Yoga is Yoga, needn’t be categorized as Perfect, Good or Bad Yoga
My tryst with Yoga over last 3 years made be inquisitive enough to find more about it and thus have tried to dig more about Yoga academically via books as well as experientially by practicing it regularly. Basis that I had earlier written my first Blog on Yoga (You Ought to Give it an Attempt). Subsequent to that for quite some time I have been feeling to express whatever I have learnt about Yoga, so here comes the sequel i.e.
I have done Yoga with quite many trainers and since all were trained by, different Yoga schools they have significant difference in their approach and class delivery etc. Quite obvious my human traits often forced me to compare them and pass judgment too, like who is right or who is wrong. That was also possibly one of the prime mover to force me to read more about Yoga so that to find who is right and who is not! As a result, went through different books on Yoga ranging from Patanjali to Vivekananda to BKS Iyenger to Osho to SreeNarayan Guru to Sadhguru to Om Swami etc. Basis all that, here is my crisp summary about Yoga.
What is Yoga?
As the name implies Yoga means Union or Communion. Different people have used different terms and concepts i.e. say it as Atman merging into Pramatma or Soul into Supersoul. From a layman’s perspective the way I read it is that there is no denial that in the big scheme Universe, we humans are just a peck in it and and thus ideally should live harmoniously. The same in metaphysics terms could be called as merging or communion. In a blissful state mind is supposed to be quiet but most of the clutter we have is acquired via our senses and now in social media era the clutter has increased manifold because of incessant transactions hitting our mind. To keep it simple, “Yoga is the process of controlling the senses, will and mind”. Thus as a first step Yoga is supposed to remove all obstructions caused by sense organs so that mind can be brought or kept into natural state of serenity. There are four ways to reach that serene or awakened or mindfulness state and those 4 paths are different highways with different kind of vehicle and tools needed to ride those ways. Those 4 paths are:
BhaktiYog wherein realization comes through devotion for god, RajYog wherein realization comes through righteous rule after conquering the mind, KarmaYog wherein realization comes through work, JnanaYog where realization comes through knowledge. All these 4 paths would offer different scenarios while you are driving on these but the end destination would be same i.e. merging into super soul. That explains why certain people like Ramakrishna Paramhansa or Meera could merge into super soul effortlessly, without doing any Yoga or Asanas. I am considering that myself and all those who would read this are of the types who treat/do Yoga as an exercise and that is what we most commonly see on TV or is generally perceived and practiced by masses. That general purpose Yoga we are doing everyday is merely certain set of exercises or aasanas followed by pranayama.
I strongly feel that most other sports like running or swimming or horse-reading can be done without reading any book but the same is not true for Yoga. Anybody serious about Yoga should acquire some basic knowledge about Yoga before embarking on journey with Yoga. This blog of mine could also suffice if one is averse to reading too much.
Yoga for Dummies:
Yoga in general is supposed to have eight limbs or rather to keep it simple it is a eight-stepped staircase wherein you should climb upstairs by progressing sequentially step by step. Jumping steps is not advisable and at times could be risky too. Here are those 8 steps, starting from lowest to highest, which you should preferably climb if you would like to derive maximum benefits from Yoga i.e.
Yam / Yama (Universal moral commandants): This is the first stage to build concentration of mind and it can be achieved by being strictly ethical, scrupulous and conscientious. This state can be achieved by practicing non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy, patience, equanimity, kindness, straightforwardness, moderate food habits and purity of mind/body. So these are actually pre-requisites to start Yoga journey and if one is devoid of these but starts Yoga, then there is high possibility that they might not be able to sustain Yoga journey for long and could withdraw leave it halfway.
Niyama (Self-purification by discipline): Purpose of this state is to purify the mind and to achieve this one needs to keep body/mind clean, stay complacent, engage into meditation, practice self-mortification and dedicate all actions to almighty. If people are inherently born with all qualities needed at stage 1 and stage 2 then they can directly start at stage 3 or say even at stage 7.
Aasana (Posture): This stage is basically all about postures, which keeps body healthy and strong and also helps the person desirous of becoming yogi to sit for long hours in certain postures. Most of us are often focusing on this stage only, which is mostly physical exercises and in the overall scheme of Yoga it is just 1 stage of 8 so generally speaking doesn’t have more than say 10-15% weightage within your journey to become a Yogi. The first 3 stages are outward quests and all stages beyond this are inward quests, either directed towards self or the soul. All what one needs to care for while doing aasanas is a clean airy place and treat inhalation and exhalation is integral. Different Yoga schools have evolved their own variants of Aasanas but that doesn’t make much difference in the overall scheme of things. Most sports or physical activities emphasize on superb physique and control over body but they miss out on control over mind. On the contrary Yoga focuses on perfection of senses, mind, intellect and soul and because of that reason now-a-days Yoga is included in exercise regime of most sportsperson.
Pranayama (Rhythmic control of breath): After mastering over aasanas, so that one could sit comfortably for long by keeping chest, eyes and head in one straight line, the next stage is to control the Praana, the vital breath, which sustains life in physical body. As per Yoga, life is not measured by number of days/years but by number of breaths and therefore one should master slow rhythmic deep breathing to extend the life. This could be possibly one of the reasons that yogis can survive for 200-300 years. A Yogi who has mastered this stage can be Omnipotent as Praana is the basic power of nerves.
Prathyahara (Withdrawal of mind from domination of senses): This is about mental exercises only and the sole purpose of this stage is to control wanderings of mind and liberate it from enslavement of sensuality because the mind tries to achieve all undesirous things by which it is attracted. The mind becomes pure when all desires and fears are annihilated and if one has attained this stage then he/she would be able to get rid of jealousy, anger, proud, ego etc.
Dhaarana (Concentration): After body has been tempered by aasanas, mind has been refined by pranayamas and senses brought under control by pratyahara, this stage is there to build concentration of mind by keeping mind concentrated on one point. Ideal is imagining a lotus flower in the heart but people can imagine and concentrate basis their own comfort/interest. When Dhaarna is practiced properly, persons voice becomes sweeter and smoother. One’s senses would get magnified as people can hear murmurs clearly or can spot darkness of light with closed eyes etc.
Dhyaana (Meditation): Once mind is trained to fix on a particular point gradually mind develops the power to flow to any point without any obstruction or deviation. In this stage a person is able to meditate whereby the object and subject could become one.
Samaadhi (State of super-consciousness): This is the last stage for a Yogi wherein the mind and soul becomes one homogenous solution like the way salty water is formed from salt and water. It is the super conscious stage wherein Yogi can identify him/her with the universe. At this stage body becomes completely irrelevant and if a yogi feels like then can dump his/her body by choice. That is why when yogi’s leave this world it is never said that “Yogi has died” but they say “Yogi has attained Samaadhi.
That’s all I have for now. Imagine all this was written many many thousands of years ago and it is not so rigid also as different spiritual masters have evolved their own forms of Yoga by deriving from Patanjali’s yogsutra. Consider Patanjali’s yoga as the root and all variants of yoga as branches branching out of one common stem. They are all harmonious without any conflict with each other and all I can say is that there is no right or wrong Yoga. In the first place just try to understand what is Yoga and then get onto the journey if you wish to become Yogi. BTW, Yoga can help in acquiring super-human capabilities and that is why we see Yogi’s not feeling heat or cold, Yogis can get into live fire, they can levitate, they can survive without food for years or they can even hold their breath at times.
Once again I would like to reiterate that, read Yoga as “You Ought to Give at an Attempt” before you discard or reject it out rightly.Follow us