Yoga (derived from the Sanskrit word ‘yuj’, to join) means unity or oneness. In spiritual terms it is the joining of the individual and the universal consciousness. Practically, yoga means a balancing of the body, mind and emotions, integration between the thought, word and deed. Yoga aims at bringing the various body functions into perfect harmony.
BRIEF GLANCE AT THE HISTORY OF YOGA
Yoga finds its origins in India. Indian mythology believes Shiva to be the founder of yoga; Parvati was his first disciple. Yogic science developed at the start of human civilization when man realised his spiritual potential. The earliest books that refer to yoga were the ancient Tantras followed by the Vedas and the Upanishads. Sage Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (often called eight-fold path) scripted the first comprehensive system of yoga.
WHY YOGA? THE RELEVANCE OF YOGA
The highest goal of the spiritual path is what yoga seeks to offer. However, yogic practises give numerous benefits regardless of one’s spiritual goal. Yoga has succeeded in offering physical, mental and emotional therapy. It serves as an alternative therapy in many diseases like asthma, blood pressure, arthritis, digestive disorders, diabetes and other ailments. Its principles of balance, harmony and unification make it very powerful and effective.
In today’s age of mobile phones, round-the-clock shopping, television, computers, etc., there is very little ‘me-time’ or ‘time-off’. This makes it all the more essential to effectively utilise this time. Added to this is stress. ‘Stress’ is the one word we seem to hear and accumulate very easily. Relaxation, which is a very important aspect for our well-being seems to be highly neglected. The relaxation techniques that yoga has to offer help one to not only maximise the usage of time-off but also lessen our stress.
Yoga provides the means for connecting with our true selves. We hardly do this! This is all the more needed in today’s time to realise our own potential and to be harmonious and compassionate.
Yoga, thus serves to create a new way of life, a way that embraces our inner self and the outer world. More than merely understanding this, it is to be experienced and practiced!
Sage Patanjali’s concisely defines asanas: ‘Sthiram sukham aasanam’ which means ‘that position which is comfortable and steady’. Thus, asanas were practised to be able to sit in a position comfortably for long duration which would be needed for meditation.
More than being a form of exercise, yogasanas are techniques of different body positions in which one is made to be aware, relax, concentrate and meditate. They complement exercises. Asanas are designed to have beneficial effects not only on our joints, muscles but also on our internal organs.
COMING UP NEXT...
Our next article in the same series brings to you the preparation to be done before commencing your asanas followed by some simple yogasanas that one can incorporate into one’s daily routine.