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.
Yoga is an ancient health science from India that has gained massive popularity in recent times due to its abundant health benefits and holistic approach to wellness.
In this article, we will explore the essence of yoga, its origins, the principles it follows, and the different types of yoga practices, the benefits it offers, and tips for cultivating a consistent yoga practice.
Table of Contents
What is Yoga?
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.
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.
What Is Yoga Origin ?
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.
What Is Yoga History ?
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.
Presence Of 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.
What Is Yoga Source ?
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.
The Core Principles Of Yoga
Uniting Body, Mind, and Spirit
1. Breath (Pranayama):
Pranayama, or breath control, a important fundamental aspect of yoga. It involves practicing various breathing techniques to increase vital energy, reduce stress, and improve concentration. Deep and mindful breathing is at the heart of every yoga practice, allowing practitioners to connect with their inner selves.
2. Postures (Asanas):
Yoga incorporates a wide range of physical postures or asanas that are designed to enhance flexibility, strength, and balance. Each asana targets specific parts of the body and has unique benefits. The practice of asanas not only improves physical health but also promotes mindfulness as practitioners focus on their movements and body alignment.
3. Meditation (Dhyana):
Yoga must include meditation because it helps the practitioner focus their thoughts and develop self-awareness.
One can find inner serenity and learn more about themselves through meditation. If a person regularly do meditation it can reduce anxiety and improve emotional well-being of the practitioner.
4. Ethics and Morals (Yamas and Niyamas):
Yoga emphasizes ethical guidelines, known as Yamas (restraints) and Niyamas (observances), which promote a harmonious and virtuous way of living. Truthfulness, nonviolence, contentment, self-discipline, and other values are among these. Incorporating these principles into daily life enhances the overall benefits of yoga beyond the mat.
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 certainly is not a Hindu way of practice. The idea of sages who started and propagated Yoga was never to limit Yoga to a particular community or to a region but it was created for the well being of the entire humanity. 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.
The different schools of Yoga were based on Guru-Shishya tradition which gave birth to different traditional schools of Yoga practices and are as follows:
1. Hatha Yoga:
With a focus on breathing and fundamental poses, hatha yoga is a gentle and beginner-friendly style of yoga. It is an excellent starting point for those new to yoga and provides a solid foundation for other yoga styles.
2. Yin Yoga:
Yin yoga is a slow-paced style that involves holding passive postures for extended periods. It targets deep connective tissues and is ideal for enhancing flexibility and promoting relaxation.
3. Restorative Yoga:
Restorative yoga utilizes props to support the body in gentle postures, encouraging deep relaxation and stress relief. It is a soothing practice, especially beneficial for individuals recovering from injuries or experiencing fatigue.
4. Iyengar Yoga:
Iyengar yoga emphasizes alignment and precision in postures. Props are extensively used to assist in achieving proper alignment and making the practice accessible to all levels of practitioners.
5. Vinyasa Yoga:
Vinyasa yoga involves linking breath with movement, resulting in a dynamic and flowing practice. It is ideal for those seeking a more active and physically challenging experience. Vinyasa classes often vary in pace and intensity, allowing practitioners to choose a style that suits their preferences.
6. Ashtanga Yoga:
Ashtanga yoga follows a structured sequence of postures with synchronized breathing. It is a more rigorous practice, suitable for individuals looking for a disciplined and progressive approach. Ashtanga can be physically demanding but offers a sense of accomplishment and growth.
7. Kundalini Yoga:
The goal of kundalini yoga is to awaken the body’s hidden energy.It involves intense breathing exercises, chanting, and repetitive movements to unlock one’s spiritual potential. Kundalini yoga can be transformative and provide a deep sense of spiritual connection.
8. Bikram Yoga:
Bikram yoga is practiced in a heated room and in this practice a specific sequence of 26 postures is followed. The heat helps improve flexibility and detoxification. While Bikram is more intense, the controlled environment can be appealing to those who enjoy a predictable routine.
9. Jivamukti Yoga:
Jivamukti yoga combines physical practice with spiritual teachings, including meditation, chanting, and ethical principles.
10. Power Yoga:
Power yoga is a more fitness-oriented and energetic practice, derived from Ashtanga yoga. It focuses on building strength and endurance.
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.
The Benefits of Practicing Yoga
- Nurturing Your Well-being
- Yoga practice offers a wide range of benefits, including:
- Improved flexibility, strength, and balance
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Enhanced focus and mental clarity
- Better posture and body awareness
- Boosted immune system and overall health
- Increased self-confidence and self-awareness
The regular practice of yoga can result in a better way of life, more mindfulness, and a happier attitude on life.
Integrating Yoga Into Daily Life
1. Yoga at Home:
Practice simple asanas and meditation at home, even for a few minutes each day.
2. Yoga Philosophy:
Explore yoga philosophy through reading and self-reflection to deepen your understanding of the practice.
