- Introduction to Yoga
- Etymology of Yoga
- Origin & Development of Yoga
- Aims & Objectives of Yoga
Introduction to Yoga
Yoga is vast discipline aimed at integrating the mind, body and soul to achieve a state of enlightenment or self-realization. Yoga is the science of right living and it works wonders when it is integrated into our daily life. It works on all aspects of the person – the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. The different branches of yoga prescribe different approaches and techniques but they all ultimately lead to the same goal of enlightenment.
The essence of yoga is practical and scientific, as it lays emphasis on direct experience and tangible results. It is not a religion, but a practice of self-inquiry and inner exploration. The yogic philosophy can be incorporated into any belief system. All yoga practices have the same goal or destination – the discovery and fulfilment of the human potential.
Etymology of Yoga
The Sanskrit word “yoga” from the word “yug” meaning union. In the true sense, this refers to the union of the “jeevatma” (individual self) with the “parmatma” (the universal self).
Yoga is the discipline (sadhana) or a continuous effort to attain the supreme state of realization through intense concentration. The purpose of yoga is to attain spiritual perfection through the control of the body, senses and the mind.
Yoga is an applied science, a systematic discipline to bring about a definite end. It takes up the laws of psychology, applicable to the unfolding of the whole consciousness of man on every plane of the world and applies them rationally in a particular case.
The most common misconception of yoga is that it is just a physical exercise. The fact is that Yoga is a holistic discipline. It can considered as a means of balancing and harmonizing the body, mind and spirit.
1. Definitions of Yoga
- Yoga is usually defined as the union between the Individual Self and the Supreme Self.
- Patanjali defines yoga as “a complete cessation of mental modifications”. It is called as a skilful trick to calm down the mind.
- As per the Bhagwad Geeta, yoga is the equanimity of mind, the art of performing action and the destroyer of misery. Hence, it means to abandon attachment and remain equanimous in success and failure.
- Endowed with wisdom on equanimity, cast off in this life the good and bad deeds.Thus, dedicate yourself to yoga.
Origin & Development of Yoga
Originated in ancient India, Yoga typically means an integration of the mind, body and spirit. It involves the practice of physical postures, which as referred as “aasans” in Sanskrit.
Since the ultimate aim of yoga is to create a balance between the body and mind and to attain self-enlightenment, yoga makes use of different body postures, breathing exercises, relaxation techniques and meditation. Yoga is associated with a healthy and good lifestyle which leads to a balanced approach in life.
1. The Origin
The origin of yoga is traced to the Vedic period. There are many references about yoga in the “Vedas” and the “Upanishads”. Besides, there have been a number of texts which are exclusively devoted to yoga. It is difficult to ascertain a fixed time period for the origin of these ancient texts on yoga, since historians differ on the dates when they were written.
The system of yoga is an ancient tradition having its origin in India and dating back to the beginning of civilization. In the yogic lore, Lord Shiva is considered as the first yogi or Adiyogi and hence the first Guru or Adiguru.
It was not until the discovery of the largest civilization known as the Indus Valley Civilization, that knowledge about the origin of yoga surfaced. Archaeological findings, such as the yogi-like figures engraved on soap stone seal, verify the existence of yoga culture during this period. A number of seals and fossil remains of the Indus Saraswati Valley Civilization with yogic motifs and figures performing “yog sadhana” authenticate the existence of yoga practices in India.
Historical evidences prove the existence of yoga in the pre-Vedic period (2700 BC) and thereafter, in Patanjali’s period.
2. History of Yoga
The development of yoga can been traced back to over 5,000 years ago but some researchers think that yoga may have existed even 10,000 years ago. Yoga’s long and rich history can be divided into 4 main periods of innovation, practice and development. These are:
- Pre-Vedic Period
- Vedic Period
- Classical Yoga Period
- Post-classical Yoga Period
3. Pre-Vedic Period
The study of the Indus Valley Civilization reveals that the practice of yoga was one of the significant features during this period. The idols found in the excavation of the Harappan Civilization reveal the trace of yoga culture in the then society. The idol of “pashupati” in a yogic posture is one of such specimens.
4. The Vedic Period
This period is marked with the emergence of the Vedas. The Vedas are knowledge par excellence. They form the basis of Hinduism. There are 4 Vedas: Rigveda, Saamveda, Yajurveda and Atharvaveda. The Vedas are generally divided into 2 sections: Karmakaand (rituals) and Jnanakaad (knowledge). The Upanishads are contained in the knowledge portion of the Vedas. The Vedas contain the oldest known yogic teachings called the Vedic Yoga. During this period, the people relied on the dedicated vedic yogis (Rishis) to teach them how to live in divine harmony. The Rishis were also gifted with the ability to see the ultimate reality through their intensive spiritual practice. It is during this period that the yogis living in seclusion became known.
5. The Classical Yoga Period
In the pre-classical era, yoga was an incoherent mixture of various ideas, beliefs and techniques that of the conflicted and contradicted each other. The classical period is defined by Patanjali’s Yogasutras, the first systematic presentation of yoga. Written sometime between the 3rd and 6th century BC, this text describes the path of “Ashtaang Yog”, often called Classical Yoga. Patanjali organized the practises of yoga into an “eight-limbed path” containing the steps and the stages towards obtaining Samadhi or enlightenment.
6. The Post-Classical Yoga Period
This period differs from the first 3 as it focuses more on the present. At this time, we see a proliferation of literature as well as the practice of Yoga. A few centuries after Patanjali, a number of yoga masters created a system of practices designed to rejuvenate the body and prolong life. They rejected most of the ancient teachings of the Vedas and embraced the concept of physical body as the means to achieve enlightenment. They developed Tantra Yoga which consists of radical techniques to cleanse the body and mind to break the knots that bind us to our physical existence. This exploration of physical-spiritual connection and body centred practices led to the creation of what we today understand as Hatha Yoga.
Aims and Objectives of Yoga
The ultimate aim of yoga is to set the individual free from the sufferings of life. Yoga by its systematic and conscious process of calming down the mind erases the weaknesses in the mind and builds a will power into it. In such a mind each obstacle is conceived as a challenge and this arouses tremendous energy to combat the situation.
Bravery becomes a part of the personality. Steadfast to the core, such a person takes up the challenges of life with marvellous temperance and converts them into opportunities for accomplishing his mission.
Yoga performs the following functions:
- It gives deep relaxation at the muscular level
- Slows down breath and maintains balance at pranic level
- Increases creative and will power at mental levels
- Sharpens the intellect and calms the mind down at the intellectual level
- Enhances happiness in life and equipoise at the emotional level
- Manifests the inherent divinity in man in all aspects of his life
Yoga is a science and a systematic system of integration of the mind, body and soul. Remember, its a 5000 plus years old legacy, practice it and benefit from it and nourish your mind, body and spirit. Yoga se hi hoga toh yoga asan karo.