Yoga is not just an exercise; it is a way of life, a lifestyle. Yoga is so much more than just a great workout. It is something that can be applied in every activities of life such as eating, sleeping, walking, bathing, talking, working, etc. It not only deals with physical but also mental and spiritual aspect of a being.
The word “yoga” means union. It unites body, mind and spirit and finally with the super-consciousness. When you choose a yogic lifestyle you completely become a different human being, one who is sacred in every way.
Many people believe yoga to be a part of a religion- particularly Hinduism. But it isn’t. Yoga is a scientific approach to restore the balance of our emotional well-being, physical fitness and increasing our spiritual awareness.
If we practice yoga from the early stage of life we won’t need doctors and hospitals. We will be healthy in every way. Our health is in our own hands. We become sick because of our destructive lifestyle. Everybody should learn and practice yoga daily: it’s as important as eating.
In this modern age of science and technology yoga is the only breakthrough possible. It’s the only hope for the humanity. We can see that in the world many people think nothing is good; there are lots of problems without solutions; we are here for suffering. But through Yoga, the answer to all these questions is possible as because it helps to clear our mind and pure our thoughts. Then we will be in a bliss, a stage without suffering. That’s why Yoga is compulsory to change ourselves and the World.
In modern belief yoga only refers to asanas. Despite the modern belief, yoga is not only Asanas. In actual, there are eight limbs in yoga and asana is its third limb.The eight limbs are:1. Yama (social discipline), 2. Niyama (personal discipline), 3. Asana (body posture) 4. Pranayama (Breathing Exercises), 5. Pratyahara (Control of the senses) 6. Dharana (Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness) 7. Dhyana (Meditation) and 8.Samadhi (Enlightenment, Super consciousness). According to Patanjali (who postulated The Yoga Sutras), there are special benefits of practicing each limb of yoga.
- Yama (Social Discipline/Universal Morality):Yama is social discipline. Practice of Yama brings good to self, family, society, country and the whole world. It includes five disciplines:
Ahimsa (Non-violence): The word Ahimsa literally means not to injure or show cruelty to any creature or any person in any way whatsoever. If a man gets the ideal of non – injuring others, before him, even animals which are by their nature ferocious will become peaceful. The tiger and the lamb will play together before that Yogi. When you have come to that state, then only understand that you have become firmly established in non – injuring.
Satya (Truthfulness):Satya means “to speak the truth,” yet it is not always desirable to speak the truth on all occasions, for it could harm someone unnecessarily. By the establishment of truthfulness the Yogi gets the power of attaining for himself and others the fruits of work without the works.When this power of truth will be established with you, then even in dream you will never tell an untruth. You will be true in thought, word, and deed. Whatever you say will be truth. You may say to a man, “Be blessed,” and that man will be blessed. If a man is diseased, and you say to him, “Be thou cured,” he will be cured immediately.
Asteya (Non-stealing):Steya means “to steal”; asteya is the opposite-to take nothing that does not belong to us. By the establishment of non – stealing all wealth comes to the Yogi.The more you fly from nature, the more she follows you; and if you do not care for her at all, she becomes your slave.
Brahmacharya (Continence):Brahmacharyarefers to self-control. It’s the ability to hold it all in.By the establishment of continence energy is gained.The brain of man with continence has tremendous energy and gigantic will – power. Without continency there can be no spiritual strength. Continence gives wonderful control over mankind. The spiritual leaders of men have been very continent, and this is what gave them power. Therefore, the Yogi must be continent.
Aparigraha (Non-hoarding):Aparigraha means to hoard only what is necessary.The yogi feels that the hoarding of things implies a lack of faith in God and in himself to provide for his future. Aparigraha also implies letting go of our attachments to things and an understanding that impermanence and change are the only constants. When he is fixed in non – hoarding, he gets the memory of past life.He sees that he has been coming and going many times, so he becomes determined that this time he will be free, that he will no more come and go, and be the slave of Nature.
