Yoga today is perceived as synonymous with postures or asanas. Some who understand a little more will add Pranayama or breathing exercises to it but the premise of Yoga is much vast.
It is derived from a Sanskrit word “Yuj” which means to join. Join with what, with whom?…. The Supreme Soul. The basic aim of yoga is the basic aim, considered to be, of human life “to unite with the Supreme Soul- the God” or the union of Jeevatma (the individual self) with Paramatma (the universal self). Yes, if we follow the path we will unite with the Lord, our purpose on earth will be fulfilled, but it’s not that easy. Moreover how many of us, today, are interested in this union? Very few. We have goals but the goals are linked to career and financial status or at the most health. Very few concentrate on holistic development of mind, body, and soul but those who aim, achieve.
Yoga has become only a means – to keep fit and look young.
Believe me, this is just a by-product, one of the infinite benefits that yoga provides. But many yoga practitioners or rather acrobats consider themselves the authority on yoga.
People who are obese, unhealthy, and old often become the subject of mockery because they cannot perform asanas, whereas Yoga is for everyone, even for those who are bedridden. Have you ever seen that doctors/physiotherapists help patients in performing deep breathing even in ICUs (Intensive Care Units)?
Yoga is more relevant today when the world is dealing with the covid-19 pandemic.
Let me explain what comprises yoga.
Ashtanga Yoga by Maharishi Patanjali which is considered the most scientific and authentic one is divided into eight parts. The ultimate goal of Ashtanga Yoga is Kaivalya, a state where human being attains freedom from miseries and sufferings of life permanently.
1. Yama: refers to the discipline one must follow to interact with others irrespective of caste, place, time, and circumstances. There are five Yamas:
a) Ahimsa: Non-violence in thought, word, and deed;
b) Satya: Truthfulness;
c) Asteya: Non-stealing (of material as well as non-material things);
d) Bhramacharya: Celibacy or sexual abstinence. However, it can also be understood as moderation in sensual and sexual pleasure;
e) Aparigraha: Non-possessiveness or non-hoarding.
2. Niyama: refers to discipline one must follow for a good personal life. There are five niyamas.
a) Shaucha: Physical and mental hygiene;
b) Santosha: Contentment;
c) Tapa: Penance, vows, etc.;
d) Swadhyay: Self-study which comprises the study of scriptures, following the guru, listening to spiritual discourses, Satsang, etc.;
e) Ishwara Pranidhana: Complete surrender to God.
3.Asanas: The postures or the physical exercise. Maharishi Patanjali devotes just three sutras for asanas out of his 195 sutras. He defines asana as ‘sthira sukham asanam’- ‘ asana is a posture that is stable and comfortable. This describes yoga as easy and doable for everyone.
4.Pranayama: Maharishi Patanjali says Pranayama happens when there is a break between inhalation and exhalation. It has been experienced that Pranayama practitioners get immunity from even incurable diseases and acquire peace of mind. I’ve myself experienced this and even the FCTB blog on Vandana Mehra explains this.
5.Pratyahara: refers to the withdrawal of sense organs from their respective objects just as the tortoise withdraws its limbs into its shell.
6.Dharana: Concentration. The confinement of the mind to one place or object is Dharana.
7.Dhyana: Meditation which means a mind without distractions.
8.Samadhi: refers to spiritual absorption, the state of oneness – the meditator and the process of meditation disappears; only the object of meditation shines forth.
The last three limbs comprise meditation. Thus Yoga is “Chitta Vritti Nirodhah” which means: Yoga is the removal of fluctuations of the mind.
Yoga is for everyone. Many Yoga Gurus fail to perform many asanas and those who can perform all the asanas with dexterity might fail in meditation. So instead of feeling bad for not being able to perform a particular asana. Keep practising. Try an easier doable posture as much as your body allows. Don’t get upset by difficult asanas you cannot perform like handstand, crow pose, or lotus pose.
Being a Yoga Instructor, even I am not perfect. I can’t do a perfect handstand, I need wall support. I am not allowed to do a headstand because I’ve got a harmless sebaceous cyst on my head. I can’t do a perfect paschimotanasana ( toe touching) because I’ve got slip disc.
So practice all the limbs and keep improving. That is what I do because when negativity creeps in one form or the other problems accompany too. emotions play a very important role in our health. Immunity drops as soon as fear houses our body and blood pressure rises when we get angry. There are many books written on this subject and in some places, people have tried to cure their diseases by changing their attitude and thought patterns. One can start with Pranayama and Sukshma Vyayama or very light exercise if the body is stiff but each one of us must.
Remember, we Indians have been bestowed with a legacy, the world is following today; why are we so sceptical about it? Sushrutha was the ancient Indian physician also known as the ‘father of surgery’. I know people who have cured cancer through Ayurveda.
The doctors today are advising ‘Yoga’ to corona patients and to build immunity too. So this International Health Day, let us all revisit our roots and keep ourselves safe, at a time, when vaccines are not yet 100 per cent effective. I know people who got infected even after the second jabs. Some of them being medical personnel too.