What is yoga?
Yoga is a science as well an art of healthy living physically, mentally, morally and spiritually. Yoga is not a religion; It is a philosophy of life based on certain psychological facts and it aims at the development of a perfect balance between the body and the mind that permits union with the divine i.e. perfect harmony between the individual and the cosmos. Yoga is a scientific system of physical and mental practices that originated in India more than three thousand years ago. Its purpose is to help each one of us achieve our highest potential and to experience enduring health and happiness. With Yoga, we can extend our healthy, productive years far beyond the accepted norm and, at the same time, improve the quality of our lives.
Paramhansa Yogananda: "Yoga means union. Etymologically, it is connected to the English word, yoke. Yoga means union with God, or, union of the little, ego-self with the divine Self, the infinite Spirit. Most people in the West, and also many in India, confuse yoga with Hatha Yoga, the system of bodily postures. But yoga is primarily a spiritual discipline,
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. Yoga works primarily with the energy in the body, through the science
of pranayama, or energy-control. Prana means also 'breath.' Yoga teaches how,
through breath-control, to still the mind and attain higher states of awareness.
Yoga is a very ancient science; it is thousands of years old. The perceptions
derived from its practice form the backbone of the greatness of India, which for
centuries has been legendary. The truths espoused in the yoga teachings,
however, are not limited to India, nor to those who consciously practice yoga
techniques. Many saints of other religions also, including many Christian
saints, have discovered aspects of the spiritual path that are intrinsic to the
teachings of yoga.
"The higher teachings of yoga take one beyond techniques, and show the yogi, or yoga practitioner, how to direct his concentration in such a way as not only to harmonize human with divine consciousness, but to merge his consciousness in the Infinite.
Yoga is an ancient Indian body of knowledge that dates back more than 5000 years ago. The word "Yoga" came from the Sanskrit word "yuj" which means "to unite or integrate." Yoga then is about the union of a person's own consciousness and the universal consciousness.
Ancient Yogis had a belief that in order for man to be in harmony with himself and his environment, he has to integrate the body, the mind, and the spirit. For these three to be integrated, emotion, action, and intelligence must be in balance. The Yogis formulated a way to achieve and maintain this balance and it is done through exercise, breathing, and Meditation - the three main Yoga structures.
In Yoga, the body is treated with care and respect for it is the primary instrument in man's work and growth. Yoga Exercises improve circulation, stimulate the abdominal organs, and put pressure on the glandular system of the body, which can generally result to better health.
Breathing techniques were developed based on the concept that breath is the source of life. In Yoga, students gain breathing control as they slowly increase their breathing. By focusing on their breathing, they prepare their minds for the next step - Meditation.
There is a general misconception that in Meditation, your mind has to go blank. It doesn't have to be so. In Meditation, students bring the activities of the mind into focus resulting in a 'quiet' mind. By designing physical poses and Breathing Techniques that develop awareness of our body, Yoga helps us focus and relieves us from our everyday stress.
According to Isha Foundation:
Yogic science not only provides knowledge about the underlying basis of metaphysical principles and ethical values, but it also provides the necessary tools to completely transform human nature. Its aim is to bring about perspectives beyond intellectual understanding, and to foster experiences that bring life into a new dimension of perception.
The emphasis of yoga therefore is not on the external and perceivable areas of endeavor, which lead to bondage and limitation, but on the inner and intangible fields, which lead to freedom and perfection. It involves the transformation of a limited being into an unbounded one.
Yoga is both a philosophy and a science. The philosophy and the science of yoga are not only intertwined and inseparable, they also reinforce each other. The philosophy emphasizes the existence of the Self within. The science is the method that verifies this doctrine by setting out certain kinds of discipline, certain techniques and practices that enable the emergence of the true being within us.
Yoga is the path towards the union of our bounded self with our ultimate nature. This union results in self-realization - Mukti or Nirvana. Through perfect yoga this freedom is attained. Yoga is not something one does; it is the medium of one becoming the crucible of self-transformation. It is not a practice, but a certain way to be.
Yoga deepens, broadens and strengthens the visionary power of the mind. It opens the door of that realm of sensing beyond the five senses
Meditation - the gift of Inner Peace To know this fact watch this flash presentation - CLICK HERE
According to Sivananda, the following are the 4 important yogas: (reference:
their site on yoga)
This is the most difficult path, requiring tremendous strength of will and intellect. Taking the philosophy of Vedanta the Jnana Yogi uses his mind to inquire into its own nature. We perceive the space inside and outside a glass as different, just as we see ourselves as separate from God. Jnana Yoga leads the devotee to experience his unity with God directly by breaking the glass, dissolving the veils of ignorance. Before practicing Jnana Yoga, the aspirant needs to have integrated the lessons of the other yogic paths - for without selflessness and love of God, strength of body and mind, the search for self-realization can become mere idle speculation.
Compiled by the Sage Patanjali Maharishi in the Yoga Sutras, the Eight Limbs are a progressive series of steps or disciplines which purify the body and mind, ultimately leading the yogi to enlightenment. These 8 limbs are:
3. Bhakti Yoga, The Path of Devotion or Divine Love
This path appeals particularly to those of an emotional nature. The Bhakti Yogi is motivated chiefly by the power of love and sees God as the embodiment of love. Through prayer, worship and ritual he surrenders himself to God, channelling and transmuting his emotions into unconditional love or devotion. Chanting or singing the praises of God form a substantial part of Bhakti Yoga.
