You may find some people around the world who may not have heard the name of Bharat. But you will rarely find someone who has not heard about YOGA. However, the question is how many people know what is the real meaning of yoga.
With the efforts of so many yogis and yoga gurus, yoga has now reached a level where every person in the world knows about the benefits of yoga. But what is YOGA in its real essence?
Perceptions About Meaning of Yoga
Most people think of yoga as a physical exercise, a way to lose weight, reduce body fat, get a lean physique, look good, or get healthy & fit, etc.
Some people compare it with other physical exercises such as weight lifting, swimming, etc. But it is the worst way of knowing this great science.
Some people who are a little more informed about this science will say that yoga is about breathing exercises called pranayama, or some might say it is about meditating.
If you also have the same idea about the meaning of yoga in your mind then you have no idea what is yoga exercise.
What is Yoga in Simple Words? True Meaning & Definition of Yoga
Some experts believe that the word yoga came from the root word yuj, which means union. So there are some schools of yoga that understand the meaning of yoga as a union.
But a union of what?
- Union of the soul with the god
- Union of body, mind & prana
- Union of this small universe called Panda (Human Body & Mind) with the more extensive universe called Brahmanda
- Union of shiv & shakti
- Union of chetana (consciousness) & prana (energy)
- Union of oneself with the universe
- Union of jivatma with the parmatma, etc.
Then there are some other schools that understand the meaning of yoga as separation or differentiation, separation of oneself with moh maya (illusions of life), separation of truth & lie, separation of chetana (consciousness) & jada (inanimate), differentiation of jivatma & parmatma.
Furthermore, some other Indian schools define yoga as stopping the fluctuations of the mind.
Some schools give a very practical definition of yoga. They consider it extremely relevant in today’s time. As per them, it is taking charge of indriya, man, buddhi, prana, ahankara, etc. This means taking control of our actions, mind, energies & body and thereby taking charge of our life.
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Importance of Yoga and Wellness
There are several health and wellness benefits of yoga. For instance, when you do yoga for wellbeing by practicing yogasanas & pranayama, it makes you physically & mentally fit.
One may lose weight, lose body fat, get lean, get six-packs, have a defined physique, etc. One may also get a lot of benefits in various chronic diseases such as blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, etc.
Yoga also helps you resolve some lifestyle-related problems such as insomnia, gas, acidity, joint pains, etc. You can also do it for mental health, such as to cure stress, anxiety, depression, etc.
It is very natural for individuals to increase their sense perception, sharpen their intellect and make their actions precise by regular practice of yoga discipline.
But understand that all of these are simply the side dishes offered by this subtle science of YOGA. In actuality, the purpose of yoga is something else.
What is the Purpose of Yoga?
Yoga is something that was realized by our ancient tapasvis, sadhakas, yogis, rishis & munis. It is a collection of various disciplines which take our consciousness to a certain level.
That level is where the most primitive and dominant inquiry of the human intellect can be understood in its entirety and that inquiry is about the source of PANDA (human body & mind) & BRAHMANDA (universe).
From the beginning of the evolution of the human mind, we are constantly in this query of where we came from and where we will go. Human beings of different times, different places, and of different civilizations have been searching for the answer to this question (what is yoga and its benefits) at different places.
Bharat (India) being spread over a very large terrain and civilization existing for a very long time, it is natural that we have so much information or experiences than the rest of the world.
So this inquiry is very easily settled when a person goes so subtle that even the smallest change within him or her and outside him or her is noticed by the person.
When a person reaches that state of mind or consciousness, it is very easy for him or her to use his body, mind & energies with precision. Then life becomes very easygoing for the person.
All the side effects that one notices, like getting healthy, reduced stress, more focus, more awareness, more sensitivity, more confidence, etc., can be treated when one start the discipline of yoga.
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Discipline of Yoga
Now the discipline of yoga is different for different types of schools. This means to reach that state of consciousness, different schools use different approaches and these approaches are famously known as karma yoga, gyan yoga, kriya yoga, hatha yoga, tantra yoga, karmakand, mantra yoga, swara yoga, raja yoga, etc.
Top 3 Yoga Approaches & Science Behind Them
In this article, we will discover the three most famous approaches practiced worldwide. We will understand the accurate method of these approaches, the science behind them, and how it will work for our own good. They are ASANA, PRANAYAMA & DHYANA.
“Like unto an unbaked earthen pot thrown in water, the body is oon decayed. Bake it hard in the fire of training to strengthen & purify it.”– Gheranda Samhita
For different states of mind & emotions, we have different body structures & language. When we are sad, our body language is different. When we are happy, our body language is different.
You may have noticed this with your close ones. Just by their body language, you can guess if they are quite upset about something. You can also say if the person is extremely happy & confident by their body language.
You may not know in great detail how you are able to tell this, but there is a vast science behind this. The connection of body structure and state of mind or emotions go very deep. It works on a very subtle level.
With the change in our state of mind, our body language also changes, and vice versa is also true. The change in our body language also impacts our state of mind.
