What is Yoga
What is Yoga ? Yoga is a complete science, a complete lifestyle, a complete medical system, and also a complete spiritual science. Yoga is a discipline that focuses on bringing harmony between mind, body, and soul.
The word ‘Yoga’ is a Sanskrit word and it has come from another Sanskrit word ‘Yuj’ that means ‘to join’ or ‘to unite’ As per the ancient Indian scriptures the practice of Yoga leads to the union of individual consciousness with universal consciousness.
The reason for the popularity of Yoga is that it was never caught and restricted in the narrow definition of gender, caste, group, religion, nationality or language, etc.
The aim of Yoga is self-realization, to end all sufferings which clear the path towards liberation or freedom. Living life with total freedom in all aspects of life with health and harmony shall be the real objectives of Yoga practice.
Who can practice Yoga
Anybody can practice and take benefit from yoga whether they are students, households, thinkers or monks, etc. Yoga has not only benefited individuals but has also been shown to have assisted the growth of families, societies, country and the world at large.
In the modern age, people are suffering from stress, conflicts, terrorism, deficiency, and ignorance, the solution to all these ailments lies only with Yoga.
Where Yoga originated
Yoga was invented thousands of years back by the sages in India and it is a wonderful way which can lead people on the path of positivity.
Maharishi Patanjali composed and codified these Yoga Sutras in Ashtang Yoga. The knowledge of Ashtang Yoga has spread throughout the world because a healthy person and society can only be built on the foundation of Yoga.
The practice of Yoga occurs in the ancient scriptures of Vedas, Upanishads, Gita, and Puranas in various verses of different chapters. Yoga is the most important part of Indian tradition. The significance of Yoga is demonstrated very well in the fields of self-realization, meditation, and working area as mentioned in ancient Indian scriptures.
Maharishi Vyas has given the meaning of “meditative consciousness” to Yoga. In brief, it can be said that leading a balanced life while doing a meditation where the soul unites with the supreme god is how we can define what yoga is.
In Indian traditional knowledge ‘Bhagwad Gita’ is having a very important place. Modern spiritual Gurus have played a very vital role in spreading message of Yoga as mentioned in the Bhagwad Gita. In Bhagwad Gita, Bhagwan Krishna describes Yoga with different meanings:
According to Bhagwan Krishna ‘Yoga’ is remaining calm and balanced, in the situation of favorable-unfavorable, success-failure, victory-defeat, fulfillment-non fulfillment, etc.
Jain sages on the other hand define ‘Yoga’ as the process of realization of the soul and Moksha. In the Jain way of life ‘Yoga’ is also known as actions of mind, speech, and body.
In the modern age, sage Shri Aurobindo defines ‘Yoga’ as an effort of individuals to join with the supreme god and to realize that, is the essence of Yoga.
The practice of Yoga is believed to have started thousands of years back in ancient India. In the Yogic literature, Shiva is believed to be the first Yogi or Adiyogi.
Thousands of years back Shiva handed over his Yogic knowledge to the renowned Saptarishis or “seven sages”. These sages spread this yogic science to the different parts of the world that includes ancient civilizations of Asia, Europe, Africa, and America.
That is the reason why archeologists found great similarities between ancient cultures across the globe. Over time, yogic culture shrink in most parts of the world but in India, it managed to survive with very strong cultural roots.
In the ruins of the ancient Indus Saraswati valley civilization, a lot many figures and statues were found showing the presence of Yoga during that time. A large number of seals and fossil remains coming out of the Indus Saraswati valley civilization depicting Yogic figures performing Yoga prove that Yoga was a well-developed science during that time in India.
The many forms of Shiva Lingam and idols of the mother goddess were also recovered from the site during the excavations. It shows the ancient roots of Yoga in the Indian civilization.
Yoga in India
The presence of Yoga in Indian life can be seen in the folk traditions, Vedic, Buddhist, Jain traditions, in Mahabharata and Ramayana, in Shaivas, Vaishnavas, and Tantric traditions.
In ancient times, yoga was practiced under the direct guidance of the Guru and special importance to spiritual values was given during those times. Yoga sadhana was an essential part of all forms of teachings to the disciples.
The great sage Maharishi Patanjali systematized, compiled, and codified the practices of Yoga in his Yoga Sutras. After Maharishi Patanjali, many other sages also contributed in the field of Yoga, which was very well preserved and documented.
Sources of Yoga
The main sources of Yoga practice are available in
- Buddhist Literature
- Jain Literature
- Tantric Literature
- Folk tradition
The greatest work on Yoga was done during the period when commentaries of Vyasa on Yoga Sutras and Bhagwad Gita came into existence. Although this period was dominated by two great religious figures of India namely Buddha and Mahavir of Jain tradition.
The Pancha Mahavrata (five great vows) by Mahavir and Ashta Magga (Eightfold Path) by Buddha was considered as the most important early forms of Yoga sadhana.
The more detailed explanations were presented in the commentaries on Bhagavadgita, which has presented the conception of Gyan Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Karma Yoga. These three types of Yoga are mainly followed by the people in the world today.
During the last about 200 years the teachings of Raman Maharshi, Ramakrishna Paramhansa, and Swami Vivekananda have contributed towards the RajaYoga.
