The word ‘yoga’ has many meanings, but the most accepted one is ‘to unite’ or ‘to yoke’ the mind with the spirit. It is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘yuj. which means ‘to cause union of mind, body and soul. Someone who sincerely practises yoga and follows its philosophy is called a yogi or yogin. Yoga is essentially associated with meditation practices.
Yoga is universal and does not belong to any one particular religion or sect. It refers to traditional physical, mental and spiritual disciplines involving body exercises, controlled breathing and emotional restrain. Sage Patanjali is widely regarded as the father of yoga, and mythologically, Shiva, the god of destruction, is associated with yoga. One of the seals excavated from the sites of the Indus Valley Civilization confirms this fact, wherein Shiva as Pashupati is seen seated in a Yogamudra or posture. Patanjali, through his work, Yoga Sutra, which has fifty-eight sutras, made available to seekers this ancient science and art of balanced breathing and meditation. Patanjali was so named because he descended in the form of a pata or small snake into Panini’s anjali or palm.
A healthy body is the principal means of acquiring virtue, wealth and liberation. Yoga increases and harmonizes our level of prana or vital energy through balanced breathing which is essential for holistic health. All food articles also have and so yoga stresses on the right type of food as well.
Our thought process consumes a considerable amount of our prana, with negative thoughts headingthe list.
Hence, yoga advocates positive thoughts and avoiding ill thinking. The more prana you have, the more vitality you have. If you have a balanced prana, you will be healthy, alert and enthusiastic. But when prana is depleted, you will age and be prone to diseases. Yoga is the panacea for all such ills of man and through yoga, our body cells experience rejuvenation. Interestingly, Jainism defines yoga as the sum total of all activities of mind, speech and body. In Western countries
(even in our own country nowadays), fatigue, exhaustion and nervous depressions are frequently experienced. Psychiatrists and counsellors have their hands full because more and more people become victims of anxieties, complexes and inhibitions. They feel torn apart due to the stress of life and strained personal relations. Although it has taken many years, yoga has become immensely popular in the West as people have benefitted from it. As yoga integrates mind-body-soul, it enables people to calm their inner turmoil, which in turn reduces stress and encourages peace and harmony in all aspects of life.
Yoga bestows divine sight with which we are able to resolve not only our gross worldly problems, but also gain knowledge about our life beyond. This is because with yogic power, mental strength enhances manifold. Yoga is a wonderful system that helps one to acquire patience, calm and self-control; it teaches concentration and develops attention. No wonder yoga is now hailed the world over.
However, there are people for whom yoga is nothing more than certain twisted physical postures and acrobatic feats. Unfortunately, it has become a mere tool for some figure-conscious sections of our society to keep slim and trim. They attend yoga classes not to improve their life but to make a fashion statement and widen their social circle. True yoga and its tenets, yama niyamas, as laid down by sage Patanjali, hold no meaning for them. In fact, the yoga gurus who conduct such classes are themselves unaware of the principles and theory behind each yoga posture. For these gurus, yoga is a mere means to earn quick and easy money from people who want a size-zero figure.
Real yoga not only improves one on the physical plane but also improves one spiritually. It is the science of soul whose goal is attainment of a state of spiritual insight and inner tranquillity through a healthy body that consciously breathes in vital energy.