Yoga: Way of Life
What is Yoga?
Derived from the Sanskrit word yuj, Yoga means union of the individual consciousness or soul with the Universal Consciousness or Spirit. Yoga is a 5000-year-old Indian body of knowledge. Though many think of yoga only as a physical exercise where people twist, turn, stretch, and breathe in the most complex ways, these are actually only the most superficial aspect of this profound science of unfolding the infinite potentials of the human mind and soul. The science of Yoga imbibes the complete essence of the Way of Life.
"Yoga is not just exercise and asanas. It is the emotional integration and spiritual elevation with a touch of mystic element, which gives you a glimpse of something beyond all imagination."
History of Yoga
Yoga is more than 10,000 years old. The earliest mention of the contemplative tradition is found in the oldest surviving literature Rig Veda, in Nasadiya Sukta. It dates back to the Indus-Saraswati civilization. The Pashupati seal from the selfsame civilization shows a figure sitting in a yogic posture, further corroborating its prevalence in those ancient times. However, the earliest mention of the practices that later became part of yoga are found in the oldest Upanishad, Brihadaranyaka. The practice of Pranayama finds a mention in one of its hymn and Pratyahara in Chandogya Upanishad. The first appearance of the word "yoga" with the same meaning as we know today, perhaps happens for the first time in Kato Upanishad, a mukhya or important Upanishad, embedded in the last eight sections of the Katha school of Yajurveda. Yoga here is seen as a process of inner journey or ascent of consciousness.
The famous dialogue, Yoga Yajnavalkya, (found in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad), between Sage Yajnavalkya and the learned Brahmvadin Gargi mentions asanas, numerous breathing exercises for cleansing the body and meditation. Gargi has also spoken about Yogasanas in Chandogya Upanishad.
Vratya, a group of ascetics mentioned in the Atharvaveda, emphasized on bodily postures, which may have evolved into Yogasanas. Even Samhitas mention munis, kesins and vratyas, various ancient seers and sages who practiced rigorous physical deportments to meditate or do tapasya.
Yoga as a concept slowly emerged and has an elaborate mention in Bhagavad Gita and in Shanti Parva of Mahabharata.
There are more than 20 Upanishads and Yoga Vasishtha, which predate Mahabharata and Bhagavad Gita, where Yoga is stated to be the union of mind with the Supreme Consciousness.
Yoga is discussed in the ancient foundational Sutra of Hindu philosophy and is perhaps most elaborately mentioned in Yogasutra.
Scriptures of Yoga: Patanjali Yoga Sutras
Patanjali is considered as the father of Yoga and his Yoga Sutra are completely dedicated to the knowledge of Yoga.
Gurudev's exclusive commentary on the ancient scripture, Patanjali Yoga Sutras, enlighten you on the knowledge of yoga, its origin and purpose. The goal of this rendition of the Yoga Sutras is to make the principles and practices of the Yoga Sutras more understandable and accessible. The descriptions of each sutra offered attempts to focus on the practical suggestions of what can be done to experience the ultimate benefits of a yogic lifestyle.
Gurudev has also spoken extensively on the Yogasara Upanishad. In his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, he has shed light on the different limbs of yoga like Samkhya Yoga, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Guhya Yoga and Vibhuti Yoga.
Types of Yoga
The term "yoga" has been applied to a variety of practices and methods that includes:
'Gyan Yoga' or philosophy
'Bhakti Yoga' or path of devotional bliss
'Karma Yoga' or path of blissful action
Raja Yoga is further divided into eight parts also known as Ashtanga Yoga. At the heart of the Raja Yoga system, balancing and unifying these various approaches, is the practice of Yoga Asana.
Yoga for All
One of the beauties of the physical practice of yoga is that the poses support and sustain you no matter how old or young, or fit or frail, you come to your mat. As you age, your understanding of asana becomes more sophisticated. You move from working on the external alignment and mechanics of the pose to refining the inner actions to finally just being in the asana.
Yoga has never been alien to us. We have been doing it since we were a baby! Whether it is the Cat Stretch that strengthens the spine or the Wind-Relieving pose that boosts digestion, you will always find infants doing some form of yoga throughout the day. Yoga can be many things to many people. We are determined to help you discover your "Yoga Way of Life!"
Breathing Techniques (Pranayama) & Meditation (Dhyaan)
Pranayama is the extension and control of one's breath. Practicing proper techniques of breathing can help bring more oxygen to the blood and brain, eventually helping control prana or the vital life energy. Pranayama also goes hand in hand with various yoga asanas. The union of these two yogic principles is considered as the highest form of purification and self-discipline, covering both mind and body. Pranayama techniques also prepare us for a deeper experience of meditation.
