The literal meaning of Yoga in Sanskrit is ‘union’. Whose union and with whom? The interpretations could be many, but the underlying ‘philosophy’ and the meaning are the same. We can call it the union of self with supreme, or harmonious alignment of body, mind & soul, or that of individual with the universal, the essence is the same.
What is Yoga?
Yoga is basically a philosophy and a way of life towards universal well-being! A lot of people confuse it with one of its small parts, Asanas (body postures). Yoga is actually much more and way beyond body exercises / postures. In this context, Yoga just uses / prepares body as an instrument towards the higher goals of realization.
Yoga is an almost 5000 years old Indian body of Science and finds references in the ancient Vedas. The classical Yoga system talks of three main schools:
- Karma (selfless action) Yoga
- Jnana (Knowledge and wisdom) Yoga
- Bhakti (love and devotion) Yoga
Liberation could be achieved by either of these three paths, if one commits unconditionally to it.
Around 2000 years ago, sage Patanjali developed a specific codified practice of Yoga. His seminal treatise ‘Yoga Sutra’ is a collection of 195 terse philosophical statements and forms the bedrock of Yoga as we mostly know it today. This school of Yoga is loosely known as Raja Yoga (the royal Yoga) or Ashtang (eight-fold or eight-limbs) Yoga. The eight limbs being Yama (universal morality), Niyama (self-discipline and spiritual observances), Asanas (body postures), Pranayama (breathing exercises, and control of prana – the life force), Pratyahara (control of the senses), Dharana (deep concentration), Dhyana (devotion, meditation of the Divine), Samadhi (union with the Divine).
As one can see, Yoga is a comprehensive spiritual guide about life and how to lead it meaningfully & harmoniously. Past 20-30 years have seen the West interpret Yoga in a very narrow way, and equating it to Asanas (body postures). While all are welcome to do Asanas for body health, Yoga has to offer much more for ultimate personal growth and spiritual realization. Specifically, Pranayama (breathing exercises, and control of prana – the life force) and Dhyana (meditation), when done along with Asanas, work wonders for overall health, happiness and harmony.
Life & Pursuits encourages everyone to benefit from this ancient Indian treasure and live a blissful life!