What is Yoga and How to Yoga?

How to Yoga
Humans have a tendency to fall for everything, offered them to diminish their intellect.
~the author

Yoga has an international presence now. A significant no. of global population is aware of Yoga [just the word] and most of them practice it regularly as well [once a month or so, ha! ha!]. It is certain that modern human is unaware of what Yoga really means. 

 “What is Yoga?” the question most asked. People say Yoga is a way of life, some say yoga means some sort of devotional exercise. Well, it’s mere their theory nothing more. Indian population is already aware of some of the marketing gurus that are selling Yoga for businesses.

The etymological meaning of Yoga

The etymological meaning of Yoga is ‘union’. The word ‘Yoga’ is a Sanskrit word, derived from a root ‘Yuj”. Which means ‘to join’ or ‘to unite’. The Yogic scriptures say that practising Yoga unites one’s individual consciousness with Universal Consciousness. It indicates an ideal harmony among mind, body, human, and nature. When we say Yoga is ‘union’, we give up our individual existence. We experience everything as a part of our life. Modern science is trying to prove ‘life is energy’ and Einstien’s E = mc2 is the mathematical representation of this argument. Considering the argument of modern science, the whole universe is nothing but energy that is present in different forms. We are aware that the land, where we reside, got farmed and ultimately become food for us. The food became one source of energy for your body. This will clear pass the argument that the earth and we aren’t different, but the same. We all know that.

What is Yoga – the 8 limbs

What most of modern “marketing Yogis” do is mere exercise or acrobatic contortions. Before you ask ‘What is a Yogi – Yogi is the one who practices ‘Yoga’. Yoga is way beyond those exercises. In the modern world, Yoga is associated with a classical text Hatha Yoga Pradipika, which has only 84 asanas. The existence of Hatha Yoga Pradipika is only from six hundred years back. However, some scholars and gurus believe that more than two thousand years ago, when Sage Patanjali was writing Yoga Sutras, he referred ‘asana’ as a seated meditation posture. The purpose behind practising Yoga is not just to stay physically fit, the purpose is to unite you with the universe. It has been discussed in our primary class textbooks that we are a part of the universe. But, it is hard to feel the thing that is not physically attached to you. So, how do you do that? In his text, Sage Patanjali explains the path of Ashtanga Yoga as eight limbs of Yoga. The first limb is Yama (abstinences), second is Niyama (observances), third is Asana (postures), fourth is Pranayama (breathing), the fifth one is Pratyahara (withdrawal), sixth is Dharana (concentration), seventh is Dhyana (meditation), and the last one is Samadhi (absorption).

Yoga Practice

The sequence itself defines that practicing Asana without having a strong foundation of the first two limbs (external as well as inner ethics and disciplines) will never lead us to Yoga. the path of Yoga culminates in Samadhi, a state where one perceives oneself united to the universe. The first three limbs bring your body to a state of balance and improve physical health that lays down a foundation for Yoga practice. The fourth and fifth limbs, Pranayama and Pratyahara make the bridge between your inner self and the universe (outer). The last three limbs, Dharna, Dhyana, and Samadhi take you to the higher aspects of Yoga. Dharna (concentration) leads to Dhyana (meditation) which follows Samadhi (absorption). These three limbs enlighten you by bringing you the knowledge of the true self.

How to Yoga?

We’ve discussed so far that Yoga is not similar to an aerobic exercise or stretching. Yoga is a path to unite yourself with the universe. Here is the path:

1. Yama – social ethics

a. Ahimsa – non-violenceThis is to guide you to the path of non-violence on the physical as well as mental level. The Process – Yoga is a state of balance between your himsa (violence) and halasya (laziness). You are not supposed to push your mind or body too hard. It is said that sometimes ‘ambition’ can also become a type of violence. b. Satya – truthfulnessOne shall be honest to self as well as others. The first truth to yourself can be what is your purpose behind Yoga? It is not just about you, you often invite other people to lie to you when your actions don’t match your words. The Process – Be true about what you are and your intentions. When you keep switching between past and future, you avoid the ultimate truth, the present. You shall stop misusing ‘Drishti’ (sight) for daydreaming and start doing ‘ujjayi pranayama’ to focus. c. Asteya – nonstealingIt includes prohibiting the stealing of ideas, materialistic things, or personality traits. It teaches you to put what you have to offer on the table, not just take. The Process – You are supposed to renounce stealing other people’s confidence/energy and things. Remember, you are on the earth to contribute, not to consume things. d. Brahmacharya – a path towards Brahma / non-lustBrahmacharya or non-lust is the path towards the divine Brahma. This practice focuses on moving toward essential truth. You are also supposed to achieve abstinence and self-control regarding sexual activity. The Process – Use ‘Mula bandha’ (root lock) to prevent loss of energy. Avoid projecting sexual thoughts and stay away from sexual desires. e. Aparigraha – non Coveting/possessivenessThe modern human is stuffed with greed and possessiveness. You need to limit yourself by taking only what is needed. You shall not have an attachment to things. You just need to focus on the desire of your inward study. The Process – Limit yourself to use the least possible resource on the earth. Stop showing possession of things that you have. And yes, stop buying unnecessary things with your money.

