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“Yoga is not about self-improvement. It’s absolutely about self- acceptance. Real peace is always unshakable. Bliss is in the offing if you espouse Yoga with grace. Yoga brings wisdom. Lack of meditation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads you forward and what holds you back. Choose the path that eventually leads you to wisdom. Embrace Yoga to realize the essence of wisdom.”
The above sentences clearly describe the importance of Yoga to understand the essence of life and to appreciate the beauty of life. Yoga is the perfect opportunity and an appealing avenue to realize what we are and interpret the science of living. The word ‘Yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘yuj’, which signifies a confluence of the individual consciousness or soul with the Universal Consciousness or Spirit. The genesis of Yoga is a 5000 year old Indian body of knowledge. It is an umbrella term encompassing the physical, mental and spiritual practices of holistic approaches to understand the gist of life. To imbibe devotional bliss in our minds, it is often suggested by Yogis to religiously practice the majestic art of living Yoga. To elicit remarkable changes in our attitude and maintain a healthy mind with an affirmative mindset, the wisdom and techniques of Yoga should be mastered with outright diligence. The ultimate aim of Yoga is to enlighten human souls by liberating human bodies from pain and sufferings and carve out a path that leads to eternal bliss. To unfold the infinite potential of the human mind, one should essentially come out of the state of Maya (the state of illusion) and enter the locale of Moksha (liberation). Yoga has five principal gospels of life:
- Yoga is a systematic discipline to accomplish the goals of life.
- Yoga comprises techniques to control mind and the body.
- Yoga is the name of one of the reputed schools of philosophy.
- Yoga is often used to establish connection with other worlds that transcend the human imagination.
- Yoga is 99% practice, 1% theory. The eventual aim of Yoga is Yoga practice.
The reputed orthodox Hindu schools of Yoga are:
- Jnana Yoga
- Bhakti Yoga
- Karma Yoga
- Laya Yoga
- Hatha Yoga
- Raja Yoga
The Hindu schools of Yoga share a common ideology. They all deem Yoga a powerful and sophisticated art of life that is replete with the inherent principles of vital energy and life. The philosophy of Yoga as depicted and conceptualized by Patanjali is an art of life that engulfs the ethical practices of mind and spirit to achieve a free state of existence. Patanjali’s Yoga is also called ‘Astanga Yoga’ or ‘the Yoga of mind control.’
The 8 elements of Patanjali Sutra’s Yoga:
- Yama: It essentially deals with the principles of ethical etiquette towards others
- Niyama: It essentially deals with the principles of ethical etiquette towards self.
- Asanas: It deals with the various Yoga poses that can provide relaxation to body and mind.
- Pranayama: More often than not, it deals with the breathing exercises that can control the mind.
- Pratyahara: It is an organized practice of withdrawing one’s attention from the body and its senses.
- Dharana: It is the supreme practice of attaining supreme concentration.
- Dhyana: It is ‘Meditation at its best.’
- Samadhi: It is the uninterrupted contemplation of reality.
Anatomy of Human Body in Yoga Philosophy
The complete anatomy of human body in Yoga philosophy comprises:
- Physical body
- Astral body
- Causal body
Each of these bodies comprises a sheath that serves the purpose of a structure and a viable framework. The physical body consists of food sheath. The astral body consists of pranic sheath that can control our sensations. In addition, it consists of mental sheath that has the ability to control our thoughts and emotions and intellectual sheath that aids us in effective decision making. Many a time, intellectual sheath is adjudged to be the residence of ego. The causal body consists of bliss sheath that causes bliss and brings umpteen reasons to smile.
The celebrated Bhagavad Gita uses the term ‘Yoga’ in a broad perspective. Bhagavad Gita has been instrumental in introducing three prominent types of Yoga:
- Karma Yoga: It is the Yoga of action. The whole essence of Bhagavad Gita lies in the divine practice of Karma Yoga. Do well and be good. Do the assigned jobs with complete dedication. Leave the results to the destiny.
- Bhakti Yoga: It is the Yoga of devotion. The whole essence of Bhakti Yoga lies in establishing a sacred bond with God and experience the ecstasy of life. However, practicing this form of Yoga without the guidance of a master or guru can lead to hallucinations. Hence, it is advised to master Bhakti Yoga under the guidance of a guru to experience spiritual truths and obviate hallucinations.
- Jnana Yoga: It is the Yoga of true knowledge. To experience the supreme state of spiritual consciousness, one must acquire knowledge. The practitioner has to gain immense discrimination ability i.e., the ability to distinguish between reality and virtual environment.
The widely acclaimed Bhagavad Gita consists of 18 chapters and 700 verses. Each chapter introduces a new variant of Yoga thus laying a path of 18 Yoga practices for a complete life.
Hatha Yoga is the physical dimension of Yoga philosophy. To attain the divine spirit of life, one must cleanse his mind and body. To have a firm grip of emotions and thoughts, it is advised to practice Yoga. It can cure and prevent diseases such as cancer, diabetes etc.
The admired Mahabharata defines the purpose of Yoga as the purpose of staying vibrant and realizing human potential for a healthier lifestyle. Mokshadhrama section of 12th chapter of Mahabharata emphasizes on Yoga. It also emphasizes on the sacred practice of meditation to tread the path of ‘moksha.’
To understand the structure and anatomy of human body as per the schools of Yoga, it is essential to comprehend the system of chakras and nadis. As per the renowned schools of Yoga, the human body consists of 7 chakras and 72000 nadis. The three important nadis are ida, pingala and shushuma. Whenever we practice Yoga with absolute concentration, the 7 chakras and the 72000 nadis reach the state of equilibrium and fine-tune our thoughts.
A typical Yoga session includes:
- Chanting of mantras and verses
A few examples of mantras are Soham, Om Namah Shivayah, and Om. Yoga is something more than poses. It is a combination of gentle and vigorous series of asanas that are practiced for the prosperity of human life. Most of the doctors recommend Yoga to obviate the occurrence of diseases such as insomnia, asthma, diabetes, hypertension and migraine. Some of the famous practitioners of Yoga are:
- Ramakrishna Paramahamsa – Bhakti Yoga
- Swami Vivekananda – Jnana Yoga
- Lahiri Mahasaya – Karma Yoga
- Mother Teresa – Karma Yoga
- Maha Avatar Babaji – Jnana Yoga
- Raman Maharshi – Bhakti Yoga
- BKS Iyengar – Hatha Yoga