What is Yoga
“Here is, in truth, the whole secret of Yoga, the science of the soul. The active turnings, the strident vibrations, of selfishness, lust and hate are to be stilled by meditation, by letting heart and mind dwell in spiritual life, by lifting up the heart to the strong, silent life above, which rests in the stillness of eternal love, and needs no harsh vibration to convince it of true being.”
― Patañjali, the Patanjali Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The Book of the Spiritual Man
Yoga is to live life with happiness, that’s why it’s called the Art of living.
Yoga is a pure science of spirituality based on eternal principles. It encourages the integration of peace, harmony, blessings, beauty and inner power into a person’s life.
Yoga is a science which discovers the reality, discovers the self and unites it with the world so that balance and harmony is acquired.
Through Yoga one can’t ignore the true meaning of happiness and the reality of this world, as you will your consciousness.
Yoga is a tradition of holistic living. It combines the best aspects of a perfect well-being on a number of levels – physical, mental, social, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. It helps you to collect great amount of energies and transforms you into a state where you experience the pure awareness of love, mental and physical energy, and peace.
This mentality and lifestyle makes it possible for a person to live happily, healthily and in harmony. Holistic living also means living a life beyond negative states of stress, anxiety, conflict, hate, jealousy and violence, while tempering excitement and attachments.
Yoga begins with developing a deep understanding of life, especially the sources and causes of miseries, problems and failures. The average human is mainly led by our basic instincts concerning food, sleep, sex, security, social recognition and material wealth. While many of us let emotions and our greed, anger, ego, attractions, attachments and repulsions rule life, Yoga transform all of this into positive energy.
We all try to live happily, peacefully and successfully while we are relying on more and more material possessions over time. Our basic approach for the pursuit of pleasure can distract us and will always keep us one step behind. This is where we often fall into the mechanical habitual vicious circle of seeking pleasure and avoiding pain.
The mind is scattered in a confusing world chaotic desires and emotions. It is easy to form identities based on material happiness by seeking one possession (the state of being possessed) and short-term pleasures. The problem of his approach is that it will never keep us satisfied while we continue looking for short bursts of smiles without ever asking if there is a long term solution for happiness.
Yoga is derived from the word Yui, the Sanskrit verb to unite. Yoga means union. Reunion refers to process of combining the individual with the universal consciousness but also includes the body and mind or mind.
Another meaning for the root word of Yoga is Samadhi, which is described as the state of mind in which we voluntarily connect to the object of our enquiry (object of meditation) to free ourselves of the limitations and distractions of thoughts and emotions.
The Bhagavad-Gita describes Yoga as “The ability to maintain inner peace at all times is the secret of Karma Yoga.”
Around the world there are many misconceptions and different perspectives, understandings and feelings toward Yoga. Many are based on an incomplete image and definition. Although many people show knowledge or speak of Iyengor Yoga, Bikram Yoga, flow Yoga and yin Yoga, it is wrong to assume that there exists different types of Yoga. In truth, there is only one type of Yoga. However, let’s give this a closer look and start with what is Yoga not.
Yoga is not exercise.
Physical exercise like jogging, gym workouts and sport are contemporary methods to help keep the body fit. Activities like these are meant to strengthen your body to a better physiological biochemical state and improve your vitality and stamina. However, Yoga is not a physical exercise; it is a science of consciousness. The physical movements or poses are only used to facilitate a special sense of consciousness.
Practising Yoga regularly promotes health by enabling a person to achieve their optimum level of biochemical and physiological functioning. It also helps prevent disease and assists with the treatment of illness. But these are just the side effects. Many Yoga practices mistakenly abolish the rules and principles of the transformations of the consciousness, including behaviour, attitudes and the personality.
The problem of this approach that the true purpose of Yoga returns to the failing concepts of the average human which brought us to unhappy, confused states in the first place. So we would return to focussing on the body, senses, possessions, money and prestige instead of living a true, balance, harmonic, energetic and peaceful life. As a result of this, a lot of students remain in the whirlwind of living superficially. In that state it is not possible to experience and realise Yoga’s vast potential.
The centre is full of knowledge, power, beauty, bliss and harmony. However, a person can only discover these by looking within.
Yoga is not religion.
The word religion originates from a word meaning the realisation of God. Every religion has prophets, rituals and codes of conduct. Followers are expected to observe these rituals and codes of conduct. Followers are often sensitive, emotional and dogmatic about their religion.
Yoga is not a religion. It is a discipline, science and conscious way of living that helps both theist and atheist to balance their mind and find harmony for their needs and emotions. It also helps both to appreciate life and all its wonders more.
4 paths of Yoga.
Jnana Yoga –self-analysis
Raja Yoga –self-control
Bhakti Yoga –surrender
Karma Yoga –self-sacrifice
A brief history of Yoga.
Yoga can be broken down into four periods of history.
1) Pre-classical period.
2) Classical period.
3) Post classical.
4) Modern period
Pre-classical Yoga period:
This period is the period of Vedas and medical back up to 8000 years and includes the Indus Valley civilisation. The Saraswati River dried up and the inhabitants moved east towards the Ganges and so towards central and southern.
In this period we have the Ramayana which includes the relationship between the god Rama and his devotee Hanuman. Abortion except the fight is an example of Bhakti Yoga.
It is also said that at this time many techniques were being used for deep meditation, to help uncover the ultimate reality. Jnana Yoga was also being practised.
This period is the period of where the Yoga Sutra was written (about 3000 years ago). In a collection of only 196 sutras, or threads, Patañjali develops techniques and a system that is known as Raja Yoga – the Royal Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga. Ashtanga is the 8 limb or disciplines of Yoga. Raja Yoga includes practices of morality, ethics and attitude – asanas and pranayama is primarily a meditative path. The majority of all practices described in the Sutra deals with mental cultivation and meditation practices. The contributors of Patanjali’s Sutra were Gautama the Buddha, Mahavira of Janism and Bhagavad Gita.
Post classical period:
It is a period strongly influenced by Patanjali yet it does offer some different perspectives of life (1000 years to 200 years back).
Patanjali’s view was dualistic which distinguished three states of mind, the physical aspects and Brahman. But in this period a no-dualistic view was being followed which is based on the Vedanta and Upanishads philosophy. When considering the teaching of the Upanishads philosophy one can observe a perfect example of Jnana.
According to this view, Brahman, Purusha and Prakriti offer mostly the same perspective except when it comes to the manifestations of Brahman.
People began to focus much more on the physical aspects of, thus a slightly different approach was preferred. With the focus on the body and the understanding of the connection between prana and the mind, Yogis used asanas, pranayama, kriyās and bandhas to balance the two channels of ha and tha, or Ida and pingala, thus preparing the Yogi for meditation and Samadhi.
This is the period of Hatha Yoga. It is clear that Hatha Yoga is a simplified form of Raja Yoga.