What is Yoga
Today around the world yoga is practiced as a method of physical fitness with an added feature of mental relaxation. The empirical findings have further elevated yoga as a substitute to various physical cultures like gym or aerobics for its health benefits. Yoga has also been attested as a system of alternative medicine with its ability to manage diseases like hypertension, diabetes, asthma etc. No doubt yoga does it all, but it is much more than that. The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘yuj’ meaning union and connotes to ‘Yujyate Anena Iti Yogaḥ’ i.e. that which joins is yoga. Than what is joined to what? It is the joining of the narrow, individualistic and egoistic consciousness of an individual with the all pervasive universal Consciousness.
In technical terminology, it is a process of merging of ‘jīvātmā’ with ‘paramātmā’. In common parlance, it simply means that yoga is a process of expansion of an individual personality to cosmic dimensions, making an ordinary man divine. In practice, yoga is about calming of the mind. At the more apparent level it is about harmonizing the body with the mind through the means of various breathing techniques, yoga postures (āsana) and meditation.
In such a state of harmonious integration of personality, a person is said to be in yoga. Therefore, without the awareness of unity of all existence, the purpose of yoga is unfulfilled. It is this awareness which terminates all delusion and sorrow.
Yoga is search for the highest within, i.e. Self Discovery, which is awakening of human potential. This search for the Self has made yoga a holistic art and science of living, encompassing all aspects of human personality i.e. physical, mental, emotional, intellectual, social and spiritual. As an art yoga leads to the harmony – inner (body, mind and emotion) and outer (social, professional). As science yoga leads to the systematic and scientific process of corroborating all the changes occurring at all levels of personality to be experienced by all, at all times and places, irrespective of gender, creed, race or religion. Therefore, Yoga is a conscious process for complete physical, mental, emotional and spiritual development of human being, towards the realization of his full potential.
Swami Vivekananda captured the grandeur of yoga in a simple definition with profound meaning-‘Yoga is a means of compressing one’s evolution into a single life or a few years or even a few months of the bodily existence’. Thus yoga is a system of overcoming one’s limitations and unfolding latent potentialities.
With its base in spirituality, yoga has a comprehensive understanding of human existence in its totality, as an integrated system of mind, body, intellect and emotions. When yoga boldly says that it is a process of knowing our Self, the process goes through the detailed scrutiny of each layer of our existence before reaching the goal of Self Realization. This forms the vast knowledge base for yoga and this is the reason why yoga is a one-stop solution to man’s all present day problems occurring at various levels of body, mind, intellect or emotion.
In practice yoga is essentially a discipline of calming down the mind. The calming effect ranges from reduced number of thoughts in the mind to reduced sympathetic activity in body. It brings about a balance among all the reciprocal activities of the body leading to a state of Samatva or evenness. Studies have shown that yoga works phenomenally well for overall health and well being. Yoga not only brings us health and vigor but also sharpens the inner faculties of judgment and analysis and harnesses the power of mind, intellect, will and emotion. A little practice of yoga infuses deep relaxation into the system and rejuvenates the body and mind.
Yoga with its consciousness-based (downward causation) approach as opposed to matter-based (upward causation) approach is at the forefront in leading the world towards the holistic vision of oneness and freedom. This yogic vision of unity and freedom is akin to the probabilistic world-view of advanced quantum mechanics where all the laws of nature are found together in the state of wholeness or unity. This state is not bounded by the rigid physical laws of matter-based approach represented by deterministic world-view of classical mechanics. But it is a state of infinite creative potential with complete freedom, through its underlying un-manifest inner dynamism. This field of unity which is known as Atman or Self is the source of all objective and subjective phenomena. Whole yoga practice is about using the fine technologies to reach the state of unified field of blissful awareness. From matter-based paradigm of no freedom, yoga takes us to the consciousness-based paradigm of absolute freedom. It is the freedom from bondages. Freedom from the bondage of body, mind, intellect and emotions. Therefore, yoga with its basis in spirituality is a futuristic science of health and happiness.
Yoga is the foundation of creativity
The foundation of creativity is in the moment. Live in the very moment full of dynamism as you experience the pacify states of your consciousness. Spend each moment in novelty, through creativity and innovation, underlying your own nature. In the state of pacified unity lies the creative diversity. Bring forth the creative potential from the self-interacting dynamics of consciousness.
Consciousness, which is self-aware, knows itself as the state of unity with inherent potential of activity. This self-awareness is the source of intelligence, which is dynamic, discriminative and creative in nature. With heightened self-awareness through Yoga raise the quality and quantity of your activity which is also fulfilling, nourishing and life-supporting for the whole environment.
Yoga is an analysis of happiness
This age of science has made man analytical in thinking and brought intellectual sharpness to the forefront. Yoga as a comprehensive science utilizes the dimension of intellect as well to raise and analyze the basic questions sought by man. Yoga questions the very basis and source of happiness and answers this by using analysis as its tool.
It analyzes the nature of Consciousness or Self. What we call as ‘I’ is normally the empirical consciousness entangled in the field of mind, intellect and emotions. All experiences are therefore relative and subject to change with the change in the operations of mind and intellect. It is the lack of this inner Jñāna (knowledge) responsible for all inner dissatisfaction.
Using intellectual analysis as a tool, Yoga leads the practitioner to the substratum from where mind and intellect emerge i.e. Pure Consciousness, the causal state of ānanda or bliss. With the practice of Yoga experience your own moment of unbounded and unconditional happiness through Yoga.
Yoga is skill to calm down the mind
Live in proximity to an ideal state of inner calm and joy. Yoga skillfully brings this calm state without any force or exertion as it knows the ways of the wavering mind. Learn the trick to gain complete mastery over mind and thereby the external situations towards a life of peace, prosperity, health and happiness.
Bring gentle stimulation from yogic practices at the level of body, mind and emotions and follow a series of relaxation percolating from gross to the subtle levels until you settle down to the deeper and calmer layers of mind. Release all distractions as you gently stimulate the system and hold on to the residual calmness as you relax thereafter.
Yoga is a state of equilibrium
Embrace balance in every moment of life by learning to act from the causal states of our mind. Tune to the silent layers of the causal states of our mind to experience the ‘steadiness’ in all situations. Yoga is a state of equilibrium, which is a combination of detachment at the level of mind, balance at the level of emotions and homeostasis at the level of body.
Integrate your personality into equilibrium from the yogic techniques of bodily relaxation, mastery over mind, emotional purification, intellectual analysis and action in relaxation. Yoga prepares for a lifestyle based on causal states of awareness, which brings our personality in tune with the cosmic order. Whole physiology works in an integrated and balanced fashion. In this equanimity there is psycho-physiological stability which is unaffected by factors like pain and pleasure. This equilibrium is the source of perfect health and wellbeing.