As a roller-coaster ride involves many emotional highs and lows, or really good times alternating with really difficult times, the Yoga likewise involves many lighter and cumbersome practices that are really good for health.
Bhagavad Gita defines that Yoga is a balanced state of the body and mind. Yoga is a balanced state of emotions. Yoga is a balanced state of thoughts and intellect. Yoga is to maintain the equilibrium of the mind in any situation. This equanimity of mind is the ultimate objective of yoga. “Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self” – The Bhagavad Gita.
The practice of Yoga is supposed to have kicked off with the very dawn of civilization. The science of yoga has its ancestry thousands of years ago, long before the first religions or belief systems were born. Yoga is commonly appreciated as a therapy or exercise system for health and fitness. Yoga advanced as a spiritual discipline and practice to bring harmony betwixt mind and body and is rooted in Indian philosophy about 5,000-year-old discipline from India. It finds its reference in Rig Veda, a collection of texts that consisted of rituals, mantras, and songs. In yogic mythology, Shiva is seen as the first yogi or Adiyogi, and the first Guru or Adi Guru. Yoga, being widely considered as an ‘immortal cultural outcome’ of Indus Saraswati Valley civilization, dating back to 2700 B.C., has proved itself catering to both material and spiritual upliftment of humanity. Basic human values are the very identity of Yoga Sadhana.
Though Yoga was being practiced in the pre-Vedic period, the great Sage Maharshi Patanjali systematized and codified the then existing practices of Yoga, its meaning and its related knowledge through his Yoga Sutras. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali refers to 8 limbs of yoga, each of which offers guidance on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life and are: Yama – Restraints, moral disciplines or moral vows, Niyama – Positive duties or observances, Asana – Posture Pranayama – Breathing techniques, Pratyahara – Sense withdrawal, Dharana – Focused concentration, Dhyana – Meditative absorption and Samadhi – Bliss or enlightenment.
After Patanjali, many Sages and Yoga Masters contributed greatly for the preservation and development of the field through their well documented practices and literature. Tentatively, the period between 500 BC – 800 A D is considered as the Classical period which is also considered as the most fertile and prominent period in the history and development of Yoga. The period betwixt 1700 – 1900 AD is considered as Modern period in which the great Yogachariyas have contributed for the development towards it.
”Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured”– B.K.S Iyengar, considered one of the foremost yoga teachers in the world and the founder of the style of yoga as exercise known as “Iyengar Yoga”.
In simple words, we can say that Yoga is a series of stretches and poses with breathing techniques and almost anyone can do it, regardless of his age or fitness level. It is a great activity that gives strength, flexibility, and mind-body awareness that carry us to wellness. Wellness is an active process of becoming aware of and making choices towards a healthy and fulfilling life. “Wellness is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” – The World Health Organization. It has broadened its role and become a popular route to physical and mental well-being. There are those who find yoga to be a slightly more effective form of exercise stripped down to its bare essentials. Yoga is an unobtrusive exercise that can deliver an array of health benefits and preventative buffers against many types of ailments. Yoga is the management of health conditions. There are many branches of yoga. All yoga styles can help balance your body, mind, and spirit, but they achieve it in various ways. Some yoga styles are intense and vigorous. Others are relaxing and meditative. No matter which type you choose, yoga is a great way to stretch and strengthen your body, focus your mind, and relax your spirit.
Now in contemporary times, everybody has a conviction about yoga practices towards the preservation, maintenance and promotion of health. Yoga has spread all over the world by the teachings of most influential yoga gurus such as: Swami Shivananda, B K S Iyengar, K Pattabhi Jois, Shri T.Krishnamacharya, Swami Kuvalayananda, Paramahansa Yogananda, Swami Rama, Sri Aurobindo, Maharshi Mahesh Yogi, Acharya Rajanish, Swami Satyananda Sarasvati, Jaggi Vasudev, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Rama Kisan Yadav (Baba Ramdev) and the like that have played a major role in making yoga trending. Baba Ramdev has been holding large yoga camps since 2002 and broadcasting his yoga classes for TV audiences. Yoga does not adhere to any particular religion, belief system or community; it has always been approached as a technology for inner wellbeing. Anyone who practices yoga with involvement can reap its benefits, irrespective of one’s faith, ethnicity or culture. Present days, yoga education is being impacted by many eminent Yoga institutions, yoga colleges, yoga universities, yoga departments in the universities, naturopathy colleges and private trusts & societies.
The widely practised Yoga Sadhanas (Practices) are: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana (Meditation), Samadhi /Samyama, Bandhas & Mudras, Shat-karmas, Yukta-ahara, Yukta karma, Mantra japa, etc. Each system of Yoga we practise would fall within the gamut of one or more of these categories.
Before downing the curtain, nowadays, millions and millions of people across the globe have benefitted by the practice of Yoga which has been preserved and promoted by the great eminent Yoga Masters from ancient time to this date. The practice of Yoga is blossoming, and growing more vibrant every day. Yoga is a light, which once lit will never dim, the better we practice, and the brighter will be our flame. Recognizing its universal appeal, on 11 December 2014, the United Nations proclaimed 21 June as the International Day of Yoga by resolution 69/131. The International Day of Yoga aims to raise awareness worldwide of the many benefits of practising yoga. I will conclude with the words of our PM “Yoga is a symbol of universal aspirations for health and well-being. It is health insurance in zero budgets”. Let us pledge to make Yoga an integral part of our daily life.