self (Atma) with Universal Self (Paramatma)to attain the state infinite bliss and peace.
  3. Yuj samyamane: Censuring thought waves in the mental pond to see the self within clearly.

According to Ahirbudhnya Samhita, yoga is the union between the individual soul and the Universal Soul. The Sanskrit line is as follows:

Samyoga yoga ityuko jivatma paramatmanah ||

(P. 17, Light on Ashtanga Yoga)

 The Bhagavad Geeta says ‘Equanimity is Yoga.’ The Sanskrit line is ‘Samattvam yoga ucchyate||’ (P. 18, Light on Ashtanga Yoga).  The equanimity of the mind to being balanced state of mind in layman understanding where you would not get distracted by the external affairs. The state of mind is totally in control of yourself. This is the situation of yoga. In an elaborative sense as BKS Iyengar writes in his book, ‘Light on Ashtanga Yoga’:

There should be a thorough understanding between the intelligence of the soul and the intelligence of the consciousness. The soul with all its vehicles, namely Citta-consciousness, karmendriya-s- organs of action, jnanendriya-s- sense of perception, ahamkara-ego, buddhi-intelligence, and manas-mind, have to be unified and integrated so that one realizes the pureness of the soul. (19)

In this state of realizing soul, one comes to understand that the soul in everybody is the same which results in considering and behaving others with equanimity.

And another definition of yoga in Bhagavad Geeta defines ‘Yoga is skillfulness in action.’  The Sanskrit line is ‘Yogah Karma-su Kausalam ||’. In this statement on yoga, the importance has been emphasized on action which should be skillful. The quality of being skillful in action doesn’t mean to have any action with skill. The condition applies in that skillful action is the condition of being selfless. In spite of being selfless, one has to have an aim in one’s action. Iyengar explains, “Lord Krishna is not saying to do the action aimlessly. He is saying that it is the selfish motive behind the action that one has to avoid.”(19, Light on Ashtanga Yoga).

Maharshi Patanjali defines, “Atha Yoganusasanam II” and Yogah citta vrtti nirodhah II”.  The journey of Yoga for Patanjali can be started with the disciplined mind. This discipline mind has to be regulated to control the modification of the mind. The essence of these two sutras has been assimilated with ‘abhyasa’ and ‘vairagya’. The action which we begin should be practiced with the sense of dispassion or renunciation. In the definition of BKS Iyengar, “Yoga dukhavrtti nirodhah II- Yoga is restraint of the sorrows of the citta.” (P.23, Light on Ashtanga Yoga). By the practice of yoga, one wants to remove the pains and sorrows from his/her body and mind. It doesn’t mean that one has to start yoga practice only getting rid of the disease and physical suffering of the body. It means rather the practice of yoga leads you to the path where you experience no sorrow resulted out of the fluctuated mind and derogated body.

Mukunda Stiles in his book, “Structural Yoga Therapy” talks about the two dimensions of the yoga; the one which is obvious and another which is secret.  Giving the analogy of a tree, he further says that a tree has a trunk, branches, and leaves above the ground which absorbs the nutrition from the sun. The hidden roots bring the energy from the soil and water underneath. This idea has been further described by Stiles mentioning about Shakti which is obvious and in constant motion and the eternal and unchanging is Siva. The part of Shakti is exoteric and the Siva aspect is esoteric.  Thus Yoga is the way of creating a harmonious relationship between different aspects specifically: esoteric and exoteric. He writes, “The yoga teachings regarding bringing the body, mind, and emotion into harmony, such as Hath Yoga, are exoteric. Those teachings focused on the outer self in harmony with the Inner Self, such as Classical Yoga, are esoteric (P.6, Structural Yoga Therapy).” He further writes on yoga as being unique to five other classical Indian philosophical systems, “Yoga is based on a process of physical and mental training culminating in the direct experience of realizing the universal Self within everyone (P.6, Structural Yoga Therapy).”

Yoga and Religion

Yoga is not a religion but a way of life. Yoga and meditation is not a religion, although some of the principles are contained within the various religions. On this planet, Earth people who want to discover the peace within from all religions, faiths, and backgrounds can practice yoga. Interestingly, the Bhagavad Gita makes clear that regardless of any religion, principle and theology yoga is an individual journey that requires lifelong dedication, consistent practice, and devotion to achieve liberation from this worldly life.

Some religious people say yoga is essentially a Hindu religious practice and that chanting “OM” but it is absolutely wrong. Due to physical and mental benefits, we chant Aum in Yoga. We use mantra to achieve mastery over monkey mind in spite to follow the religion or some principles. Yoga believes the divine or Supreme Being resides within all that exists, and all humans, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender, have the ability to achieve moksha (ultimate freedom).

Religion is getting to be a good business and politics which is creating different war and fragmentation between the human being. Yoga includes the freedom and purification of a human being which integrates all religion, nation, and human being. Yoga has the potential to balance the nervous system and still the mind through its various exercises techniques like posture, breathing and meditation. Yoga seeks to put you in touch with your inner self to realize who or what you truly are.

Benefits of Yoga

The benefits of yoga include a physical, mental and spiritual transformation of mankind. Yoga can change your physical and mental condition within few days practice of yoga. Yoga has numerous benefits for mankind among them major benefits are as follows:

  • Yoga enhances emotional steadiness and clarity of mind.
  • The practice of yoga helps to attach the strength and flexibility of the body.
  • Yoga advances the functioning of the respiratory, circulatory, digestive and hormonal systems of the body.
  • It also releases the body’s toxins of various kind such as emotional, mental and physical.
  • It helps to yoke self-development and self-realization.
  • The harmonious, healthy and happy life can be maintained and developed with the practice of yoga.
  • It empowers our immune system.
  • Yoga develops powerful spiritual awareness towards life processes.
  • It tones the muscles, nerves, and bones.
  • The metabolism efficiency can be generated with the regular practice of yoga.
  • It also tones endocrine gland system.
  • It also helps to delay the aging process by making your body refreshed and rejuvenated by eradicating unnecessary and wastes of the body.
  • The yoga practice supports to make your body, brain, and senses get calmed.
  • You get sound sleep by the practice of yoga.
  • Yoga creates a strong mind-body connection.
  • The anxiety, anger, and frustration can be relieved too much extent by the practice of yoga.
  • It also establishes the harmony between body and mind.
  • It also helps to develop the positive thinking about the life.
  • Yoga has the greater impact on memory power and concentration.

 Aum Shanti! Shanti!! Shanti!!!