The word yoga stems to Sanskrit word ‘yuj’ which depicts ‘union, linking, and joining.’ Yoga is basically a combination of physical and mental practices to join your soul, mind and body together in perfect harmony to attain stability and peace. Yogipedia states ‘the science of yoga does not see mind and body as two separate things.’
Some of these practices are outlined in Ashtanga Yoga– Eight limbs of Yoga by Maharshi Patanjali. These are Yamas, Niyamas, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. Each of these limbs covers and refers to a particular part of yoga practice covering the ethical, physical and psychological aspects of life. One reaching the 8th limbs attains the state of liberation and peace of mind where the body and spirit connect together in perfect harmony.
As stated in Patanjali Yoga Sutra-the ancient yoga practice book;
‘Yoga is tranquil and stilling of the changing states of mind.’’
Yoga practice is so ancient and deep-rooted that it’s almost impossible to trace its beginning and origin. However, its dates back to some 5000 years ago. Not all the ancient yoga techniques are in practice these days.
Practising yoga in studios and in groups is not an Indian fad. On the other hand, western people prefer to practice yoga in studios and with a bunch of friends. Yoga gained popularity in ’60s.
Yoga has its roots and origin in eastern culture. The westerns on the other hand, take yoga as a physical exercise to help them relieve daily stress and to get revitalized.
Interestingly, yoga is becoming popular day by day in the western world. The yoga industry is estimated to cost $27 billion annually. Some pioneers of bringing yoga to the west are Swami Vivekananda, Swami Yogananda, Swami Satyananda, Swami Vishnudevananda and others.
More than 15.7 million Germans (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov) and 20 million US population practice yoga routinely. Still, yoga in the western world is far cry from the actual yogic practice in the east. This is in fact a great misconception of west people about yoga. What they practice, the stretching and physical postures are just a part of a large spiritual yogic technique.
Practising the traditional techniques of yoga, both of which enable you to develop a mind-body connection, increasing psychological, physical and emotional stress.
According to Patanjali yoga sutras, the classical text of Ashtanga Yoga,
‘yogas chitta vritti nirodhah.’
This statement means ‘yoga is removing the fluctuations in mind.’ In simple words, yoga is more like an emotional practice for stability and stress -free mind.
Bhagavad Gita also covers the spiritual aspect of yoga. Which is indeed as selfless devotion to services of mankind. The karma yoga is the path of selfless actions and services. It states that a spiritual seeker should have a purity of intentions and he should act according to Dharma.
Yoga is so deep-rooted in culture and it spiritual aspects are so strong that it is considered as part of religion. For instance, Patanjali sutra outlines a mythical pathway of achieving enlightenment-known as samadhi. Samadhi is union with the divine. Bhakti yoga refers to adherence and selfless devotion to God.
Western yoga is in focus on the physical aspects of yoga. Singleton argues that yoga is western society is quiet like the practice of asana. Western people have adopted yoga as part of a fitness regime. However, many recent researchers are focusing on elucidating the effectiveness of yoga for mental health along with postural benefits. (Part- 2 comings soon)