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Introduction to Yoga




The term Yoga has its verbal roots as (Yuj) in Sanskrit.  Yuj means joining.  Yoga is that which joins.  In the traditional terminology it is joining of the individual self with the universal self.  It is an expansion of the narrow constricted egoistic personality to an all pervasive, eternal and blissful state of REALITY.  Yoga is to unite.


          Yoga is a conscious process of gaining mastery over the mind.    Control involves two aspects – a power to concentrate on any desired subject or object and a capacity to remain quiet any time.  Yoga is a skilful trick to calm down the mind and not to use brutal force to stop it.  Yoga is a skilful science of gaining mastery over the mind.  Skill in action is Yoga.  Equanimity of mind is Yoga.


          The basis of Yoga is to move toward happiness.  Happiness is not in the object of enjoyment.  The object of enjoyment is subjective as it varies from person to person.  So what is happiness?  Happiness is the silence of the mind.  The mind is into the state of silence.  That is happiness.  The structure of bliss is silence, pure consciousness.  Happiness not limited to only head.  Each and every cell is transformed.  There is a law of increasing returns.


          There are a large number of methods of yoga catering to the needs of different persons in society to bring about the transformation of the individual.  They are broadly classified into four streams.  Swami Vivekananda puts them as work and worship, philosophy and psychic control.  Let us briefly understand what they are.


1)     Karma Yoga – involves doing action with an attitude of detachment to fruits of action.


2)     Bhakti Yoga – The control of emotions is the key in the path of worship.


3)     Jnana Yoga – The path of philosophy is apt for the keen intellectuals and is centered around the analysis of “happiness”.


4)     Raja Yoga – The Yoga of mind culture or psychic control gives a practical and easy approach to reach higher states of consciousness.  It is based on the Astanga Yoga of Patanjali’s yoga system.


Raja yoga emphasizes training the mind through meditation and is generally preceded by Hatha yoga, which aids mental preparation.  The practice of Raja yoga typically starts with Hatha yoga in order to prepare the body and mind for meditation.


One of the major contributions of Patanjali’s Yoga is the eight-limbed Yoga, popularly known as “Astanga Yoga”, which gives a comprehensive and systematic approach for developing the mind.  The eight limbs are :


Bahiranga Yoga


1)     Yama – 5 set of “DONTS” (non-violence, non-lying, non-stealing, non-possessive and celibacy)

2)     Niyama – 5 set of “DOS” (cleanliness, satisfaction, penance, self analysis and surrender to reality)

3)     Asana – Yoga posture

4)     Pranayama – Mastery through breath

5)     Pratyahara – Mastery through senses


Antaranga Yoga


6)     Dharana – Focussing of mind

7)     Dhyana – Defocussing of mind

8)     Samadhi – Super consciousness


The first five limbs come under a general heading “Bahiranga Yoga”.  It is used for indirect control of mind.  The last three limbs are referred to as “Antaranga Yoga”.  It is used for direct control of the mind.


Thus, the four streams of Yoga help man to develop the personality at four different levels – physical, mental, intellectual and emotional and simultaneously bring about spiritual progress.


Asana is the third limbed Yoga.  It uses the body to gain health and master the mind.  It is the practice of postures for health, to stretch and relax all groups of muscles.


Yogasanas are classified into four types and they are standing, sitting, prone and supine.  And there are three categories : relaxation, meditative and cultural.  There are three stages of Yogasanas.  First stage is Sthira for the stable of mind through effort.  Second stage is Cira for the steady of mind through relaxation.  And the third stage is Sukha for the blissful of mind through tune into infinity.


There are four components of a Yogasana session.  First is the breathing exercise which helps to prepare for a smooth breathing.  Secondly, loosening exercise helps to stimulate the body to prepare for the postures.  Thirdly is Sun Salutation (Suryanamaskar) which is the combination of breathing and posture together.  And lastly is Asana which are the yoga postures.


The objectives of Yogasanas are for physical personality development, mastery over the mind, move towards selflessness and promotion of the health and bliss.