That is the reason why people are asked to do power poses before going for an important meeting or job interview. It is because when you change your posture, you change your state of mind too.
The Science of Yogasana
Our ancient scientists (yogis, rishis & munis) observed this fact of the body-mind connection. They also observed different animals during their different states of mind.
For example, when a lion is observing his kingdom, he sits in a particular pose, and when we sit in a similar posture in accordance with our body, it instills leadership in us.
When a crane is fishing, he stands in a particular pose. When we go into a similar pose in accordance with our body, we tend to develop one pointed focus on the task at hand.
So when our rishis, munis, and yogis observed this science, they developed a whole science of altering our states of consciousness by changing our body structure. This is the science of Yogasanas.
So when a person performs a particular asana, that is not meant to lose body fat or get the body into a particular shape but it is to tap into a specific realm of human consciousness. Body losing fat or getting in shape will happen anyway.
It is about unveiling that dormant flair in the individual. So let’s say a person wants to excel in the work environment that involves computing & creating, then a particular set of yogasanas must be taught to them.
Let’s say a person wants to excel in the field of politics when he needs to lead and manipulate situations and people, then an entirely different set of yogasanas must be taught to him or her. Similarly, different sets of yogasanas should be done by people working in different fields.
“(Even) Brahma and other gods practice the control of prana as it removes the fear of death and so it must be practiced (by all).”– Gheranda Samhita
Similarly, for different types of state of mind or emotional state, we have different breathing patterns.
We breathe differently when we are angry. Our breathing is different when we are happy & smiling. It is different when we are laughing or when we are sad or depressed, crying.
So for every single state of mind or emotional state, we have a very completely different set of breathing.
This is very subtle to notice. Ask yourself this: when did you last focus on your breathing style? How many times in a day do you focus on breathing style?
If for both the questions your answer is no or less than 10, then you are missing a very important happening in your life. It is like you have a lamp with a genie, but you never noticed it. So you never use it.
Science of Pranayama
Breath is something without which most of us wouldn’t survive even for a couple of minutes, but still, we never focus on it.
However, our ancient rishis, yogis & munis noticed it and studied it very thoroughly. For every change in the state of mind, our breathing changes. By changing our breathing patterns, we can change our state of mind as well.
By employing certain breathing methods, we can actually transcend many of the mental patterns that are ingrained in us over a long duration, patterns that have put a hold on us to achieve what we want in our lives.
Just like asanas, people working in different environments and with different goals must be taught different sets of pranayama and also must learn to breathe efficiently throughout the day.
This is the actual science of pranayama. Again, losing fat, getting fit, increased stamina, glowing face, prominent physical stature, etc., will happen anyway.
“By mastering it (samyama) the higher consciousness illumines”– Yoga Sutra
In general, dhyana is referred to as meditation in English. But even in our Indian culture, different schools address dhyana in many aspects.
Some schools call it dharana, some call it samadhi, some call it samyama. But in actuality, all the three dharana, dhyana & samadhi are different. When all three happen together, it is called samyama.
When a person starts focusing on a particular object, process, mental construct, thought, idea, or any other thing, it is generally referred to as dharana.
In dharana, the efficiency of the body and mind is relatively low, which means that the body is putting in more than necessary efforts. Here, the possibilities of the mind getting distracted are more in comparison with higher states of mind.
When the mind remains in dharana for some more period of time, then eventually these efforts of the body reduce, and the mind gets more relaxed & focused.
When dhyana remains for an extended period of time, then it goes into samadhi which means body, mind & energies are at the optimum state.
This is when one can reach prasadam (optimum state of mind) as mentioned in Bhagavad Gita. When all the three happen together, it is academically called samyama. In actuality, when a person becomes capable enough to enter into samadhi via dharana followed by dhyana, almost instantly whenever he or she wishes then he or she is said to be in samyama.
A person who has developed such samyama is almost superhuman. It is because achieving anything in life is not difficult for them. It is just a matter of desire and intensity of desire for them.
People like this become walking inspiration, and being in their presence is very comforting & soothing. They become a natural magnet and can attract whatever type of opportunities & people around them.
Prasadam or Kaivalya, or Mukti (free from clutches of mind), is the ultimate goal of yoga and is the ultimate goal of human life.
The Role of Urban Yogis
“Through Yoga, Through Bhoga, With Company, Without Company, One who entertains his or her mind onto the BRHAMAN (infinite, omnipresent, omnipotent entity) will only be revealed (ultimate truth).”– Excerpt From Bhaja Govindam
In any well-known studio, you will find the teacher or life coach teaching all these three aspects. But if pupils are just doing all of this mechanically then it won’t be that effective.
It is essential to do each and every asana and pranayama consciously and subtly. As long as you are doing these practices sincerely and consciously, you are on a progressive path of spirituality.
The way everyone is doing yoga is entirely different from what they used to teach in ashrams long back. But it is okay, as, with time, everything changes. But it is ok only if one understands this science not just theoretically but experientially.
When one does that, then surely they are reaching toward the ultimate goal irrespective of where he or she does or with whom he or she does. You too reach your ultimate goal. This is my work & my wish.