What is Yoga – “Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” -The Bhagavad Gita
These days Yoga is a buzzword. It’s been emerging (though it has been there since the emergence of civilization on earth) and gaining importance among other exercise forms. People have become more health-oriented now since it is the demand of the hour; many people are choosing to go for Yoga as a variant. However, do we really know what yoga is and what is the importance of yoga in our life? Many of us wouldn’t know the real meaning of Yoga and the purpose of doing it.
Let’s begin with understanding what Yoga is?
What is Yoga?
Is it an ideology? Is it a Science? Or is it an exercise form?
Yoga is not just a form of physical exercise or doing pretzel poses only. It’s not just a few breathing techniques. It’s not just a philosophy or art. It is a complete path by itself. A path that takes you to the existence of yours. It aims at taking you from something that you know towards the unknown. It is not a work-out; it is a work-in. It is something that takes you inwards.
Our perspective of existence simply has four dimensions to it- mind, body, emotions and energy. Whatever we plan to do, we do at these four levels. But, the overall well being comes with managing all these four dimensions effectively. When all these four elements are in perfect harmony, one can attain blissfulness or can be at ease or peace.
‘Yoga’ aims at achieving that bliss. The word ‘Yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit language which means union. Union as in it works to bring the transformative change at all these four levels and bring the body as a whole in a relaxed state. It encourages the union of individual consciousness to the universal consciousness. Thereby enabling you to be healthy at physical and mental levels.
Importance of Yoga in life?
The other forms of exercise, be it what you do at the gym, aerobics, jogging, cycling all tend to work at the body level only. Being unaware of the above fact, we continue doing what we feel is best for us, reducing our chances to accomplish optimum health.
Hence, we never get to find the purpose of our existence, confining the scope of benefit to the body and do not get to unite with the ultimate bliss.
In ‘Yoga’ there are various steps, we start at the body level. At first, the body is disciplined, strengthened and purified through various ‘asanas’ or physical postures. Then we move to breath with ‘pranayams’ or breathing techniques and various ‘kriyas’ to cleanse and rejuvenate the body with new energy levels, finally preparing it for deeper levels to work on mind and the inner self through ‘Dhyana Yoga’ that is meditation.
These steps have been created to reach deeper levels in your exploration journey and should not be considered as different types of yoga. Yoga is one and it focuses on the union of all these dimensions of a body.
Since, all the humans are unique and designed to take different approaches towards different subjects, the dominance of one aspect over the others can decide which path you more likely will want to take on this journey.
Like one person can be more of heart and less of mind and there is another who will be more intellectual giving less importance to the emotions in life. But everybody has these four aspects body, mind, energy and emotions only the dominance of one over the other makes the difference. Based on this fact yoga can broadly be classified into four types:
- Bhakti Yoga – the path of devotion, using emotions
- Karma Yoga – the path of action, using body
- Kriya Yoga – the path of spirituality and self-realization
- Gyana Yoga – the path of knowledge, using mind and intellect
Whatever path you choose, the ultimate goal is one.
Though Yoga is no religion specific, anybody who wants to get benefitted can use it. Yet the science of yoga got labeled as ‘Hindu’ since it grew here in this culture. In our ‘puranas’ or religious books, ‘shiva’ is considered to be the ‘Adiyogi’ or the originator of Yoga. He was the one who planted the seed of yoga in humans.
Yet, in Hindu religion, there’s a lot of emphasis on the significance of having a ‘Guru’ an expert or ‘master’ in life, who will guide you through the appropriate mix of all these fundamental paths of Yoga to attain the Ultimate.
The Modern Day Yoga
The ancient practice of yoga was very rigorous and almost expected a lifetime devotion of the ‘Yogi’. But with time, Yoga has evolved in distinct forms with different adaptations by the Yoga Gurus. It has come a long way in the past many years and has been modified by the modern age yoga teachers.
Nowadays, the focus is mostly on one aspect of it i.e ‘Asanas’, emphasizing more on the body and physical being. The modern world is only associating Yoga with the fitness needs and gaining a global presence.
Many western and Indian yoga teachers are pioneering to popularize this yogic science in the form Hatha Yoga and gaining thousands of followers. A plethora of yoga schools exist today where they are teaching various different styles and adaptations of ‘Hatha’ Yoga such as:
The physical exercises or ‘asanas’ combined with breathing and mindfulness techniques are being taught today in yoga schools. Based on your athletic preferences you can go out and choose the one that appeals you the most. There’s no doubt about the innumerable health benefits of Yoga that people are getting, even though it is being done keeping in mind the body aspect only.
One needs to be completely careful while practicing hatha yoga, since it demands a certain level of involvement of each aspect of your life: your body, mind, and energies should be absolutely involved if you want to reach to the innermost source of creation within you.