Now in modern times, people have become conscious about the maintenance and preservation of their physical and mental health. The teachings of Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Maharshi Mahesh Yogi, Acharya Rajanish, and BKS Iyengar have spread the message of Yoga throughout the world.
Misconceptions about Yoga
In Modern times the practice of Yoga is seen by the majority of people as only the movement of the body in different poses, Yoga Asanas, which is part of Hatha Yoga. In reality, Hatha Yoga is the only preparatory course so that the body can handle higher levels of energy without any harm to the Yogi. The process of Yoga starts with the Body, then to the breath, to the mind, and then to the soul.
Yoga is usually understood as a set of physical exercise systems for health, fitness, and flexibility. In reality, physical and mental health is only the natural result of Yoga; the objective of Yoga is much higher. Yoga is for harmonizing oneself with the forces and the energies of the universe” It is a method of achieving the highest levels of awareness and harmony.
Is Yoga Hindu
Yoga does not limit to any particular religion, belief system, group, community, gender, caste, nationality, etc, it is a science of inner wellbeing which works for all. Whoever practices Yoga with full dedication can harvest benefits irrespective of one’s faith, ethnicity, culture, or tradition.
Yoga and its types
The different schools of Yoga were based on Guru-Shishya tradition which gave birth to different traditional schools of Yoga like
- Buddha-yoga etc.
All these schools have their own set of principles and practices to fulfill the objectives of Yoga. Now a day’s many modern forms of Yoga have also emerged, Power Yoga is one of them, which is becoming very popular in the Gym culture throughout the world.
Yoga 8 limbs
The widely practiced 8 limbs of Yoga Sadhanas are
- Dhyana (Meditation)
- Bandhas & Mudras
- Yukta karma
- Mantra Japa
All of these are considered pre-requisite for the Yoga Sadhana.
Yamas are known as restraints.
Niyamas are known as rules, guidelines, or observances.
Asanas are a physical practice of yoga through different postures to bring stability of body and mind.
Pranayama is the practice of control over the breathing to create awareness of the flow of incoming and outgoing breath which leads to willful regulation of respiration.
Pratyahara points towards the withdrawal of one’s consciousness from the sense organs, which keeps one connected with the external world.
Dharana is inside attention known in other words as the concentration of the mind.
Dhyan is a meditation, focuses on attention inside the body and mind.
Samadhi is known as integration with the universal consciousness.
Bandhas and Mudras are Kriya in Hatha Yoga related to Pranayama.
Shat Karmas are de-toxification methods or purification techniques, which help to remove the toxins accumulated in the body.
Yuktahara shows the right kind of food habits for a healthy life.
Dhyana is a meditation that helps in self-realization.
What is Yoga Sadhna
Yoga works on the levels of one’s body, mind, emotions, and energy. This gave birth to four broad classifications of Yoga;
- Karma yoga
- Bhakti yoga
- Gyana Yoga
- Kriya Yoga
Krama Yoga is associated with the utilization of the Body, Bhakti Yoga is associated with emotions, Gyana Yoga is associated with mind and intellect, and Kriya Yoga is associated with the utilization of energy.
Any system of Yoga we practice would fall within the scope of one or more of the above-mentioned categories. Every Individual is an exclusive blend of these four factors.
All ancient commentaries of Yoga emphasized that Yoga should be practiced under the directions of a Guru. The reason is that the Guru knows the nature of every disciple practicing under him and he will mix the appropriate combination of the four basic factors.
In the present times, Yoga education is provided by many Yoga Institutions, Yoga Collages, Yoga Universities, Yoga departments, etc. Many Yoga therapies and training centers are established in Yoga Clinics, medical institutions, and research centers, etc.
These Yoga institutions are doing a great service to humanity by taking Yoga to the general public who needs to be benefitted by practicing yoga for their physical and mental health.
Frequently asked questions:
Q1. What Yoga is
Ans: Yoga is an art as well as a complete science, a lifestyle, a medical system, a system of well-being through various Yoga poses, kriyas, Pranayamas, Bandhas, Mudras etc and also a complete spiritual science. Yoga is a discipline that focuses on bringing harmony between mind, body, and soul.
Q2. Who invented yoga pants
Ans: The credit for inventing Yoga pants goes to the Lululemon, a multinational Canadian company. This company designed Yoga pants that are high-denier hosiery reaching from ankle to waist and first sold it in the year 1998. They started this retail business in the year 1998 selling Yoga pants and other yoga wear, now they have expanded their business and also sell other athletic wear.
Q3. How many yoga postures are there
Ans: According to Goraksha Sataka, an ancient Hatha Yogic text, there are about 84 classic yoga asanas (yoga postures).
Q4. Will yoga help me lose weight
Ans: Yes! Yoga will definitely help you to lose weight. If yoga asana (posture) are performed regularly and correctly, it will not only help you to lose weight but will also help to cure many other diseases. There are many yoga asana (postures) that specifically work on controlling weight of the person.
These days millions of people in almost all countries of the world are benefitted from the practice of Yoga. Many great Yoga masters are working day and night in preserving, promoting and spreading Yoga practice among the general public.
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Share your experience of doing Yoga Poses and let us know if you have any questions or comments regarding Yoga in the comments section below.