Yoga is the broadest term for humans, which is derived from the Sanskrit term called Yuj. Defining the purpose, one can say that the yoga is an activity through which self-consciousness which is integrated with the supreme energy of the universe. In other words, someone who attains the ultimate level of yoga can understand that his/her consciousness is no different from the universal consciousness. At this stage, the person feels very much connected or as an integral part of the creator or the universe.
What is yoga?
Yoga is more than 10,000 thousand years concept. In modern times, it is being understood as performing some physical actions, stretches, moves, exercises, etc. At most, a contemporary human learns various breathing techniques as its parts. But, the spiritual context of yoga is much broader than this. Yoga, at its ultimate form is about realising the unbounded power of the human mind.
It is the only science that can solve the mystery of life, soul, or the essence. In short, yoga should not be learnt directly for a stronger and fitter body; rather, it should adhere to the perfect way of living life. After reaching that highest level of yoga, the person’s emotional conflicts get solved, and he/she feels spiritually prominent.
The entire practices of Yoga can be divided into – Gyana, Bhakti, Raja and Karma Yoga. Gyana refers to the philosophical value of yoga. Bhakti is meant for showing the path of spiritual or the ultimate joy. Karma talks about the actions for attaining the sacred goal. Coming to Raja, it refers to something that is commonly referred as “Yoga” by modern day people.
Raja yoga can be divided into eight segments, which collectively form the Ashtanga Yoga. The core principle of Raja Yoga is about balancing or combining various methods or practices as we know these days, for a perfect yogic lifestyle.
History and Evolution of Yoga
Yoga is beyond any religious activity. The more than 10,000-year-old concept originated in India has been the core spiritual practice of many religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. There are millions of yoga enthusiasts across the globe at present. At the same time, the number of yoga institutions has immensely increased as well. These schools mostly teach Hatha and Raja yoga forms to the students.
According to Wikipedia, yoga is the supreme form of human knowledge. Though it is eternal, people have discovered it since the past more than 10,000 years. To be specific, it’s the Rig Veda in Nasadiya Sukta through which humans got the mentions about Yoga (including breathing techniques, meditation, along with the physical exercises) for the very first time.
From history perspectives, it is a concept that has been there since Indus civilisation or Indus-Saraswati civilisation. There is enough evidence discovered from the high civilisation, showing arts/scriptures of someone doing yoga or performing the postures. This evidence makes things very much apparent that yoga has been there since ancient time.
Though the authentic source of origin is the Veda or the Rig Veda, it reached ordinary people through Patanjali Yogashutra. The Upanishads have various explanations about Yoga or its procedures as well. To be specific, the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, which is considered the oldest of all, is having broadest elaboration about asanas. When it comes to the practice of Pranayama or breathing techniques as we know in modern times, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is also greatly preferred.
However, it’s the Chandogya Upanishad that is highly referred for understanding the principles of Pratyahara. The term “yoga” is said to have reached among the humans for the first time through Kato Upanishad. It is here to mention that Kato Upanishad is the most prominent Upanishads. In fact, the term “Kato” itself means crucial or vital. These are the sources through which human race realised that yoga is the quest through which one can delve into the self or the inner soul or the ultimate consciousness. Still, on a general note, it’s the Vedas, which is considered the most authentic source of Yoga.
There are many famous excerpts of yoga. Great sages have elaborated yoga in on a simpler note. Upanishads can be the best source for these. For example, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is the perfect way to understand the entire details of various pranayama or breathing techniques. It is also the way to get mastery in meditation techniques. There are incredible mentions about the practices for the unification of body and mind in it. Chandogya Upanishad also has significant remarks about various asanas.
Atharva Veda also has some noteworthy mentions about Yoga. Especially, it is the most authentic source for the knowledge of Vratya or the detailed study about the physical postures. These mentions are now famous as the yoga asanas among contemporary humans. One can find incredible mentions through Samhitas. There is a significant mention of physical practices for performing meditation or do Sadhana.
Yoga and the Bhagavad Gita
One of the most useful elaborations about yoga has been done in the Bhagavad Gita. It won’t be wrong to claim that popularity of the Bhagavad Gita or its philosophies/principles. There are useful mentions about yoga in Mahabharata as well.
In short, it can be thus understood that the Vedas is the origin of Yoga, which has got notable mentions in Upanishads. There are elaborations in Yoga Vashistha as well. And, it’s the Bhagavad Gita that has made the modern day people research more about Yoga, its underneath principles, source, etc.
Patanjali Yoga: The pioneer of yoga teaching
Coming to Patanjali Yogasutra, this is the source that the contemporary teachers or yoga gurus refer. Patanjali Yogasutra is well elaborated and broadest form. Patanjali was a great saint. He is regarded as the father of Yoga. To be specific, the Ashtanga yoga, which is the soul of modern-day yoga, can be referred through Patanjali Yogasutra.
The other traditional form, i.e. the Hatha Yoga also has its mentions in Patanjali Yogasutra. However, Hatha Yoga has been there since the medieval ages. Patanjali Yogasutra has full remarks about leading a life towards enlightenment through practice. Starting from yoga’s origin, its values, to the practices, Patanjali Yogasutra can be the all-in-one source. Hence it is highly followed by the institutions in modern times. Moreover, Patanjali Yogasutra makes things understandable for a common man. Elaboration of each of its sutras is meant to offer practical knowledge of the practices essential for experiencing the highest level of yoga. In other words, it explains the best way to the benefits of maintaining a yogic lifestyle.
From the philosophical point of view, the Bhagavad Gita has always been the most incredible way of understanding yoga. It is the most intriguing way of understanding various principles like Samkhya, Karma, Bhakti, Raja Yoga, and their relevance in a practical day-to-day life. It is the reason that the Bhagavad Gita is so much regarded regarding making humans delving into the path of true spirituality or in the way of a yogic lifestyle. Bhagavad Gita encourages people to be a yogi or to live a yogic way of life.
Pranayam: An integral part of yoga
It is highly recommended to pay equal emphasis on breathing techniques as well, with the physical exercises of yoga. But, it is important to ensure that you execute the techniques with perfection. Properly done breathing techniques help in providing adequate oxygen to the blood, and thus the proper regulation of life energy. Pranayam should not be considered an altogether different aspect; it is pretty much an integral part of overall yoga practice. The ultimate goal of yoga to attain the enlightenment can only be possible for a person whose body is in harmony, and mind in tranquillity.
Yoga: The perfect lifestyle
The greatness of yoga is its relevance for everyone. Anyone, irrespective of his/her age, gender, etc. can start living a yogic life. Someone regularly doing physical excercises and pranayama can certainly expect of being healthy throughout his/her life.
Similarly, the meditation techniques help in calming down the mind, developing the intellect, which is very important from a modern lifestyle point of views. It would be even better if someone understands the underneath principles or the science behind each of the pose being executed. A person can be more encouraged towards yoga through the process.
Yoga has no limit
Experts say Yoga is nothing special, as it is the actual or the truest way of living life. It can be claimed thus that Yoga itself is the life. Yoga is the truth; it’s about knowing a subject the way it is actually. One of the biggest differences between yoga and conventional physical exercise is for its efficacy regarding uniting the body and the mind. On the other hand, any regular workout is all about shaping up the particular body part. The extent of workout or the benefit of exercise might get decreased as you grow with age, or it might get less relevant for you. But, yoga will be found more and more encouraging and consistent as you keep up with it.