Introduction To Yoga
Yoga is a science of right living and it works when integrated in our daily life. It works on all aspects of the person: the physical, mental, emotional, psychic and spiritual. The word yoga means ‘unity’ or ‘oneness’ and is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘yuj’ which means ‘to join’.
There are too many misconceptions clouding the science of Yoga. People perceive it to be some kind of black or white magic, sorcery, physical or mental debauchery through which miraculous feats can be performed. For some it is an extremely dangerous practice which should be limited to only those who have renounced the world. Few others think it to be a kind of mental and physical acrobatism that is compatible only to a Hindu mind.
The human mind is subject to certain weaknesses which are universal. avidya-wrong notions of the external world, asmita-wrong notions of the external world, asmita-wrong notions of oneself, raga-longing and attachment for sensory objects and affections, dweshad is like and hatred for objects and persons, and abinivesha or the love of life are the five defects of the mind that must be removed. Yoga, the constant meditation and introspection eradicate these mental flaws.
We have organised some background information on understanding Yoga better, which dated as far back as 100 years ago. Just click on the links below for the information you are interested to find out.
Yoga provides one of the best means of self-improvement and attaining one's full potential. In the advanced stages of yoga, superconscious states are attained which result in a feeling of bliss, deep peace and the emergence of psychic powers.
Yoga was developed and perfected over the centuries by philosophers and mystics in India. It is basically a method by which we increase the body's supply of energy and remove any interference to the transmission of energy throughout the body. Yoga has specialized in this subject for thousands of years, and streamlined the methods to attain this aim.
These days, yoga classes are being held at most health and wellness centers across the United States. Along with meditation, it is probably one of the most popular alternative therapy. Many physicians, who are skeptical about the efficacy of alternative medicine, support yoga with a passion. There are many clinical studies that show the effectiveness of yoga. And the best part of it is that it is something that can be done in the comfort of your home. A few breathing exercises recommended by yoga will go a long way towards better health and relaxation.
A few months ago, I was talking to Rev. Fr. Philip Jacob of Indian Orthodox Church, Detroit, Michigan. The conversation got into alternative medicine and spiritual healing. Rev. Jacob remembered how his father used to practice alternative nostril breathing, a well known yoga pranayama practice, daily. According to his father, one does not have to do any other exercise to maintain health. A few months later, my sister-in-law, Susan Jacob M.D., who is a board certified pediatric allergist, was visiting us from Houston, Texas. She was searching my library for books about yoga. I asked her why she is looking for books on yoga. She replied, "It is very good. I want to start practicing yoga." Apparently, her cardiologist had recommended yoga. My neighbor and friend, Dr. Donti M.D., often attends out of town workshops on yoga to learn better because, "its effectiveness is well proven." Cleveland Clinic, a world renowned hospital in Cleveland, teaches yoga to patients (especially those who are undergoing cardiac rehabilitation.) These are examples of the far reach of yoga, it is popular with doctors, professionals (many of which do it for stress relief and relaxation) and with common people.
Practiced for more than 5000 years, yoga is one of the oldest forms of healing therapy. The amazing results of yoga are now being studied by scientists all over the world. Teams of doctors at the various yogic health centers in India, keep detailed records of patients treated with yoga for diabetes, respiratory ailments, digestive complaints and obesity. Now it is studied and accepted across the globe for its many healing and relaxation effects.
The Nature of Yoga Gain a general idea of the subject of Yoga, seeking its place in nature, its own character, its object in human evolution.
Schools of Thought Yoga relation to Indian philosophies discussed in this section. As well as the importance of acquainting yourselves sufficiently with Sanskrit language, as in explaining Yoga, one is often at a loss for the English equivalent of the manifold meanings of the Sanskrit tongue.
Yoga as Science The two great methods of Yoga, one related to the Self and the other to the Not-Self. Here, we are dealing only with the science of Yoga and not with other means of attaining union with the Divine. The scientific method is one that follows the old Indian conception. The Yoga we are studying specially concerns the Marga of Jnanam or knowledge, and within that way, within that Marga or path of knowledge, we find that three subdivisions occur, as everywhere in nature.
Yoga as Practice The lower mind, unruffled, waveless, reflects the higher, as a waveless lake reflects the stars. You will remember the phrase used in the Upanishad, which puts it less technically and scientifically, but more beautifully, and declares that in the quietude of the mind and the tranquility of the senses, a man may behold the majesty of the Self. The method of producing this quietude is what we have now to consider in this section.
Yoga works on the mind and the body at the same time, as well as exploiting their interdependence. No other system does this. Western psychology studies the mind, western exercise physiology studies the effect of exercise on the body, but there is no emphasis on the interrelationship of the mind and the body.
Yoga asanas (postures) and breathing deal with the physical body, but due to their effect on the brain, they also affect the mind.
All the wonders of modern science will not bring happiness, peace of mind, health or a long life. Although wonders have been achieved in our external environment – space travel, computers, etc.- our internal environment has been neglected. Thousands of years ago the ancient yogis turned their minds inwards and discovered their true nature. This allowed them to work out a system of body and breathing exercises which results in vitality, rejuvenation and peace of mind.
Why not enjoy the benefits of modern science, but also do yoga to enjoy the benefits of vitality, rejuvenation and peace of mind as well? Yes, you can have the cake and eat in too!