What is Yoga?
What is Yoga? A good place to start is by defining
the meaning of the word itself ; Yoga in Sanskrit
means ‘to unite’, the union of body, mind and spirit,
the union of the man with all of creation.
Yoga is a timeless pragmatic science dealing with
the physical, moral, mental and spiritual well-being
of man as a whole.
"Yoga is the science to be in the here and now." - Osho
The ultimate goal of Yoga is not attainment; attainment
of perfect body, a better posture, temporary relaxation.
All these are ‘unavoidable by-products’ that come with
consistent practice. The ultimate goal of Yoga, is
self-realization. It is a process of awakening to the truth
of one’s true existence, to freedom in the form of an
everlasting sense of tranquility throughout the
ever-moving tides of daily doings and the seasons
of one’s life.
The Yoga Sutras, created and recorded in 400BC
by Sage Patanjali, are the guidelines on how to
practice Yoga. They are the backbone of Yoga,
integrating spiritual, somatic and mindful practices
that are essential for a holistic Yoga practice. They
are also known by the name 'the eight limbs of
Yoga' (Ashtanga, in Sanskrit).
The Eight Limbs of Yoga:
- Yama (Principles)
- Ahimsa - Non-violence
- Satya - Truthfulness
- Asteya - Non-stealing
- Brahmacharya - Continence / celibacy
- Aparigraha - Non-possessiveness
- Niyama (Personal Disciplines)
- Shoucha - Purity of Body & Mind
- Santosha - Contentment with what One has
- Tapas - Endurance
- Swadhyaya - Self-study
- Ishvara Pranidhana - Dedication
- Asana - (Seat of Posture) A posture of steadiness (sthira) & ease (sukha) which helps attain mental
- Pranayama - (Breathing) Extension and control of breath.
- Pratyahara - (Sense Withdrawal) A mental preparation to calm the mind.
- Dharana - (One-Pointed Concentration) Concentration of the mind on one object, clearing it of any
- Dhyana - (Meditation) Withdrawing the mind from all external objects; a state of awareness of the
present moment, free of any judgment.
- Samadhi - (Total Absorption) State of bliss, merging of individual consciousness in to universal
Yoga is an excellent form of exercise that carries numerous immediate and long-term benefits. Some of its
physical benefits include:
- improved flexibility & mobility
- stronger bones, muscles & joints
- improved posture & body tone
- increased core strength & energy
- increased metabolism
- hormonal balancing
- robustness to injuries
- enhanced sport performance
- increased vitality & appetite for life
Apart from bodily benefits, Yoga gives us many subtler and deeper mindful & psychological benefits, which
with consistent practice get incorporated in the practitioner’s way of life. Such are:
- development of body awareness
- reduction of stress, anxiety & depression
- feeling of calmness & relaxation
- improved self-confidence and patience
- recovery from disease/injury/psychological trauma
- happier outlook on life
- improved sense of intuition
- ultimately, discovery of one’s real self
It is just to say that Yoga is not just a work-out, it is a ‘work-in’.