Health & Beauty | March 2009
|Yoga, a Look at an Ancient Practice|
Marla Hoover - PVNN
According to Lynn Lehmkuhl and editor of “Yoga Journal Magazine”, there are currently 16.5 million people who practice yoga today in the United States. Since 2002, that’s been literally an increase of 43 percent, which is phenomenal.
Apparently then, many people are interested in this ancient practice, going back over 5,000 years ago that has roots in Hinduism. What is yoga? There are countless articles online that address this question. In researching what some authorities said about the subject, many intriguing theories can be found of which most agree on one basic concept. That being; Yoga in its truest form is the union of mind, body and spirit, which encompasses a variety of disciplines designed to bring the practitioners to a higher physical and spiritual level.
Here is how yoga is defined by a few of the best-known voices in the field;
Paramhansa Yogananda in “The Essence of Self-Realization” and author of “Autobiography of a Yogi” states,” Yoga is an art as well as a science. It is a science, because it offers practical methods for controlling body and mind, thereby making deep meditation possible. And it is an art, for unless it is practiced intuitively and sensitively it will yield only superficial results. Yoga is not a system of beliefs. It takes into account the influence on each other of body and mind, and brings them into mutual harmony. So often for instance, the mind cannot concentrate simply because of tension or illness in the body, which prevent the energy from flowing to the brain. So often, too, the energy in the body is weakened because the will is dispirited, or paralyzed by harmful emotions."
B.K.S. Iyengar, known as the father of modern yoga, has said, “The word Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj meaning to bind, join, attach and yoke, to direct and concentrate one's attention on, to use and apply. It also means union or communion. It is the true union of our will with the will of God. 'It thus means,' says Mahadev Desai in his introduction to the Gita according to Gandhi, 'the yoking of all the powers of body, mind and soul to God; it means the disciplining of the intellect, the mind, the emotions, the will, which that Yoga presupposes; it means a poise of the soul which enables one to look at life in all its aspects evenly.'
Yoga is one of the six orthodox systems of Indian philosophy. It was collated, coordinated and systematized by Patanjali in his classical work, the “Yoga Sutras”, which consists of 185 terse aphorisms. In Indian thought, everything is permeated by the Supreme Universal Spirit (Paramatma or God) of which the individual human spirit (jivatma) is a part. The system of yoga is so called because it teaches the means by which the jivatma can be united to, or be in communion with the Paramatma, and so secure liberation (moksa).
Swami Sivananda defines it in this way; “Yoga is an exact science. It is a perfect, practical system of self-culture. It is the discipline of the mind, senses and the physical body. It helps the student to attain perfect concentration of the mind, ethical perfection, moral excellence and spiritual calmness. It is the master-key to unlock the realms of Peace and Bliss, Mystery and Miracle.
Real Yoga is the attainment of the highest divine knowledge through conscious communion with God. The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit root “Yuj” which means “to join.” Yoga is the science that teaches us the method of uniting the individual soul with the Supreme Soul, of merging the individual will in the Cosmic Will.”
Sawami Sivananda goes on to say that “Yoga means union. Although many people think this term refers to union between body and mind or body, mind and spirit, the traditional acceptance is union between the Jivatman and Paramatman that is between one's individual consciousness and the Universal Consciousness. Therefore, Yoga refers to a certain state of consciousness as well as to methods that help one reach that goal or state of union with the divine.
George Fuerstein characterized yoga in this way, “Yoga, a word from the ancient Sanskrit language, has many meanings. Of these, two meanings are particularly relevant in regard to the yogic tradition: union and discipline. Hence, Yoga has been called unitive discipline. Yoga’s highest purpose is to help practitioners in realizing true happiness, freedom, or enlightenment. However, Yoga has a number of secondary goals, such as physical health, mental harmony, and emotional balance. In its most integrated form, Yoga seeks to unlock our full human potential. The true power of Yoga lies in its capacity as a path to lasting happiness and inner freedom.
We can deduce then that Yoga is a way to join or to cause a “union” between the body, the mind and the spirit of the person who practices it. In the west today, most identify yoga with Hatha Yoga, a practice that seeks to promote health and well-being through physical exercise. Importantly, Yoga is a path to wellness; wellness between the body, the mind and the spirit.
Now that Yoga has been defined, how is this union created? That question will be explored in a following article.
Marla Hoover is a practicing yogini, a registered RN, a Puerto Vallarta Real Estate professional and an accomplished journalist with over 300 published articles in both international and local print and online publications.
Click HERE for more articles by Marla Hoover.