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What is yoga

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 4:02 AM

The great sage Patanjali, famous for his Yoga Sutra, was born in 200 B.C. He systematized the science of yoga which till then was being handed down by word of mouth from one generation to another. Yoga was very much in vogue in India long before Patanjali's life and work. Since time immemorial the relation of body and soul was being studied by our saints. The most significant question-who am I was being pondered over from the very beginning of human civilization in India.

That constant search made saints to see, with their intuitive eyes the existence of the Supreme Being. That led to the birth of yogic science. Yoga is a great ancient Indian lore going back to thousands of years. Traditionally it is said that Lord Shiva was the innovator of yoga. Our ancestors spent their lives in search of health and happiness through yoga. The secrets of yoga were known to Indians before the advent of Christ. Yoga has been an integral part of our Vedanta philosophy. Vedas and Upanishads are the ancient scriptures on yoga. In the Ramayana, yoga is explained and delineated elaborately. The Gita also represents the essence of yoga philosophy. Lord Krishna, the incarnation of the Supreme Being, teaches warrior Arjuna the secret of yoga. 

According to sage Patanjali both body and spirit play a vital role in the transformation of the finite into the infinite. Hence yoga, the oldest science, is the only key to unlock the mysteries of universal consciousness. Yoga teaches how to conquer suffering, disease and death. It is a practical way to lead a better life. Through body postures, rhythmic breathing, concentration and meditation it shows the way to self-realization. Being a living science, it continues to evolve itself even today, according to the needs and requirements of the time.

Not only postures
Different Techniques of YogaTime like the flow of a mountain river changes every moment, but the timeless principles discovered and the rich experiences accumulated by ancient Indian yogis and earnest seekers are eternal. They are in connection with our body, mind and spirit. The same asanas, pranayama, pranic-diet and water, sleep and relaxation that kept the human body and mind hale, hearty, strong and equipoise in sage Patanjali's times, more than 2000 years ago, are of the same significance today.

Yoga is not simply a collection of complicated body postures, but a total living, an eternal source of scintillating health and happiness. A systematic and regular practice is bound to add not only years to one's life, but impart a meaningful life to live and confer various boons on those who follow and practice it sincerely. It is a living faith. Even a non believer of Hinduism will have the same benefits of yoga on the physical plane as does a believer but on the higher levels of mind and spirit faith is an essential requirement. In fact, it is a science, art, religion and philosophy all in one.

In ancient India all these branches of knowledge were one and inseparable. Our sages were great men of religion. It is certainly a religion, but not in a narrow sense. It is based on certain science values like sanctity and oneness of life, nonviolence, international human brotherhood, peace and co-existence. In fact yoga makes the man worthy to be on the top of the ladder of success.

If one follows the yoga principles, practices the asanas and breathing exercises faithfully, one may surely lead a radiant, happy and meaningful long life.

There is Karma Yoga for a man of action. By following your duties selflessly, without any thought of gain or success, you can sublimate your soul, Gita says, This requires perfect detachment from fruits of action. This is a path of practical living, of selfless service, of self-negation, offering the acts and their fruits at the feet of the Lord. Underlining this path the Gita enjoins; "Work alone is your privilege, never the fruits thereof. Never let the fruits of action be your motive, and never cease to work. Work for the sake of Lord, abandoning selfish desire. This equipoise is called yoga Karma.

Then, there is Bhakti Yoga which is a path of surrender through love and devotion. In this a devotee sees the God as the supreme expression and embodiment of love. The chanting of the Lord's name, singing His praise, worship and ritual (bhajans) are the main features of this path. It is the easiest and hence the most popular.

Third, Jnana Yoga is based on the conception of unreality of everything except God. This world of names, forms and colors is a sheer illusion. All appearances are deceptive. Only God is the Ultimate Reality. Jnana Yoga or the path of wisdom, is the most difficult because it requires tremendous moral and intellectual strength. Jnana Yoga enquires into the nature of everything including himself through discrimination and determination. Self-realization and communion with God, through the practice of Jnana Yoga, demands persistent efforts and relentless search.

Fourth, Raja Yoga, or the Royal Path, deals with breath control, Yogasanas, bandha and mudras. Rajyog is also known as Hathayog. It's a difficult one and is meant for yogis and sadhus only. Yoga has been divided into eight parts or eight limbs (Astanga Yoga).

 They are:

1. Yama

2. Niyama

 3. Asanas

4. Pranayam

5. Pratyahar

6. Dharna

7. Dhyan

8. Samadhi 

Full course

 This is the full course of yoga described by Patanjali. From the age of Lord Shiva this has been followed by Indian sages and they lived more than 100 years. Asanas (postures) and pranayams are the sub-divisions of Hatha Yoga or Raja Yoga. Pratyahara aims at the withdrawal of senses inward in order to still and steady the mind, in preparation to further and higher steps of Dharna (concentration) and Dhyan (meditation). Dharna leads to Dhyna, culminating in Samadhi, the ultimate goal of a sage. The need of yogis is far more greater today than it has ever been. The curative, preventive and recuperative effects of yoga are well known from the ancient time. In this age of strain, stress and aimlessness, there is no better remedy than yoga. It cures various diseases, improves health and maintains it. There is hardly any muscle or gland which is beyond the reach of asana. The asana, coupled with rhythmic and swinging breathing, make a perfect tonic for all mental and physical weakness.

Yoga is for everyone, without any consideration of caste, creed, climate, country, sex or age. Through it will is regained to lead a healthier and more fulfilled life. It aims not only at body or muscle building, but also at regulating and vitalizing the functioning of all our inner and vital organs, glands and mind. The most of our body ailments are connected with our mental ill health. To cure a person physical remedy alone is not sufficient. The mind is also required to be tuned. A human being is not just a sack of bones, blood, muscles, glands, nerves, etc. He is far more than that, a rational and thinking being, on the top of the ladder of the creation.


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