International Day of Yoga, 2020

What is Yoga?

Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self - The Bhagavad Gita 

The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word ‘Yuj’ which means ‘unite’ or ‘join’. Yoga aims to bring about a harmony between the mind and the body and through that harmony creates an individual consciousness that feels united with the universal consciousness. It aims to unite or join an individual to his source, God/Universal consciousness. This is achieved through building a sense of harmony that leads to a freedom and liberation from the worldly sufferings, a state called ‘Moksha’. The person who achieves such a level of self-realisation is called a Yogi.

Yoga has both spiritual and material aspects to it. In true sense, Yoga teaches an individual to move up the ladder of spiritual awakening and at the same time achieving a sense of freedom in his/her worldly life, a freedom from suffering of all sorts. You don’t need to detach from your worldly duties or responsibilities to be a Yogi or to practice Yoga, but in fact Yoga teaches you how to operate in the material world while at the same time be in touch with your higher spiritual self. Sage Patanjali explains it as ‘For finding our true self entails insight into our own nature’.


Eight Rungs of Yoga:

1.  Yama - It means general Code of Conduct and consists of Five Parts:

i.                     Ahimsa - Non-Violence

ii.                   Satya - Truthfulness

iii.                 Asteya - Non-Stealing

iv.                 Brahmacharya - Sexual Abstinence except for intentional procreation

v.                   Aparigraha - Non-Covetousness

2.  Niyamas - It entails Personal Discipline and consists of:

i.                     Shaucha - Internal and external purity

ii.                   Santosha - Contentment

iii.                 Tapas - Austerity

iv.                 Svadhyaya - Study of religious books

v.                   Ishvarapranidhana - Surrendering wholly to one God in worship

3.  Asanas or Meditation - These are the postures/positions practiced in Yoga. There are about 8.4 million Yoga postures. The aim of yoga postures/asanas is the active integration of mind and body through their practice.

4.  Pranayama and Breath Control - It entails the art of regulating one’s breath and through it achieving an integration of mind and body.

5.  Pratyahara our Sense Withdrawal - It entails removing focus from the external world and directing it to the inner self. It is essential that one master the above four limbs in order to achieve this state in Yoga.

6.  Dharana - It means directing your concentration on only one point. This point becomes your source of focus ultimately leading to a state of meditation.

7.  Dhyana- It is a state of pure meditation as a result of the efforts during the previous stages.

8.  Samadhi - It is the climax, the ultimate fruit of Yoga practice, a state when you are one with your soul. The person who reaches this stage experiences a sense of genuine freedom and liberation.

Why you should do Yoga?

From the above information, you must have realised that Yoga Postures (Asanas) are just one part of Yoga philosophy and its practice. Yoga works on three aspects – Physique, Psyche and Soul. We start at the physique level (physical health) through the practice of Yoga Asanas / postures, then touch the Psyche (mental health) through breathing exercises and meditation, with the ultimate aim to reach the Soul, that is a state of freedom and liberation.

Hence, Yoga channelises us towards our CORE that is the Soul. Having said that, the real goal of Yoga transcends its modern practice, it extends beyond its physical benefits, aiming to higher life goals of Self-Realisation and Self-Improvement.

Well! If you are still wondering ‘Why I should do Yoga?’, then here are some good visible Benefits from Yoga practice:

-          Weight loss

-          Toned muscles

-          Increased body strength

-          Better body balance

-          Enhanced body flexibility

-          Reduced fatigue

-          Pain Relief

-          Better sleep

-          Body Relaxation

-          Stress Relief

-          Increased Self-Awareness

-          More confidence

-          A clearer mind

-          Less distractions

-          Better focus

-          Increased productivity

Yoga, hands down, is a valuable addition you will make to your life. An addition that will enlighten each aspect of your being and give you a holistic life experience. There are specialised forms of yoga catering to specific needs such as Yoga for Chronic Pain, Yoga for Back Pain, Yoga for Weight Loss, Yoga for Flexibility, Yoga for Stress Management and the list is big. So choose a yoga class, yoga type that suits your needs. There are many online yoga classes and a lot of DIY material from where you can learn.

All in all, Yoga is a life science about our body, mind and soul and aims to explain the path to Self-realisation and an inner awakening; if practiced ethically. 

Hope this article helps you to understand ‘What is Yoga, actually?’