This is in itself a value-based question
The first definition that comes to everyone’s mind when they think of yoga is Physical Practices. But according to me it is a myth to think that Yoga is merely for physical well-being or for people who have bodily ailments or for those whom the conventional methods of cure are ineffective (although its scope is inclusive of everything mentioned above).
What is actual Yoga?
Yoga is not only a physical approach but is a holistic way of living. The art of yoga assists one to work on his body, mind and soul to achieve peace. It does start for most sadhakas from the physical body, but the subtler practices channelizes our energies for the better.
It becomes a passage for spiritual upliftment and eliminates blockages which make us think negatively. It protects from getting carried away by excessive belief in fate or superstitions and helps one takes charge of one’s life.
With the help of a balanced approach and sincere training a sadhaka can achieve equilibrium in his/her body, mind and breath. So, instead of getting entangled in futile pleasures why not adapt the path from body to mind, mind to breath (subtle energy), which is a medium to understand our existence?
How should a beginner enter into yogic practices?
Follow a step by step process that will ease your body and help you practice yoga effortlessly.
- The start could be done with Sukshama Vyayam (micro exercises), gentle movements of joints and glands which will release the toxins stuck in the over -time and make the movements unforced.
- Then the sadhaka could slowly progress towards Sthula Vyayam (macro exercises).
- Gradually the body should be altered through relatively subtle practice of postures overcoming all the discomforts of asana in mind and body.
- Since the breath (which is volatile) is the carrier to bring steadiness and stableness in postures breathing patterns must be understood and nothing should be overdone
Initially, the physical practices give energy and confidence to continue towards more complex and deeper experiences. At times, it may look that the results are taking a little long time or that it is a slow drawn process. But as said, patience is the key to success; so do not lose it because the results are assuredly lasting and consistent.
It is always important to remind oneself that the physical body with the uncovering of intermittent sheaths is the path to reach the soul. So, one should not be carried away by anything during sadhana. With time greater awareness is developed resulting in higher quality of life, and the identification with body steadily loses its effect.
Thus, Yoga has its three E’s – EVALUATION, ELIMINATION, ELEVATION
Do you know the origin of Yoga?
History of Yoga has been lost in obscurity and uncertainty due to its tradition of transmitting knowledge orally i.e. via, Guru -Shishya parampara. It can be classified into 4 periods
- Development of yoga can be traced back to Indus valley Civilization around 5000 years ago. It was first mentioned in the oldest sacred text of Rig Veda (pre classical period of yoga).
- Then it was Sage Patanjali in the period of Classical Yoga representing yoga in a systematic form – The Yoga Sutras.
- Post classical yoga comprised of practices designed by yoga masters to rejuvenate body and prolong life.
- Lastly contemporary times can be called as The Modern Yoga where Hatha Yoga is still strongly promoted in India by the schools of T.Krishnamacarya, B.K.S.Iyenger, Pattabhi Jois, Sivananda and others.
The father of Yoga and his contribution
Sage Patanjali is often considered the father of yoga. He is the first to compile yoga in 196 sutras. The efficient way of implications of yoga through the sutras was presented by him – The Asthanga Yoga – eight limbs of yoga to help attain liberation.
- Yamas are the first in the eight limbed path and instruct the practitioner to observe proper conduct and self -restraint. Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truth), Asteya (non-possesiveness), Brahmacarya (moderation of senses/ right use of energy), Aparigraha (non-greed) form a part of the Yamas
- Yamas are followed by Niyamas which include Sauca (cleanliness), Santosa (contentment), Tapas (discipline), Svadhyaya (self-study), Isvara Pranidhana (surrendering to the higher power).
- The third limb is Asanas. The steadiness in asana leads to observance of breath i.e Prana.
- Pranayama is the fourth limb which when focused upon takes the mind away from wandering towards external objects.
- When the prana and mind are withdrawn from sense objects, Pratyahara follows suit. Pratyahara (control over senses) forms the bridge between bahiranga yoga (external limbs of yoga) and antaranga yoga (internal limbs of yoga). Thus, the mind is gradually trained to focus on the object of meditation after controlling its wanderings.
- The ability to hold onto objects is Dharana.
- This ability leads to the seventh limb, which is Dhyana. The difference between dharana and dhyana lies in their continuity. While the former could be discontinuous, Dhyana is unbroken.
- Flow of awareness ultimately leads to Liberation i.e., the eighth limb Samadhi- oneness with the subject of Dhyana. In Samadhi the mind loses its identifications and becomes free of all afflictions and influences of the gunas.
Sage Patanjali’s Ashtanga Marga is still followed in modern yoga to transform life and make it meaningful. I urge you to take a step forward and take charge of your life, transform it and spread its blessedness wherever you go.
“Human life is considered as very difficult to be born into. It is one of a kind and one has to utilize it very wisely. We have no certainty of what we will be in our next birth. So, we have this one life available at present, take a chance and embark on the journey of yoga “
OM SHANTI SHANTI SHANTIHI
My Journey In Yoga:
My doctor and mentor inspired me to take this. It started off with asanas and breathing practices. Later on for a better understanding of Traditional Yoga (the roots of yoga) I approached a well-known Institute of yoga – The Kaivalyadhama Institute.
This was a turning point of my life where I began to learn the scriptural texts of yoga, which I was completely unaware about. Through that I learnt the essence of yoga, meaning of existence and true purpose of human life. The implications of these teachings to refine and progress spiritually also added to my understanding in due course.
My expedition is still on-going; I am evaluating my philosophical perspectives, and continuing to subtly apprehend the intrinsic nature of existence.