Yoga – An ancient secret of happiness

Do you want to practice yoga daily to tone your body ? or to lose weight? to burn extra calories? Do you think yoga postures are good physical exercise? 

If your answer is ‘yes’ then this article is for you. It will give you a brief insight into yoga. You will learn how ancient techniques of yoga can help to transform not only your physical body and mind but also it will show you the path towards self-realization. You will learn about the origin of yoga and how yoga is different from other non-yogic physical exercises. 

So let’s dive deeper into the world of yoga. 

What yoga means?

Yoga is an art and extremely subtle science, which focuses on bringing harmony between mind and body. It brings harmony in all walks of life thus, known for disease prevention, promotion of health, and management of many lifestyle-related disorders. The term yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Yuj’ meaning ‘to connect ‘ or ‘to unite’ In yoga, you unite your body which leads to the union of individual consciousness with that of the universal consciousness. 

Origin of Yoga

Gurukul
Gurukul

It is believed that the practice of yoga started 5000 years ago in India during the Indus valley civilization. The presence of yoga is available in folk traditions, in Vedas and Upanishads, Buddhist and Jain traditions. In ancient times, yoga was being practiced under the direct guidance of the guru. It was a part of Upasana and yoga sadhana was inbuilt in their rituals. Sun was given the highest importance during the Vedic period

Maharshi Sage Patanjali

Many people believe that Maharshi sage Patanjali is the father of Yoga. But Yoga was already there in the ancient pre-Vedic period. Sage Patanjali however systematized and codified existing practices of yoga and its related knowledge through his yoga sutra. The yoga sutras of Patanjali are a collection of 196 sutras (aphorisms) on the theory and practice of yoga. 

there are four chapters of yoga and 196 sutras –

  1. Samadhi Pada – This chapter is about enlightenment.
  2. Sadhana Pada – This chapter contains instructions for our practice.
  3. Vibhuti Pada – This chapter offer guidelines for living a more meaningful and purposeful life through the path of yoga.
  4. Kaivalya Pada – Finally this chapter is about ‘Mukti’ or liberation.
Sage Maharshi Patanjali define yoga in samadhi pada 1:2 as “Yogachittahvruttinirodhaha”

Meaning – yoga is the complete cessation of the functional modification of life.

Ashtang-Yoga

 

meditative pose
Meditation

As per sage Patanjali’s yoga-sutras, there are eight limbs of yoga also known as Ashtangyoga or Raja yoga. They are as follows

Yama – It refers to disciplines that are primarily concerned with the world around us.

There are 5 Yamas

Ahimsa (non-violence) – Here not only physical non-violence but non-violence in thought, words, and deed. We should practice act of kindness to everyone.

Satya (Truthfulness) – We should always speak what is truth, and we should not harm anyone with our words. If our truth is harming anyone we should keep silent.

Asteya (Nonstealing) – Non-stealing of material as well as non-material things like anyone’s thoughts or ideas etc.

Brahmacharya – controlling mind, thoughts, and deed from physical or sensual pleasures to achieve brahmacharya.

Aparigraha – (non-possessiveness or non-attachment) – Aparighraha teaches us to take only what we need, keep only what serves us in that moment, and to let go when the time is right.

Niyama – It refers to duties directed towards ourselves. It concerns both the outer and inner cleanliness. 

There are 5 Niyamas

Swatch(Cleanliness) – This refers to physical and mental purity.

Santosh (Contentment) – We should always be contented or satisfied with whatever situation we have in life, this will bring balance in our inner and external world.

Tapas (Austerities) – It means cultivating a sense of discipline, passion, and courage in order to burn impurities physically, mentally anf emotionally,  and paving the path to our greatness.

Swadhyaya(Self-study) – Here it means the study of sacred texts and study of ourselves and our senses.

Ishwaraparidhan (Surrender to a higher power) – Complete surrender to Ishwaraor higher power or ultimate reality. We should surrender to divine energy. 

Asana – This is the third limb on the path of freedom. But here Asana means  ‘seat’. The only alignment instruction Patanjali gives for this is ‘Sthiram Sukham Asanam’ which means posture should be steady and comfortable. Asana prepares you for the next limb ‘Pranayama’.

Pranayama – The word ‘Prana’ refers to ‘energy’ or ‘life source’. Prana also describes the breath, and by working with how we breathe, we affect the mind in a very real way.

Pratyahara – It refers to the withdrawal of sense organs from their respective objects. It is not actually losing our ability to see, to feel or to smell. Instead, it is the practice of changing our state of mind so that we become so absorbed in what we are focusing on that the things outside our world no longer bother us.

Pratyahara forms the bridge between the first four limbs (bahiranga yoga) and last three limbs (antaranga yoga).