- Niyama (Self-discipline):Niyama refers to the attitude we adopt toward ourselves as we create a code for living soulfully. Practicing Niyama makes a man healthy and pure in body, mind and spirit and prepares him for the further practice of Yoga. The five disciplines to be practiced under Niyama are:
Soucha (Cleanliness): Souchameans purity and cleanliness (inner and outer). When there is real purification of the body, external and internal, there arises neglect of the body, and the idea of keeping it nice vanishes. Face which others call most beautiful will appear to the Yogi as merely animal, if there is not intelligence behind it. What the world calls a very common face, he regards as heavenly, if the spirit shines behind it. This thirst after body is the great bane of human life. So, the first sign of the establishment of purity is that you do not care to think you are a body. It is only when purity comes that we get rise over the body idea.
Santosh (Contentment): Santoshmeans the feeling of being content with what we have. To be at peace within and content with one’s lifestyle finding contentment even while experiencing life’s difficulties for life becomes a process of growth through all kinds of circumstances.From contentment comes the ultimate happiness.
Tapa (Mortification): Tapa refers to the activity of keeping the body fit or to confront and handle the inner urges without outer show. Literally it means to heat the body and, by so doing, to cleanse it. When the impurity is destroyed by mortification, body and the sense organs get different psychic abilities. The results of mortification are seen immediately sometimes by clairvoyance, clairaudienceetc.
Swadhyaya (Self Study):Swa means “self’ adhyaya means “inquiry” or “examination”. Any activity that cultivates self-reflective consciousness can be considered swadhyaya. By self-study and constant inquiry comes the realisation of the intended deity.
Iswarapranidhana (Surrender to God):Iswarapranidhana means “to lay all your actions at the feet of God.” It is the contemplation on God (Iswara) in order to become attuned to god and god’s will.By surrendering all to God comes Samadhi (Super consciousness).
- Asana (Posture): Asana means staying in a position pleasantly and comfortably. Until you can get a firm seat you cannot practice the breathing and other exercises. Firmness of seat means that you do not feel the body at all. In the ordinary way, you will find that as soon as you sit for a few minutes all sorts of disturbances come into the body; but when you have got beyond the idea of a concrete body, you will lose all sense of the body. You will feel neither pleasure nor pain. And when you take your body up again, it will feel so rested. When you have succeeded in conquering the body and keeping it firm, your practice will remain firm, but while you are disturbed by the body, your nerves become disturbed, and you cannot concentrate the mind.The dualities, good and bad, heat and cold, and all the pairs of opposites, will not then disturb you.
- Pranayama (Breathing Exercises):Pranayama is the measuring, control, directing and expansion of the breath. Pranayama controls the energy (prana) within the organism, in order to restore and maintain health and to promote evolution.We begin by controlling the breath, as the easiest way of getting control of the Prana. By controlling the prana we can control the mind, the mind is set free and becomes fit for concentration.
- Pratyahara (Control of the senses/sense organs):Pratyahara means drawing back or retreat. The word ahara means “nourishment”; pratyahara translates as “to withdraw oneself from that which nourishes the senses.”When the Yogi has succeeded in preventing the senses from taking the forms of external objects, and in making them remain one with the mind – stuff, then comes perfect control of the senses. When the senses are perfectly under control, every muscle and nerve will be under control, because the senses are the centres of all the sensations, and of all actions. When the senses are controlled, the Yogi can control all feeling and doing; the whole of the body comes under his control.
- Dharana (Concentration):Dharana (concentration) is when the mind holds on to some object, either in the body, or outside the body, and keeps itself in that state.
- Dhyana (Meditation):The mind tries to think of one object, to hold itself to one particular spot, as the top of the head, the heart, etc., and if the mind succeeds in receiving the sensations only through that part of the body, and through no other part, that would be Dharana, and when the mind succeeds in keeping itself in that state for some time, it is called Dhyana (meditation).
- Samadhi (Super consciousness):That comes when in meditation the form or the external part is given up. Suppose I were meditating on a book, and that I have gradually succeeded in concentrating the mind on it, and perceiving only the internal sensations, the meaning, unexpressed in any form — that state of Dhyana is called Samadhi.