2. Niyama – personal behaviorThese practices of Yoga are to support your basic health and well-being. a. Saucha – cleanlinessIt includes Yogic cleansing techniques (Kriyas) to keep you clean. You are required to keep your body as well as mind clean. You can achieve mental cleanliness by decorating it with music, artwork, poetry and such. The Process – The process includes Bahya Saucha (External cleanliness) and Antra Saucha (Internal Cleanliness). Bahya Saucha includes pee, poo, and shower before practicing Yoga. Antara Saucha includes cleansing your mind and thoughts. b. Santosa – contentmentThis practice is to be modest and find contentment with who you are and whatever you have right now. The Process – You need to find happiness in what you have in the present situation and be content with the path. Stop worrying about the destination, enjoy your journey. c. Tapah – self-disciplineYou can create inner conflict by imposing rules upon yourself. It disciplines you and sparks the desire for knowledge. The Process – For starters, you would want to commit to yourself for being self-disciplined. You can start by deciding and then waking up at 5 in the morning. You can be disciplined with the food that you take. d. Swadhaya – the study of selfYour unity with your surroundings grows deeper as you learn more about yourself. The Process – You need to realize your existence apart from your body or mind. You’d observe yourself and become more aware of yourself. e. Ishwarapranidhana – surrender to the divinityI don’t know about your personal beliefs about it but surrender is a powerful technique to drop your ego and get rid of mental illusion. You surrender to your faith. The Process – You shall start practicing Ishwarapranidhana with devoted mantras. Try to realize everything that is happening is because of the circumstances you are in. You surrender to the idea that you are not the one who is creating the movement but the universe is moving through you. I bet you would find immense joy in it.

3. Asana – physical posturesAs discussed before, Yoga is a process and until you are physically healthy, it is hard to practice the higher stages of Yoga. Asanas bring power, steadiness, and balance in your body that is used in the higher stage of Yoga. It includes removing all the blockages and sitting peacefully to meditate. Infusing balance to your body will remove toxins and restore your physical health. In the present era, people just focus on Asanas to feel physical strength, balance, and flexibility. But, Asanas (Yogasanas) is just a part of the Yoga practice that brings you closer to the truth.

Yogasana Series - Yoga Chikitsa, Nadi Shodhana

4. Pranayama – Focusing on the breathWhile the process of Pranayama is physical, it makes your mind calm and focused. There are various techniques to do Pranayama, you can simply accomplish perfection in Pranayama by becoming aware of the gaps between your breaths. If you learn to watch the gap between breath, you get able to watch the gap between thoughts. You can build mental strength by focusing on the ‘ujjayi pranayama’ throughout Prayanayama practice. Use breath (energy) efficiently by using bandhas (locks) to direct the ‘prana’ internally. You’ll feel the effect of Prayanama more if you’ve clear passed the second series of Yogasana (see the above image for Yogasana Series).

5. Pratyahara – withdrawing the senses
We humans are slaves to our senses. Withdrawing the senses is the link between inner and outer space. The right usage of senses is vital to link inner and outer space. Yoga teaches you the ability to use your senses, instead of being influenced by them. You shall practice Pratyahara with Ujjayi pranayama. Keep yourself undistracted to make it happen.

6. Dharna – ConcentrationIt is the practice to focus all of your mental power to a single thing. Keep all of your attention to your breath and try to mentally attach them to numbers.

7. Dhyana – MeditationThere is a misconception about Meditation that the techniques we call are meditation. The reality is, they are mere techniques or tools to fall into the state of meditation. ‘Dhayana’ enables you to mirror the reality and perceive the truth behind things objectively. Do note that any other meditation technique that doesn’t belong to Dhaya, aren’t considered meditation. You shall practice it right after concentration. Just sit in Padmasana and take 25-30 breaths, during your breaths, you fall into meditation. Beginners won’t be able to feel meditated so they should continue with concentration for the time being.

8. Samadhi – absorptionThe word ‘Samadhi’ is made of two different words ‘sama’ and ‘dhi’, ‘sama’ meaning even and ‘dhi’ mean to see or the intellect. Samadhi is the state of intellectual equilibrium. You stop making up stories in which the universe fits into your own story. Also, you stop requiring to rationalize your surroundings. You start seeing things as they are without any bias. To get into the Savikalpa Samadhi, a non-permanent state of Samadhi, you enter into Savasana (corpse posture) and practice it with proper Dhyana (meditation). Again, the beginners won’t be able to feel it in the beginning, but if you keep practicing with a positive mindset, you’ll achieve the divine.

A note to the reader: If you visited us to know about the best practices for Yoga exercises and pranayama, you are in the right place. Here is the thing, there is no point in staying only physically fit while your mental health is getting negative. Yoga is not a bunch of acts that you can perform. Yoga is a process to unite self with the universe.
Here is an article explaining why Yoga is a better choice for a happy you: https://realblogshare.com/2020/02/23/8-reasons-how-yoga-is-better-than-gym-yoga-vs-gym/

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