3. Yoga Community:
Join yoga classes or online communities to connect with like-minded individuals and receive guidance from experienced teachers.
Getting Started With Yoga
Taking the First Step
1. Finding a Suitable Class:
Look for beginner-level yoga classes in your area or online. Consider the type of yoga, class schedule, and instructor’s expertise before making a choice.
2. Basic Equipment:
You’ll need a yoga mat and comfortable clothing to practice yoga. While some studios provide mats, having your own mat allows for a more personalized experience.
3. Create a Sacred Space:
Designate a quiet and clutter-free area in your home for yoga practice. Having a dedicated space can enhance focus and create a sense of calm.
4. Practice Mindfulness:
Incorporate conscious breathing techniques into daily activities to promote relaxation and mindfulness. During your yoga sessions, focus on the present moment and be fully present in each breath and movement.
5. Start Slowly:
If you are new to yoga, start with beginner-level poses to familiarize yourself with the correct way of postures and breathing techniques. Don’t be discouraged by initial challenges; progress comes with consistent practice.
6. Listen to Your Body:
Yoga is not a competition. You must be mindful of your body’s limitations and refrain from overexerting yourself. Your strength and flexibility will increase with time and repetition.
Yoga is a comprehensive technique for reaching harmony and balance in all facets of life, going beyond simple physical postures.
One of the key concepts in yoga is the “Yoga Limbs” or “Ashtanga Yoga.”
We will explore the eightfold path of yoga, its significance, and how each limb contributes to a well-rounded and fulfilling practice.
Yoga Limbs, also known as Ashtanga Yoga, were codified by the sage Patanjali in the ancient text “Yoga Sutras.” The eight limbs are interconnected steps that guide us towards a meaningful and purposeful life. They are as follows:
The Eight Limbs of Yoga
1. Yama (Restraints):
The first limb, Yama, encompasses moral principles and ethical restraints. It includes Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (moderation), and Aparigraha (non-greed).
Practicing Yama encourages us to be compassionate, honest, and respectful towards others and ourselves.
2. Niyama (Observances):
Niyama focuses on personal observances and self-discipline. It includes Tapas (self-discipline), Santosha (satisfaction), Saucha (hygiene), Svadhyaya (self-study), and Ishvara Pranidhana (submission to a higher power).
Niyama helps us cultivate inner strength, contentment, and spiritual awareness.
3. Asana (Physical Postures):
The Asana refers to the physical poses or postures practiced in yoga. It is the most well-known limb of yoga and aims to promote physical health, strength, flexibility, and alignment.
Through asana, we learn to balance effort and ease, preparing our body for meditation and spiritual growth.
4. Pranayama (Breath Control):
Pranayama involves regulating and controlling the breath. By concentrating on the breath, we may clear our minds, boost our energy, and quiet the mind.
Pranayama enhances the connection between the body and mind.
5. Pratyahara (Withdrawal of the Senses):
Pratyahara is the practice of turning inward and withdrawing the senses from external distractions.
It helps us detach from sensory stimuli, allowing us to focus our attention and concentrate on inner experiences.
6. Dharana (Concentration):
Dharana is the art of cultivating one-pointed focus. By using concentration techniques, we can train our minds to become quieter and focus on a single object, such as a mantra, a candle flame, or our breathing.
7. Dhyana (Meditation):
Dhyana is the steady flow of uninterrupted meditation. It involves sustained concentration, leading to a state of deep awareness and oneness with the object of meditation.
8. Samadhi (Blissful Union):
Samadhi is the ultimate state of enlightenment and union with the divine. It is a state of profound bliss and realization, where the boundaries of the self dissolve, and one experiences unity with all of existence.
The Significance of Practicing Yoga Limbs
The Yoga Limbs offer a systematic and balanced approach to spiritual growth and self-discovery. Each limb builds upon the previous one, guiding practitioners towards higher states of consciousness.
By integrating these limbs into our yoga practice, we create a harmonious and purposeful life.
The Yoga Limbs, or Ashtanga Yoga, provide a comprehensive framework for spiritual evolution and self-awareness.
By incorporating the ethical principles of Yama and Niyama, refining the physical body through Asana and Pranayama, turning inward through Pratyahara, and deepening our meditation practice with Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi, we embark on a transformative journey of holistic well-being.
- Bandhas & Mudras
- Yukta karma
- Mantra Japa
All of these are considered pre-requisite for the Yoga Sadhana.
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.
Conclusion: What is Yoga
In conclusion to the question, “What is Yoga ?’ in the end we can say that Yoga is a holistic and transforming activity that is good for the body, mind, and spirit.
You can start a joyful journey of self-discovery and wellbeing by comprehending its historical roots, fundamental ideas, varied practices, and potential difficulties.
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.
You can feel yoga’s tremendous effects in your life by being mindful and practicing regularly. So, roll out your mat, breathe deeply, and embrace the beautiful path of yoga. Namaste!
FAQ: What is Yoga?
Q1. What is Yoga?
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.
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.