This page is part of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center Web site. Karma Yoga is one of the four paths of Yoga. In this page are the key components that determine that any action will qualify as being Karma Yoga
"Karma Yoga is the selfless devotion of all inner as well as the outer activities as a Sacrifice to the Lord of all works, offered to the eternal as Master of all the soul�s energies and austerities."
It�s not what you do that counts, it�s the attitude while doing it that determines if a job is a karma yoga job, i.e. a liberating job, or a binding job. Work is worship. Swami Sivananda advises us to "give your hands to work, and keep your mind fixed at the lotus feet of the Lord."
Same as attitude. It is not what you do that counts but your real motive behind it. Your motive must be pure. Swami Sivananda says: "Man generally plans to get the fruits of his works before he starts any kind of work. The mind is so framed that it cannot think of any kind of work without remuneration or reward. A selfish man cannot do any service. He will weigh the work and the money in a balance. Selfless Service is unknown to him."
Often "duty" is referred to as "righteousness". You will incur demerit if you shun your duty. Your duty is towards God, or Self, or the Inner Teacher who teaches you through all the specific circumstances of your life as they appear.
Whatever you have to do, do your best. If you know of a better way to serve, you must use it. Do not hold back because of fear of effort or because of fear of criticism. Do not work in a sloppy manner just because no one is watching or because you feel the work is not for you. Give your best. Try to do such actions that can bring maximum good and minimum evil. Do Karma Yoga increasingly.
God is the doer. You are not the doer. You are only the instrument. You do not know God�s intentions or God�s plans. God is the actor. The Self never acts, changes. It is only the "Gunas", the three qualities, which are playing. The way to realize this truth is to constantly work for work�s sake and let go of the results, good or bad. It is the desire for action that binds the individual. It is the detachment from action that will dissolve the karmic seeds. Detachment from results also means detachment from the type of job itself. There is no job that is inferior or superior to a different job. Don�t be attached to your job. Be ready to give up your job if necessary.
Do to others what you would like to be done to yourself. Love thy neighbor as thyself. Adapt, adjust, accommodate. Bear insult, bear injury. Unity in Diversity. We are parts of the same body. Practice humility in action. Beware of power, fame, name, praise, censure.
Each job is a teacher of some sort. You can learn different skills by doing different jobs. Each job has different requirements in terms of time, degree of concentration, skills or experience, emotional input, physical energy, will. Try to do whatever job you are doing, well.
From focalpointyoga :-
Yoga can be any or all of the following, depending on WHY you want to take it and HOW you incorporate Yoga into your life:
1) a great physical fitness program, involving stretching, strengthening, and elongating the spine for proper alignment of the vertebrae
2) breathing techniques and relaxation, lowering blood pressure, increasing cardio-vascular health, increasing lung capacity, releasing tension and stress, and learning to relax and enjoy life
3) Meditation - to calm the mind, bring emotional balance, mental clarity, focus and concentration
4) the learning of a philosophy, by experiencing emotional tension release from your own body, increasing awareness of what is happening in your own body and mind (many yogis and yoginis notice and feel their heartbeat, circulation flowing through their body, can increase of decrease blood pressure at will, a heightened awareness of what is going on in your body, then you have a heightened awareness of what is going on with your mind). So yoga is EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING - you don't accept dogma as it is told to you - you question everything, until you feel beliefs yourself and understand what is right for you.
5) a philosophy of life - following several basic principles (non-harming, truthfulness, discipline - see my web site under Yoga Information/Yoga Philosophy/Yamas and Niyamas). It is to awaken the "witness consciousness" - the part of you that can step back and observe what your brain is doing, what is happening for you - dispassionately, so you can better understand yourself.
6) A Spiritual Practice - Spiritual fulfillment - as you learn to awaken the witness consciousness, meditate, and increase your awareness, at some point, you realize that you are MORE than this Body, this Mind, this shell - that you are a drop of beautiful energy in a spiritual ocean (to use the cliché, you are one with everything - Spirit/Life Energy/God/Power of the Universe is in you) and this is a truly fulfilling experience when you realize this for yourself. Someone can TELL you about this all they want, but you really need to feel it and experience it for yourself - awakening the divine energy in you.
Take what you need from Yoga. For some people, it is simply a class to take where they get a good stretch and a nice balanced work out. For others, it is a way of life - we talk about being on the Yogic Path, our own hearts leading us where we need to go. Yoga is about Union - the unity of YOURSELF with the LIVING WORLD around you - you are part of the divine dance. It is about releasing tension in the body and the mind, relaxing, and bringing the mind to stillness so you can listen to your heart, so you can learn and grow.
If you are feeling empty right now, you need to think about whether it is a spiritual emptiness you feel. Yoga is NOT a religion, but it does encourage you to connect with your inner spirit and follow its guidance. It is a spiritual practice IF you want it to be. It may help you.