When a man can direct his mind to any particular object and fix it there, and then keep it there for a long time, separating its external shape from the internal part, this is Samyama; means Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi, one following the other, and making one. The form of the thing has vanished, and only its meaning remains in the mind.When one has succeeded in making this Samyama, all powers come under his control. This is the great instrument of the Yogi. The objects of knowledge are infinite, and they are divided into the gross, grosser, grossest and the fine, finer, finest and so on. This Samyama should be first applied to gross things, and when you begin to get knowledge of this gross, slowly, by stages, it should be brought to finer things.
By making Samyama on friendship, mercy, etc. the Yogi excels in the respective qualities.
By making Samyama on the strength of the elephant and other creatures, their respective strength comes to the Yogi.
By making Samyama on the sun, comes the knowledge of the world.
By making Samyama on the moon, comes the knowledge of the cluster of stars
By making Samyama on the navel circle, comes the knowledge of the constitution of the body.
By making Samyama on the hollow of the throat, comes cessation of thirst and hunger.
This is why yoga can deal with all the problems that exist in the world (physical, mental, social, spiritual). But it needs practice, and a lot of people nowadays don’t have time anymore. So, they cannot focus on what they really searching for, called inner peace or bliss. So, they will get either mentally sick or physically ill. It will bring them in a situation in which they have to surrender. They might think that dying is easier than living. But with yoga life can be beautiful. Yoga will bring us back in a simple form and we will feel natural joy for little things again. We don’t have to pay money for that. The only thing we have to invest is some time every day and choose yoga as a lifestyle. It should be worth for everyone. And if more and more people would do it, let’s say a little investment of time, it would create a huge power and happiness. Yoga creates balance in your life. Balance between work and rest, outer and inner world, personal and social life etc.
How the word ‘Yoga’ was brought to ordinary people
Legend has it that many years ago, there lived a brave and powerful king. All other kings were afraid of him. Because of his power and prosperity, ego rose in him day by day; he was drown into the world of pleasures and luxuries. As he grew older, he became weaker. He started suffering from diseases often.
In such a fearless king too, now came various sorts of fears. Gradually, he became so stressed by the fear of death; with various negative thoughts and anxieties.
On his 60th birthday he thought, “It was only few years ago that I was young, full of strength and courage, and healthy. It’s my 60th birthday today. My face has wrinkled and hair has turned grey. I have become weak. Yet, my lust grows every day. Soon I will die. What is the meaning of this life? Who am I? What is the secret of this life? What is death? ”
That day the King called saints, philosophers, gurus and masters from all over his country to the palace and asked them the very questions he wondered.
“What is the secret of this life? What is the true worth living called and what can be done to live a worthy life? How can we escape from the sorrow, disease and attachment?”
“Is there any way to survive from the mouth of death?”
After listening to the King’s worries, they told him that the answer to these questions can be achieved from the holy books. They created an investigation committee to collect the answers of king’s questions. People were sent in all directions to collect holy books from all over the country. But It took 5 years for them to collect all the scriptures. They bagged them in 100 ox-carts and went to the king and said, “Your Majesty! All the answers of your questions can be found in these books.
King replied furiously, “I m 65 years old. When will I read all these books?”
Then the king ordered all the scriptures to get summarized. It took another five years, and those scriptures were summarized into 100 books and presented to the king.
But the king, after seeing the stack of the book, became upset and said, “Oh dear masters! I am already 70 years old. I am sick and weak, when will I read these 100 books? Go and summarize it into a briefer discourse as soon as possible.”
After 5 years they brought it in 1 book. By then, the king was already 75 years old and was too weak to see and hear things clearly. Trembling his hands and body, king said furiously, “You fools! How can I read or listen to this book in this condition? Summarize it in one word!”
It took the experts two years to coin a word that could inherit all the knowledge of the holy book of the world. The king was taking his last breath. The chief of the committee went to the king and whispered into his ear the word. If he heard it or not, and if heard he understood or not, that one word was “YOGA”.
Either king heard it or not at least we have got the chance to hear it. The one word summarized extract from all the holy scriptures ever written is “YOGA”. Learning the secret of the importance of yoga from this story, at the right time if we become able to start this great sacred journey and make our life worthy, our life will succeed. Otherwise like the king in the old stage it would not only be difficult but impossible to understand the secret of life. Then as we born crying we will die also crying.
So, let’s “Yoga”.
(The author is a certified Yoga Instructor and a Yoga Practitioner)