Dharna – This refers to ‘focused concentration’. ‘Dha’ means ‘holding’ or ‘maintaining’ and ‘ana’ means ‘other’ or ‘something else’. To focus on something else as in pratyahara, senses must be withdrawn so that all attention is put on that point of concentration, and to draw our senses in, we must concentrate. Tratak(candle gazing), visualization, and focusing on the breath are all practices of dharna.

Dhyana – (Mediative absorption) Dharna done for a longer time is called the dhyana. In this stage, we meditate in a real sense without any thoughts in mind

Samadhi – (Spiritual absorption) Bliss or Enlightenment – the final stage of the eightfold path of yoga is the ultimate blissful state of staying focused.

In both ‘Dharna’ and ‘Dhyana’ there are three elements. The meditator, the object meditated upon, and the process of meditation. In the state of samadhi, the meditator and the process of meditation as if disappear and only the object of meditation shines forth.

It is in the last stage name samadhi ‘kavalya’ happens. Wherein ‘Chittavrittinirodhaha’ finally takes place.

So through these eight limbs, Sage Patanjali contends that you have to be perfect in yama, niyama, otherwise asana, and pranayama may fail to give desirable results.

Contrary to Ashtanyoga Sage Swatwaram in hath yoga has eliminated the yama and niyama, which are the starting points in the Sage Patanjali’s yoga.

Introduction to Hatha yoga

Contrary to Ashtang yoga Sage Swatwaram in hath yoga has eliminated the yama and niyama, which are the starting points in the Sage Patanjali’s yoga.

Hatha yoga is more body-oriented as compared to Patanjali yoga which is mind oriented. ‘Ha’ means sun and ‘tha’ means moon.  Hatha yoga is the science of yoga, which purifies the physical body by means of shtkarma (Shuddhikriya), asana, pranayama, mudra, bandha, and concentration as a preparatory to Raja yoga.

The ultimate goal of hatha yoga is similar to Ashtangyoga i.e. moksha or self-realization.

The aim of hatha yoga practice balances the energy system in the body, make the body healthy, mind emotionally strong, intellect sharp, and spiritual aspiration fulfilled. 

So, ultimately both Patanjali yoga and Hatha yoga realized the same goal, i.e. the activation of highest consciousness also called moksha or self-realization, but the way they get there is different. 

Benefits of yoga

Yoga is becoming popular nowadays, but it is mostly misunderstood as a form of physical exercise. There are many differences between yoga and other non-yogic practices.

  • Yoga works on a person’s physical, mental, and spiritual fitness whereas other non-yoga exercise works on the physical body, nourishes them and strengthens them.
  • In addition to exercise, yoga promotes peace, contentment, and happiness
  • The physical aspect of yoga is Asana and as you know now asana is just the beginning limb of the eight limbs of yoga.
  • Yoga focuses more on steady postures, relaxation of muscles, rhythmic breathing. In other exercises, the emphasis is on movement and stress on the muscles.
  • Yoga helps developed muscles evenly over the bone surface thereby increases flexibility. other physical exercises focus on increasing muscle mass. As a result, the length of the muscle shortens and flexibility decreases.
  • Yoga is an energy-efficient activity whereas when we do non-yoga exercises it requires lots of energy.
  • In yoga once attained asana posture body is relaxed and the blood requirement is reduced. This relieves the stress on the heart. In other exercises, the result is the opposite. We put a strain on the muscles. This increases the speed of blood circulation and blood pressure, which increases the workload on the heart.
  • In yoga, as the body in a relaxed state, so the workload on the respiratory system is reduced. Whereas constant body movements in regular exercise increase the oxygen requirement in the muscle. This increases the speed of breathing, causing the lungs to work harder. 
  • In the practice of asana, the oxygen consumption is reduced but in physical exercise, the oxygen consumption is increased.
  • In asana, the blood pressure and heart rate decrease, whereas in regular exercise they increase as your heart is working harder.
  • Asana helps to harmonize the endocrine secretion, thereby balancing the emotions and giving a positive attitude towards life.
  • Asana stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, while exercise stimulates the sympathetic nervous system.
  • Asana develops inner awareness but the same is not necessarily the case with exercise

Misconception about Yoga

Your body should be flexible to practice yogasana.

Yoga can help anyone gain flexibility with regular practice. Anyone can improve his/her flexibility with yoga practice.

Yoga is physical exercise.

The fact is that yoga is a holistic discipline. It can be considered a means of balancing and harmonizing the body, mind, and spirit. 

Yoga therapy can help to cure all diseases.

Yoga is actually a preventive discipline but it does have therapeutic effects in some cases of diseases. It is not a panacea for all ailments.

Yoga is about religion.

Yoga is in fact a philosophy, a way of life. It promotes kindness and compassion towards oneself and towards one’s fellow beings.

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1 thought on “Yoga – An ancient secret of happiness”

  1. The real purpose of Yoga is to integrate the physical and mental aspects of the body. By using the breath, we are capable of bringing our focus into the present moment.
    Profound concept, very well written.

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