Health Benefits of Yoga in Daily Life
Weight loss, a strong and flexible body, glowing beautiful skin, peaceful mind, good health - whatever you may be looking for, yoga has it on offer. However, very often, yoga is only partially understood as being limited to asanas (yoga poses). As such, its benefits are only perceived to be at the body level and we fail to realize the immense benefits yoga offers in uniting the body, mind and breath. When you are in harmony, the journey through life is calmer, happier and more fulfilling.
1. All-round fitness
2. Weight loss
3. Stress relief
4. Inner peace
5. Improved immunity
6. Living with greater awareness
7. Better relationships
8. Increased energy
9. Better flexibility & posture
10. Better intuition
With all this and much more to offer, the benefits of yoga are felt in a profound yet subtle manner. Here, we can have a look at the top 10 benefits:
1. Yoga for all-round fitness -
"Health is not a mere absence of disease. It is a dynamic expression of life - in terms of how joyful, loving and enthusiastic you are" This is where yoga helps: postures, pranayama (breathing techniques) and meditation are a holistic fitness package. The benefits accrued by being a regular practitioner are numerous. Some very discernible ones are:
• Improves health
• Gives mental strength
• Improves physical strength
• Protection from injury
• Detoxifies the body
2. Yoga for weight loss.
Desire of many ! Yoga helps here too. Sun Salutations and Kapalbhati pranayama help lose weight with yoga. Moreover, with regular practice of yoga, we tend to become more sensitive to the kind of food our body asks for and the time we take. This can also help keep a check on our weight.
3. Yoga for stress relief.
A few minutes of yoga during the day can be a great way to get rid of stress that accumulates daily - in both the body and mind. Yoga postures, pranayama and meditation are effective techniques to release stress.
4. Yoga for inner peace.
We all love to visit peaceful, serene spots, rich in natural beauty. Little do we realize that peace can be found right within us and we can take a mini-vacation to experience this any time of the day! Benefit from a small holiday every day with yoga and meditation. Yoga is also one of the best ways to calm a disturbed mind.
5. Yoga to improve immunity.
Our system is a seamless blend of the body, mind and spirit. An irregularity in the body affects the mind and similarly unpleasantness or restlessness in the mind can manifest as an ailment in the body. Yoga poses massage organs and strengthens muscles; breathing techniques and meditation release stress and improve immunity.
6. Yoga to live with greater awareness.
The mind is constantly involved in activity – swinging from the past to the future - but never staying in the present. By simply being aware of this tendency of the mind, we can actually save ourselves from getting stressed or worked up and relax the mind. Yoga and pranayama help create that awareness and bring the mind back to the present moment, where it can stay happy and focused.
7. Yoga for better relationships.
Yoga can even help improve your relationship with your spouse, parents, friends or loved ones! A mind that is relaxed, happy and contented is better able to deal with sensitive relationship matters. Yoga and meditation keeps the mind happy and peaceful; and watch how your relations with those around you blossom !
8. Yoga to increase energy.
Do you feel completely drained by the end of the day? Shuttling through chores, and multitasking continuously can be quite exhausting. A few minutes of yoga everyday provides the much-needed fillip that boosts our energy and keeps us fresh. A 10-minute online-guided meditation is all you need to charge up your batteries, in the middle of a hectic day.
9. Yoga for better flexibility & posture.
Yoga must become part of your daily routine to get a body that is strong, supple and flexible. Regular yoga practice, stretches and tones the body muscles and also makes them strong. It also helps improve your body posture when you stand, sit, sleep or walk. This would, in turn, help relieve you of body pain due to incorrect posture.
10. Yoga to improve intuition.
Yoga and meditation have the power to improve your intuitive ability so that you spontaneously realize what needs to be done, when and how, to yield positive results. It does work! You only need to experience it yourself.
Yoga asanas contribute towards physical well-being. Yoga postures done with full awareness provides a gentle massage to all the internal organs, and leads you to a relaxed state of mind. In a relaxed and steady posture, you can feel a joyful expansion. Yoga helps you become aware of your body, including the pains or discomfort in any part of the body. It is possible to release the pain, by just taking your attention to it.
The secret of awareness is to just watch everything that is going on in the body and mind - as a witness. Do not resist, but watch with a smile! Make your life a celebration - with Yoga!
Regular practice of Yoga establishes you in the Self; you feel a sense of belongingness with everyone and everything in Creation. You are then at peace with yourself and everything around you.
Enhance your good health and energy - by eating with awareness. When you are pre-occupied or feel upset, you tend to eat mindlessly. However when the mind is aware, you are conscious of what you eat and how much you take in.
You manage to do many activities with full attention, but sometimes there is no mental relaxation. And there are other moments when your awareness seems to have expanded, but the mind is not sharp.
Is it then possible to be totally aware, relaxed and happy, as well as have sharpness of intelligence at the same time? Yes, Yoga can help us to achieve this balanced state of awareness that gives clarity and sharpness of mind, as well as calmness and joy.