Yoga was practiced thousand years ago in India and is carried out today, it is the most ancient system of development of the mind and body. It is also said that Lord Shiva was the innovator of Yoga, our ancestors practiced it with remarkable success to maintain good health and to keep the mind tranquil. It is well mentioned in our Vedas, Upanishads, and Ramayana, Lord Krishna has also explained the secret of yoga in the Bhagavad Gita, it has been an essential part of our Vedantic philosophy.
The science of yoga passes from one generation to another by the word of mouth, according to sage Kapil (who contributed to laying down the foundation of the yoga system) said that men face sorrow because they lack proper knowledge about the self and nature, once they gain knowledge, they overcome pain, sorrow and able to maintain mental serenity and peace within.
Yoga also has been mentioned in various scriptures, the Kathopanishad says that yoga is a “state of steadiness and full control over senses as well as mind and the intellect”. As we know that it is very difficult to fix the mind in one place because it always wandering around, that is why man is always attracted to worldly objects and desires, but the yogi mind is balanced, and he is not affected by the mundane objects.
Vedas, Upanishads, and Gita have explained yoga in different ways, Shvetaashvatara Upanishad tells that “Yogi does not suffer from old age, disease, and death, his mind free from worldly objects and remain in peace.”
The Yogavasesta, described Yoga as an instrument, “for reaching the other shore of the stream of sorrow.”
The Gita described yoga as a state of equipoise, where the yogi is not affected by the pair of opposites. He is free from alike, sorrow & joy, hot & cold, day & night, he realized the absolute truth after which nothing remains to be realized. He does not look for rewards for his virtuous deeds and frees himself from bondage.
Sage Patanjali explained yoga in his “Yoga Sutra” that yoga is a state where one is free from thoughts and modifications of the mind are complete.
Meaning of Yoga
Yoga is not only mean meditation, but also a psychophysical system of exercises based upon the knowledge of the relation between the body and the mind. Patanjali says that it is an instrument for the transformation of the body and soul from the finite to the infinite. It helps to conquer suffering, diseases, and desires and tells how to stretch the life span and enjoy a better life. In fact, it is a key to revealing the mysteries of universal consciousness. One can know himself through asanas, rhythmic breathing, concentration, and meditation.
Ancient yogis discovered methods for these, and they are still equally significant today as they were thousands of years ago.
Yoga is not only a part or collection of different body postures, but it is also a part of good health and eternal peace of mind, regular practice not only adds years to life but also leads to a meaningful life. Today medical science has also acknowledged that without considering the mind, it is not possible to cure the body, thus we can say that yoga unites the body and mind.
According to Patanjali, there are eight steps of yoga which are, Yama, Niyama, Asanas, Pranayama, Pratyahar, Dharna, Dhyan, and Samadhi. Yoga stands for control and discipline, and niyama means rules, methods, and principles, asanas relate to making physical postures, pranayama is kriyas with air, pratyahara is avoiding undesirable, Dharana is concentration, dhyana is meditation and samadhi is contemplation.
Types of Yoga
There are different types of yoga to do so, each leading to the goal of acquiring “Mokshya” – freeing oneself from the cycle of birth and death. It has been groped into different categories, according to nature, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, Gyan Yoga, and Hatha Yoga.
Let’s take them one by one:
Bhakti yoga is very simple and common among people, it is very yoga to do and doesn’t need any special technique, process, or training, it included prayers and rituals. It develops unflinching faith that there is a supreme power i.e., God, which will come and rescue them in time of need, protecting them from harm, it creates a feeling of security.
In simple meaning, bhakti yoga means “Love” or “Divine Love”, it is a realization that everything is supreme consciousness, and nothing else exists, one can experience total freedom from fear and worry. Bhakti yoga included mantra meditation or the chanting of the names of God, it is a practice of selfless devotion and recognition of the sacred or divine in everything. Bhakti yoga is a sacred, higher emotion with sublime sentiments that unites the devotees with the Lord.
Karma is a Sanskrit word that means Action, one cannot live without action. In Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna said that all beings which are controlled by Prakrti must act, even after the attainment of the goal of yoga (mukti). Lord Krishna explained in Gita that those who perform actions with some motive and expectation from them get into bondage because of the attitude or intention involved in it. But a Karma Yogi is indifferent as he bears no desire. He is concerned only with doing his duty without any reservation and without expecting any return for his acts. But this yoga is very difficult to do because the human mind is always wandering and does not stay in one place.
A Karma yogi has no such desires, and he utilizes his energy in doing good deeds, he does not run after pleasure, it is the pleasure that runs after him.
Gyan Yoga or Jnana Yoga
Gyan yoga stands for “wisdom or knowledge”, it is a path to attaining knowledge of the true nature of reality, all other methods are also ultimately led to this yoga. It can be done through the practice of meditation, self-inquiry, and contemplation. But it is a difficult process and can be achieved by persistent practice of mental discipline. This can be achieved by steadfastly practicing the mental techniques of self-questioning, reflection, and conscious illumination
One who practiced this yoga sincerely for a reasonable length of time, impurities of the body and mind meltdown, and one attains knowledge that ultimately liberates him from bondage. This yoga is also called “Dhyan Yoga” or “Ashtanga Yoga” – which means an emphasis on concentration of mind.
Hatha Yoga is made of two words, HA and THA, its former meaning Surya or the sun and the latter Chandra or moon. Hatha yoga unites the sun and moon, the sun is prana, the life force. It carries out the function of blood circulation and respiration.
The moon performs the function of removing impurities from the body, the two forces let life pushes forward. Hatha yoga is a means to establish universal peace and harmony as well, as is well-known peace in the world depends upon the peace of individuals, and unless anger, hatred, greed, and desire for worldly pleasure are done away with through the observance of yoga, there will be no desire to establish peace in the world.
Craving for New Personality
Yoga techniques are often taken to be the only scope for the development of the body, but most people link it with postures (asanas). The techniques are concerned with changing one’s personality as a whole, by bringing about a revolution in one’s attitude, tendencies, and emotions as well as the physiological processes underlying these, physical posture or asanas are only the beginning. Control over breath and mind brings changes in personality on a physiological and psychological level. The yoga techniques for bodily included three types of procedures, namely, the asanas, mudras, and cleansing acts.
The asanas were perhaps developed for the purpose of sitting comfortably for long durations in a state of peace and relaxation. This is clear from the mention of asanas in the Upanishads, the Gita, the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, and some other ancient treatises. The term “mudra” perhaps, carries the same meaning as asanas. The practice of asanas brings mental and physical steadiness and makes for perfect health and suppleness of the body, while the practice of mudras is undertaken to arouse dormant Kundalini.
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