“Yoga”, defined as “the union of body, mind, and soul”, is believed to be rooted in the soil of India. Patanjali, a sage belonging to the country, is called the “father of Yoga”. Yoga, which connects our skin on the surface to our soul in-depth, is necessary not just for a healthy body but for a healthy mind as well. At a deeper level, it is also a way to salvation. Consistent practice of yoga can help us, not only in leading a healthy lifestyle but also in the journey of awareness of the “self”.
But the modern way of living that inclined with time more and more towards the material desires, the spiritual term “yoga” lagged. Though, after the outbreak of the pandemic, a major population of the world has suddenly become “health-conscious”. A realization of the necessity of including “healthy habits” in our daily routine is making yoga, a more common term every day. And now you may find that mat being unfolded in almost every household, early in the morning. But it is not just a few postures that you make with the sunrise. It is a lot more.
Yoga as a Sperate Philosophy of One of The Six Schools of Hinduism
Though yoga is not and should not be connected to just one religion, as it is a need for humankind in general, we find some philosophies about yoga as we look back to various schools of Hinduism. We find that the Yoga school of Hinduism is similar to the Samkhya school of Hinduism, to a very large extent.
According to Samkhya as well as Yoga philosophies, the two universal realities are, “Consciousness” (Purusa) and “Matter” (Prakriti). The connection of consciousness to matter forms a living being (Jiva). For example, you saw a setting sun (say) yesterday, and your consciousness perceived it as well as store it. This depicts the connection of consciousness and matter in a living being (you). Of course, a non-living thing can’t perceive the same situation.
Though, an ordinary living being is not able to make a perfect balance of the constituent elements that connect Purusa to Prakriti, (senses in the above example). This state of imbalance leads to all kinds of bondages. And liberation from all these bondages is what is called “moksha” (salvation). And a continuous practice of yoga frees us from all kinds of bondage, leading us to salvation (the ultimate goal of every soul).
We all meet thousands of people. Are they all same? Isn’t someone wiser, someone less wise, someone more active, someone lazy, and so on? Why is it that a particular quality dominant in one happens to be recessive in others? This is where Yoga philosophy tells us about “gunas” or qualities. According to the Yoga school of Philosophy, there are three gunas, “sattva”, “rajas” and “tamas”.
Satva is all about wisdom and goodness, Rajas reflects passion and Tamas is a very destructive quality and we, humans, are just imperfect combinations of all the gunas or qualities. Again, freeing us from this imbalance, It helps in the attainment of “Samadhi”. And as yoga philosophers put it, “this is the state where ecstatic awareness develops”. In this state, one comes to know about their true self (Purusa). Pantajali in his “Yoga Sutras” also, describes this “true self”, detached from all the worldly bondages as “God” or “Isvara”.
What Are The “Eight Limbs of Yoga”?
In his Yoga Sturas, Patanjali classifies yoga in form of eights limbs, which are, yama, niyam, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharna, dhayana and samadhi.
The virtues that one needs to inculcate for personal growth are called Yamas. Patanjali talks about five such Yamas. Ahimsa (nonviolence) forms the first Yama. Humans, to grow as individuals need to practice nonviolence. They will ultimately be able to detach from anger or all such vices which come with “violence”. Satya or truthfulness is the second Yama. Again, by being truthful, you save yourself from all the vices that one lie accompanies. Brahmacharya (chastity) and Aparigraha (non-possessiveness) are the other two Yamas.
Brahmacharya is withdrawal from all the sexual desires. Aparigraha suggests that you own nothing. And you see, if you own nothing, ultimately, “nothing owns you”. Niyama, which forms the second limb, according to Patanjali, is all about the habits that we need to inculcate. To simplify it a bit, you can say that Yamas are about “don’ts” (what you shouldn’t do) and Niyamas are all about “dos” (what you should do). Asana is the third limb. Asana is a comfortable posture that you can hold for a long. You must note that a posture you are not comfortable in is not an asana.
Pranayama, which is all about control of breath, is the fourth limb. Pratyahara and Dharana are the fifth and sixth limbs respectively. From Pratyahara, the transition happens and one moves from the outer world to the inner one. It is only after Dhayana or meditation that is the seventh limb of yoga, one gets in touch with their true self. After going through all the above stages, the “union of body, mind, and soul” happens. And only then, Samadhi can be attained, that is the last and eighth limb, as described by Patanjali.
Yoga in Everyday Life
Now “salvation” is a bit extraordinary concept. I am pretty sure that if you begin with your yoga routine every morning, you are not going to do it for salvation. That seems too far a thing, isn’t it? You will most probably do it to achieve the material goals that lie nearer.
How Yoga Affects Your Physical Health?
There are numerous physical health benefits of yoga. It is increases the blood circulation in your body and ultimately more amount of oxygen reaches your brain and when you perform yoga, your every cell breaths. It helps in speeding up the process of repairing and healing tissues in the body and the generation of new healthy cells. The benefits of yoga reflect on your skin too. As you begin practicing yoga regularly, you will see that your skin starts glowing. Be it power yoga or pranayama, the benefits are enormous.
How Yoga Effects Your Mental Health?
In a world where depression and anxiety are more familiar terms, yoga is the escape. It helps in calming down your anxiety and provides peace of mind. It further helps in increasing the concentration and saves your brain from diving into over-thinking.
Now, with all these benefits of yoga on mental health, it helps you to move consistently towards your goal without being interrupted by any kind of disease. Simplifying it, I would say that, “A healthy mind lives in a healthy body.” And with yoga, you will make your body, a home for a healthy mind!
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